As the evidence base for the study of mental health problems develops, there is a need for increasingly rigorous and systematic research methodologies. Complex questions require complex methodological approaches. Recognising this, the MRC guidelines for developing and testing complex interventions place qualitative methods as integral to each stage of intervention development and implementation. However, mental health research has lagged behind many other healthcare specialities in using qualitative methods within its evidence base. Rigour in qualitative research raises many similar issues to quantitative research and also some additional challenges. This article examines the role of qualitative methods within mental heath research, describes key methodological and analytical approaches and offers guidance on how to differentiate between poor and good quality qualitative research.
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