Reflecting on methodological choices when conducting rapid qualitative interview research during the COVID-19 pandemic

16 August 2022

As the COVID-19 pandemic has shown, setting up studies in time to gather relevant, real-world data enables researchers to capture current views and experiences, focus on practicalities on the ground, and deliver actionable results. Delivering high-quality rapid studies in healthcare poses several challenges even in non-emergency situations. There is an expanding literature discussing benefits and challenges of conducting rapid research, yet there are relatively few examples related to methodological dilemmas and decisions that researchers may face when conducting rapid studies. In rapidly-changing emergency contexts, some of these challenges may be more easily overcome, while others may be unique to the emergency, magnified, or emerge in different ways. 

In August 2022, the RECOVER Social Science team published a paper discussing the reflections and lessons learnt across the research process when conducting rapid qualitative interview studies in the context of a healthcare emergency, focusing on methodological issues. Meaning the challenging considerations and pragmatic choices that were made, and their downstream impacts, that shaped their studies. The team draws on their extensive combined experience of delivering several projects during the COVID-19 pandemic in both single and multi-country settings, where they implemented rapid studies, or rapidly adapted an existing study. In the context of these studies, the team discusses two main considerations, with a particular focus on the complexities, multiple facets, and trade-offs involved in: 

  • team-based approaches to qualitative studies
  • timely and rapid data collection, analysis and dissemination 

The Social Science team contributes to a transparent discussion of these issues, describing what was helpful and which issues have been difficult to overcome. The discussion of arising issues is situated in relation to existing literature, to offer broader recommendations while also identifying gaps in current understandings of how to deal with these methodological challenges. 

The paper identifies key considerations, lessons, and possibilities for researchers implementing rapid studies in healthcare emergencies and beyond. It aims to promote transparency in reporting, assist other researchers in making informed choices, and consequently contribute to the development of rapid qualitative research.

Read the paper here

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