The state of qualitative research in health and social science literature: a focused mapping review and synthesis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • University of Edinburgh
  • Heinrich Heine University


Pluralism and creativity are inherent and important parts of the qualitative endeavour. The multiplicity of approaches and methods can, however, be confusing. We undertook a focused mapping review and synthesis to obtain a snap-shot profile of the state of qualitative research in health and social science literature. We retrieved 102 qualitative articles published between January and March 2015 from six leading health and social science journals. Articles were scrutinised for alignment between researchers’ reported orientation (methodological or philosophical positioning) and the techniques used (methods). In the sampled articles level of alignment was generally high, with considerable mastery of qualitative approaches evident. However, the complexity of the qualitative landscape highlighted in our review, led us to develop a diagrammatic representation: The Qualitative Research Level of Alignment Wheel™. This educational resource/teaching aid is designed to assist qualitative researchers (particularly those more novice) and research students to locate the orientation and techniques of their studies. As an important contribution to the international field of qualitative inquiry, it will assist in understanding and accounting for points at which techniques are melded and orientations blended. In turn this will lead to the individual and collective qualitative endeavour as being a coherent one.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)627-645
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2017


  • technique, Alignment, mapping, method, novice, orientation, qualitative, quality, reporting, review, teaching