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Like all research methods, qualitative methods have strengths and limitations. This chapter describes seven strengths and five limitations. With an understanding of their strengths and limitations and how to minimize and/or balance them, occupational health psychology (OHP) researchers can benefit from qualitative methods. It is important to understand that qualitative findings do not establish generalizable cause-effect relations. However, qualitative methods can help an OHP researcher develop a theory of causality and derive hypotheses related to the theory and, thus, motivate quantitatively organized research designed to test the hypotheses. The challenge for the OHP researcher is to be mindful of what qualitative research can and cannot do, and exploit what qualitative research can do for the benefit of the research enterprise. It is incumbent upon the investigator to create from the qualitative data hypotheses that are testable given well designed, mixed-method and quantitatively organized studies.


This work was originally published in "Research methods in occupational health psychology: State of the art in measurement, design, and data analysis," edited by R. Sinclair, M. Wang, & L. Tetrick.



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