Users’ guide to the surgical literature: how to assess a qualitative study

Users’ guide to the surgical literature: how to assess a qualitative study

Can J Surg 2018;61(3):208-214 | Full Text | PDF

Lucas Gallo, BHSc, MD; Jessica Murphy, MSc; Luis H. Braga, MD, PhD; Forough Farrokhyar, PhD; Achilleas Thoma, MD, MSc


Qualitative research contributes to the medical literature through the observation, description and interpretation of theories about social interactions and individual experiences as they occur in their natural setting. This type of research has the potential to enhance the understanding of surgeons’ and patients’ preferences, attitudes and beliefs, as well as assess how these may change with time. To date, there is no widely accepted standard for the methodological assessment of qualitative research. Despite ongoing debate, this article seeks to familiarize surgeons with the basic techniques for the critical appraisal of qualitative studies in the surgical literature.

Accepted Oct. 20, 2017

Affiliations: From the Faculty of Health Sciences, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON (Gallo); the Division of Plastic surgery, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON (Thoma, Murphy); the Division of Urology, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON (Braga); the Dept of Surgery, McMaster University, McMaster University, Hamilton, ON (Braga, Farrokhyar, Thoma); and the Dept of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (Formerly Dept of CE&B), McMaster University, Hamilton, ON (Farrokhyar, Thoma).

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors: All authors contributed substantially to the conception, writing and revision of this article and approved the final version for publication.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.013117

Correspondence to: A. Thoma, Department of Surgery, McMaster University, 206 James St. South, Suite 101, Hamilton ON L8P 3A9,