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Qualitative Research Ethics: Enhancing Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy

Qualitative Research Ethics: Enhancing Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy
Townsend A, Cox SM, Li LC
Phys Ther.
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Background: Increasing challenges to health care systems and the prominence of patient-centered care and evidence-based practice have fostered the application of qualitative approaches in health care settings, prompting discussions of associated ethical issues in a range of disciplines. Objectives: The purposes of this work were to identify and describe the application and value of qualitative health research for physical therapy and to identify ethical considerations in a qualitative research study. Design: This was a qualitative interview study with telephone follow-ups. Methods: Forty-six participants were interviewed about their early experiences with rheumatoid arthritis. They also were asked what motivated them to volunteer for the study. To inform the discussion of ethics in qualitative health research, this study drew on the in-depth interviews, took a descriptive approach to the data, and applied the traditional ethical principles of autonomy, justice, and beneficence to the study process. Results: Ethical issues emerged in this qualitative health research study that were both similar to and different from those that exist in a positivist paradigm (eg, clinical research). With flexibility and latitude, the traditional principle approach can be applied usefully to qualitative health research. Conclusions: These findings build on previous research and discussion in physical therapy and other disciplines that urge a flexible approach to qualitative research ethics and recognize that ethics are embedded in an unfolding research process involving the role of the subjective researcher and an active participant. We suggest reflexivity as a way to recognize ethical moments throughout qualitative research and to help build methodological and ethical rigor in research relevant to physical therapist practice.

Qualitative Research Ethics: Enhancing Evidence-Based Practice in Physical Therapy Townsend A, Cox SM, Li LC. Phys Ther. 2010; 90(4):615-628.

Page last updated: Oct 14, 2010
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