chapter  7
21 Pages

Approaches to conducting qualitative research in ethnically diverse populations


The growing popularity of qualitative methodologies has been accompanied by an increasing interest in research into health and healthcare of ethnic minority populations living in the UK (see Ahmad 2000). Such research raises particular methodological challenges. Current debates, for example, struggle to engage with ethnicity, often reinforce essentialized notions of the “other” and fail to deal appropriately with ideas about equity and access (Atkin 2004). This, however, embodies a more fundamental tension. Research related to ethnic minority populations often finds itself marginalized and relegated to a sub-speciality of “ethnicity” subordinated to more “mainstream” concerns.1 This is reflected, for instance, in how people representing these populations are conveniently excluded from an overwhelming majority of clinical trials (Hussain-Gambles et al. 2004), as well as qualitative studies (Ahmad et al. 2002). At a more mundane level, although equally worrying, is the appropriation of this “left-over,” marginalized field by researchers from diverse professional backgrounds, without any particular theoretical orientation. This often results in descriptive and poorly contextualized studies that ignore the complexity and theoretical rigor of qualitative approaches. These studies not only undermine the value of qualitative methodologies but also fail to explain difference and diversity.