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The essential role of social theory in qualitative public health research


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Willis, KF, Daly, J, Kealy, M, Small, R, Koutroulis, G, Green, J, Gibbs, L and Thomas, S 2007 , 'The essential role of social theory in qualitative public health research' , Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, vol. 31, no. 5 , pp. 438-443 , doi: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2007.00115.x.

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Objective: To define the role of social
theory and examine how research studies
using qualitative methods can use social
theory to generalise their results beyond
the setting of the study or to other social
Approach: The assumptions underlying
public health research using qualitative
methods derive from a range of social
theories that include conflict theory,
structural functionalism, symbolic
interactionism, the sociology of knowledge
and feminism. Depending on the research
problem, these and other social theories
provide conceptual tools and models
for constructing a suitable research
framework, and for collecting and analysing
data. In combination with the substantive
health literature, the theoretical literature
provides the conceptual bridge that links
the conclusions of the study to other social
groups and settings.
Conclusion: While descriptive studies
using qualitative research methods can
generate important insights into social
experience, the use of social theory in
the construction and conduct of research
enables researchers to extrapolate their
findings to settings and groups broader
than the ones in which the research was

Item Type: Article
Authors/Creators:Willis, KF and Daly, J and Kealy, M and Small, R and Koutroulis, G and Green, J and Gibbs, L and Thomas, S
Keywords: Qualitative research; social theory; generalisability; evidence.
Journal or Publication Title: Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health
ISSN: 1326-0200
DOI / ID Number: 10.1111/j.1753-6405.2007.00115.x
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