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Integrating qualitative research within a clinical trials unit: developing strategies and understanding their implementation in contexts

Segrott, Jeremy ORCID:, Channon, Sue ORCID:, Lloyd, Amy ORCID:, Glarou, Eleni ORCID:, Henley, Josie, Hughes, Jacqueline, Jacob, Nina, Milosevic, Sarah ORCID:, Moriarty, Yvonne ORCID:, Pell, Bethan ORCID:, Robling, Mike ORCID:, Strange, Heather ORCID:, Townson, Julia ORCID:, Drew, C., Gillespie, D., Hale, R., Latchem-Hastings, J., Milton, R., Pell, B., Prout, H., Shepherd, V., Smallman, K., Stanton, H. and Brookes-Howell, Lucy ORCID: 2024. Integrating qualitative research within a clinical trials unit: developing strategies and understanding their implementation in contexts. Trials 25 (1) , 323. 10.1186/s13063-024-08124-7

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Background/aims: The value of using qualitative methods within clinical trials is widely recognised. How qualitative research is integrated within trials units to achieve this is less clear. This paper describes the process through which qualitative research has been integrated within Cardiff University’s Centre for Trials Research (CTR) in Wales, UK. We highlight facilitators of, and challenges to, integration. Methods: We held group discussions on the work of the Qualitative Research Group (QRG) within CTR. The content of these discussions, materials for a presentation in CTR, and documents relating to the development of the QRG were interpreted at a workshop attended by group members. Normalisation Process Theory (NPT) was used to structure analysis. A writing group prepared a document for input from members of CTR, forming the basis of this paper. Results: Actions to integrate qualitative research comprised: its inclusion in Centre strategies; formation of a QRG with dedicated funding/roles; embedding of qualitative research within operating systems; capacity building/training; monitoring opportunities to include qualitative methods in studies; maximising the quality of qualitative research and developing methodological innovation. Facilitators of these actions included: the influence of the broader methodological landscape within trial/study design and its promotion of the value of qualitative research; and close physical proximity of CTR qualitative staff/students allowing sharing of methodological approaches. Introduction of innovative qualitative methods generated interest among other staff groups. Challenges included: pressure to under-resource qualitative components of research, preference for a statistical stance historically in some research areas and funding structures, and difficulties faced by qualitative researchers carving out individual academic profiles when working across trials/studies. Conclusions: Given that CTUs are pivotal to the design and conduct of RCTs and related study types across multiple disciplines, integrating qualitative research into trials units is crucial if its contribution is to be fully realised. We have made explicit one trials unit’s experience of embedding qualitative research and present this to open dialogue on ways to operationalise and optimise qualitative research in trials. NPT provides a valuable framework with which to theorise these processes, including the importance of sense-making and legitimisation when introducing new practices within organisations.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Centre for Trials Research (CNTRR)
Social Sciences (Includes Criminology and Education)
Publisher: BioMed Central
ISSN: 1745-6215
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 16 May 2024
Date of Acceptance: 17 April 2024
Last Modified: 22 May 2024 13:43

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