An open letter to the British Medical Journal on qualitative research


An article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), provides an overview of an open letter from seventy six senior academics from 11 countries including Ruth Boaden, Professor of Service Operations Management at Alliance Manchester Business School.

The letter invites the editors of the BMJ to reconsider their policy of rejecting qualitative research on the grounds of low priority. It challenges the journal to develop a proactive, scholarly and pluralist approach to research that aligns with its stated mission.

Within the letter the academics express their concern for the BMJ’s policy of rejecting qualitative research on the grounds that such studies are “low priority”, “unlikely to be highly cited”, “lacking practical value”, or “not of interest to our readers”. The letter goes on to state that the BMJ should develop and publish a formal policy for qualitative and mixed method research and this should include appropriate and explicit criteria for judging the relevance of submissions.

The letter concludes by saying that the publication’s reputation as an international academic journal will be strengthened if it does develop a formal policy. The letter provides an example of both the International Cochrane Collaboration and the UK Health Technology Assessment Programme, initially predominantly focused on the quantitative, were persuaded to include qualitative and mixed methods research where appropriate. The Health Technology Assessment Programme’s monograph on qualitative methods subsequently became the most downloaded of its more than 700 online publications by a considerable margin. These organisations have decided that “quantitative versus qualitative” is yesterday’s war.


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Alliance Manchester Business School has a global reputation for innovative and influential teaching and research, which impacts business on a local, national and international level. We call this Original Thinking Applied.

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