South African Family Practice

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Qualitative research across boundaries of language: the representation of lived experiences.

G Calvert


Background: Qualitative methodology has a growing importance in primary care research, reflected in projects submitted for the degree of MFamMed at The Medical University of Southern Africa (Medunsa). These projects were completed in multilingual settings and sought highly subjective information. This paper aimed to demonstrate how researchers handled issues of language within their work.

Methods: All dissertations successfully submitted for the degree of MFamMed at Medunsa between 1993 and 2000 were examined. Those using a predominantly qualitative methodology were subject to content analysis.

Results: Researchers acknowledged issues of language and developed a range of strategies to ensure the faithful representation of their subjects' beliefs and attitudes in the language of the final dissertation.

Conclusions: Working across boundaries of language presents a potential threat to the faithful representation of qualitative data. Examination of these examples of qualitative research point to some ways in which loss of meaning may be minimised. The paper calls for a close examination of issues of language in research of this nature.

Keywords: Qualitative research; language; multilingual settings.

SA Fam Pract Vol.26(1) 2003: 4-6

AJOL African Journals Online