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Ranin Soliman, DPhil Student in EBHC, describes her experiences of the qualitative research methods module.

 Ranin Soliman attended the Qualitative Research Methods ( module, led by Dr Nicola Newhouse and Dr Marta Wanat, in June 2020.


It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question. Eugène Ionesco 

My DPhil thesis aims to generate evidence about childhood cancer health outcomes and resource use/costs in Egypt. It is mostly based on quantitative research methods to determine trends in survival and resource use/costs for children with cancer over time, and aims to identify what contributes to predictors of inferior outcomes and high resource use, based on statistical analyses.

One day, a question from my supervisor, Professor Carl Heneghan, left me contemplating and enlightened my thinking from a different perspective. He asked, “What are the healthcare providers’ perceptions of what contributes to inferior outcomes and high resource use for some childhood cancers?”  In that moment, I realized my DPhil research work needs a qualitative component and that it would be better to use a mixed-methods approach; combining both quantitative and qualitative research methods. That is why I was so eager to learn more about qualitative research and joined the qualitative research methods (QRM) module.

My experience of the intensive week:

Given the current travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I was so happy I would still be able to join the QRM module online. However, I was also curious about what the online version of the course would be like, compared with the cozy atmosphere of the intensive week in Oxford.

Truth be told, my online learning experience of the intensive week was really fruitful. The amount of knowledge I gained and the pleasantly warm environment exceeded all my expectations. Every day I waited, excitedly to join the daily “Live check-in” synchronous sessions with the tutors and my fellow colleagues. These sessions were so engaging and interactive and we had the opportunity to virtually meet with fellow students from different parts of the globe in six different time zones. Every day we would start the live sessions by reflecting on the previous day’s activities, then discuss each session more in-depth, and finally, we would join a general discussion addressing any questions from the course participants. I found this very helpful as I had the chance to ask the tutors about my work in childhood cancers, and how to best integrate the qualitative component in my research project. The tutors were knowledgeable and friendly and their answers were insightful and stimulated my thinking in a systematic approach. The course materials covered a wide range of topics in qualitative research and were accessible at any time, allowing for convenient use. The discussion forums on each topic were also very helpful and I learned a lot from the tutors’ comments as well as from other students’ posts.

For me, the interviewing practical with a partner student was a new and exciting activity that provided hands-on experience on being an interviewer and an interviewee. Using virtual meeting software, the interview was facilitated in a virtual interactive way with the help of technology. The group presentation was a useful practical exercise that involved active participation with fellow colleagues to develop a qualitative research proposal. We had communicated together several times via video conference for brainstorming and planning the outline, and this really stimulated our teamwork spirit. The level of interaction and engagement in this exercise brought about the cozy atmosphere of the classroom in the ease and comfort of our home.

Overall, the course coordination was flawless; the course administrator made sure we had access to the links of the daily sessions, that we were able to get in touch with our interview partners, and communicated effectively with our group presentation team. The guest speakers were very well-informed in their topics and contributed to the success of the QRM module.

Evidence resonates with qualitative research:

Reflecting on the various qualitative research methods I learned about during this module, I developed a profound understanding of the role of qualitative research in evidence-based medicine (EBM) and evidence-based health care (EBHC). Before this, for me, generating evidence was just a quantitative process; dealing with numeric data, testing hypotheses, and checking statistical significance. I then came to realize that for evidence to be translated into practice, we need to think qualitatively to get an in-depth understanding of contexts and meaning, to understand the views and experiences of patients and healthcare professionals. As the practice of EBM integrates individual clinical expertise with the best available external clinical evidence (Sackett et al,1996), qualitative research is then, integral to understand clinicians’ opinions and perceptions, gained through their clinical experience. I am now keen to incorporate the qualitative component into my DPhil research work, with more confidence in its significance and meaning.

Eventually, everything makes perfect sense to me and I am pleased to feel the interconnection of how evidence resonates with qualitative research.


The essence of not its content, but its resonance.Jose Arguelles


I would like to thank Professor Carl Heneghan and Dr Annette Plüddemann for recommending me to share my experience of the QRM module. Also, Thanks to Dr Annette Plüddemann for her helpful comments on my writing and the revision. 

Ranin Soliman


Qualitative Research Methods - Oxford University Department for Continuing Education

Introducing qualitative research. This module will provide an introductory overview of the principles and practice of qualitative research. Students will explore how people make sense of their lives, and recognise ways in which qualitative research bridges the gap between scientific evidence and clinical practice by examining the attitudes, beliefs, and preferences of both patients and practitioners. 

Opinions expressed are those of the author/s and not of the University of Oxford. Readers' comments will be moderated - see our guidelines for further information.


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