The appropriate uses of qualitative methods in health economics
Ontology, epistemology and methodology are not subjects frequently discussed in health economics, yet they are of great relevance to the question of how, or whether, to use qualitative methods as a means of examining certain issues. The paper discusses the nature of enquiry in health economics and then details the nature of qualitative methods and the constructivist philosophy with which they are most commonly associated. The paper continues by examining different areas in the study of economics: neo-classical positive economics, alternative approaches to explanatory economics and normative welfare economics. For each area the philosophical approach is outlined as are the areas of research interest. Appropriate roles for qualitative methods within these philosophical approaches are then suggested. The paper concludes by warning that health economists should not use qualitative methods naively. They must be aware of the potential difficulties: both of inadvertently ending up outside the intended research philosophy and of conducting research which is accepted by neither economists nor qualitative researchers. If, however, health economists are aware of ontological, epistemological and methodological issues, they can make an informed decision about the appropriateness of qualitative methods in their research and thereby potentially enhance their ability to answer the questions in which they are interested. Copyright © 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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Volume (Year): 8 (1999)
Issue (Month): 4 ()
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