As with research using quantitative methods, research using qualitative methods is home to the good, the bad and the ugly.
It is essential that reviewers know the difference.
One of the important roles of reviewers is to assess the scientific rigour of the studies from which authors draw their conclusions.
If rigour is lacking, the paper should not be published.
It is possible to combine quantitative and qualitative methods, although great care should be taken to ensure that the theory behind each method is compatible and that the methods are being used for appropriate reasons.
The two methods can be used sequentially (first a quantitative then a qualitative study or vice versa), where the first approach is used to facilitate the design of the second; they can be used in parallel as different approaches to the same question; or a dominant method may be enriched with a small component of an alternative method (such as qualitative interviews ‘nested’ in a large survey).
However, when we read the methodology section, we were baffled and disappointed to find that evidence from research using qualitative methods was not included in the formulation of the guidelines.
Despite stating that ‘qualitative research has significant value to assess the lived experience of infertility and fertility treatment’, the group excluded this body of evidence because qualitative research is ‘not generally hypothesis-driven and not objective/neutral, as the researcher puts him/herself in the position of the participant to understand how the world is from the person's perspective’.
When a population cannot be identified, such as anonymous sperm donors from the 1980s, a qualitative approach with wide publicity can reach people who do not usually volunteer for research and reveal (for example) their attitudes to proposed legislation to remove anonymity with retrospective effect (Hammarberg , 2014).
When researchers invite people to talk about their reflections on experience, they can sometimes learn more than they set out to discover.