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The role of qualitative research in oral and maxillofacial surgery

Published:January 21, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.bjoms.2022.01.005

      Abstract

      Oral and maxillofacial research has utilised predominantly quantitative research approaches and qualitative methodologies have been applied with very narrow scope. Although qualitative surgical research is increasing in popularity there is a lack of patient voice within extant research and important aspects of patients’ experiences including preparation, perceptions of well-being, and functional outcomes are potentially overlooked. This provides researchers with significant opportunities to devise approaches that expand our understanding of the social contexts surrounding surgical interventions and associated outcomes and to develop better-informed approaches to research and practice. Reflecting on a novel research project involving OMFS patients this paper seeks to outline some distinct advantages of qualitative research based on researcher reflections. Firstly, we contend that understanding patients as collaborators within the research process helps to establish a research design that reflects the context and complexities of the phenomenon under investigation and increases the precision of the concepts being addressed. Secondly, interactive group-based data collection approaches create a space in which patients are able to explore aspects relating to OMFS. Thirdly, we suggest that patient interaction optimises the quality of data by providing participants with the opportunity to engage in conversation with those who understand the treatment processes. The final advantage concerns the intentional involvement of patients within the data analysis phase. We contend that interactive approaches to data collection and analysis where data are collected, analysed, compared and refined as new data are acquired helps to develop a conceptual explanation for the phenomenon in question that is both significant and relevant to the setting being studied. We conclude with recommendations for future research.

      Keywords

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