George S. Tomlin, Yvonne Swinth; Contribution of Qualitative Research to Evidence in Practice for People With Autism Spectrum Disorder. Am J Occup Ther 2015;69(5):6905360010. https://doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2015.017988
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© 2021 American Occupational Therapy Association
Appraising the best available evidence substantiating and informing occupational therapy practice is a commonly expressed obligation for the profession (American Occupational Therapy Association [AOTA], 2007). In this article we argue for the full inclusion of qualitative research, on parity with quantitative research, as a source for evidence of relevant and effective occupational therapy practice, review the limitations of quantitative research, and outline the distinctive contributions of qualitative studies to the practice of occupational therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). In addition, we describe the role of qualitative studies in the fulfillment of the Centennial Vision (AOTA, 2007) and recommend three action steps for the profession.
to understand the subjective meaning of occupation is a complex and challenging endeavor, especially when developmental, linguistic, and perceptual differences exist between researchers and participants. . . . Through active participation of the researcher, power differences can be minimized; the child’s “voice” can be heard in a dialogue of action with the researcher; and the child may acquire his or her own felt sense of the research process. (p. 74)
By virtue of its distinct effectiveness in enhancing the professional reasoning of occupational therapy practitioners, explicitly incorporate qualitative research into the evidence enterprise by adopting the Research Pyramid (Tomlin & Borgetto, 2011) or another suitable model for the systematic, logical portrayal of research findings. Recognize qualitative research not as a tangential methodology but as one of value at parity with quantitative research for its potential contribution to improving occupational therapy decision-making.
Conduct evidence reviews that are comprehensive, including experimental, quasi-experimental, single-subject, descriptive, and qualitative research methodologies (i.e., a “pyramid” review; Tomlin & Borgetto, 2011).
As practitioners, avail ourselves of the growing body of knowledge created through qualitative research to enhance practice and more effectively meet the occupational needs of society.
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