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Research paradigms in supportive and palliative care: a beginners’ guide
  1. Bill Noble
  1. Correspondence to Dr Bill Noble, Marie Curie Cancer Care, 89 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7TP, UK; bill.noble{at}

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Palliative care clinicians employ various clinical methods that require a variety of theoretical and empirical sources of knowledge. We need the sort of insights that public health researchers glean as much as those of pharmacologists, sociologists and geneticists. It follows that studies in palliative care are particularly varied and include qualitative, quantitative and mixed methods. Different kinds of research questions prompt study designs that employ either inductive or deductive reasoning, and these produce knowledge with different utility.

Qualitative methodologies are mostly inductive in their reasoning and generate theoretical explanations for observed data. Survey designs that collect and analyse quantitative data also induce theories from which hypotheses may be generated for testing in prospective surveys or interventional studies that confer generalisability. A trial starts with a hypothesis about a treatment effect and finishes with an analysis that defines the difference between deciding to treat or not to treat in a context that that closely mimics the real clinical dilemma.

Getting published in palliative care journals depends on the quality of the question, of the study and of the writing, but it mainly depends on doing what the study …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.