Beyond the qual/quant divide: doing rigorous and innovative qualitative research in health psychology


  • M. del Rio Carral
  • A. Schweizer
  • M. Santiago-Delefosse
  • J. Cromby
  • K. Chamberlain
  • A. Lyons
  • O. Luminet


Aims and rationale ♣ Critically reflect upon the widely-spread assumption that qualitative approaches are necessarily subjective, vague, “interpretative†♣ From an epistemological stance, we suggest that psychological phenomena are inextricably linked to: historical, political, cultural, social dimensions ♣ From a methodological stance, we propose means of analysis that enable rigor in interpretation procedures in qualitative health psychology research ♣ We emphasize the need for reflexive adjustments by the researcher throughout the research process ♣ We underline the urgent need to develop models in health psychology to study the complexity of human experience in health and illness We assist to the exponential growth of qualitative methods in health psychology. However, the lack of scientific rigour and a “subjectivity bias†in the interpretation of qualitative material remain a common criticism made to these approaches. Our symposium focusses on this burning issue by proposing innovative qualitative research without neglecting its epistemological foundations. Its contributions will lead to new perspectives in analysing the experiences of health/illness. Summary This symposium begins by situating qualitative research in relation to quantitative research within health psychology. It challenges the divide between these trends and discusses how to move beyond the relative values of qualifying/quantifying and improve our understanding of health/illness. This argument is pursued by suggesting that each trend tells a “story†in specific ways, but we need to reflect upon the consequences of different forms of “storyâ€. Moreover, the issue of interpretation is discussed as part of any analytical procedure. Yet, rigorous qualitative research can be achieved by defining the right methods that enable interpretation instead of avoiding it. This is illustrated by an innovative study combining methods that analyse the experience of health/illness. The potential of qualitative research will also be shown through the flexible use of techniques, showing complexities and subtleties underpinning social health practices.