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Res Nurs Health. 2010 Feb;33(1):77-84. doi: 10.1002/nur.20362.

What's in a name? Qualitative description revisited.

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  • 1University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing, 7460 Carrington Hall, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA.


"Whatever Happened to Qualitative Description?" (Sandelowski, 2000) was written to critique the prevailing tendency in qualitative health research to claim the use of methods that were not actually used and to clarify a methodological approach rarely identified as a distinctive method. The article has generated several misconceptions, most notably that qualitative description requires no interpretation of data. At the root of these misconceptions is the persistent challenge of defining qualitative research methods. Qualitative description is a "distributed residual category" (Bowker & Star, 2000). Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press) in the classification of these methods. Its value lies not only in the knowledge its use can produce, but also as a vehicle for presenting and treating research methods as living entities that resist simple classification.

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