Themes, Theories, and Models

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Although theory building is often described as the ultimate goal of qualitative research, an examination of articles in Qualitative Health Research (QHR) shows that themes are actually the typical format for reporting results. In addition, articles that rely on themes often present low-level theories in the form of models that connect these themes. Because models have received less attention than either themes or theories, this article concentrates on summarizing four different kinds of models: hierarchies, timelines, processes, and cycles. In each of these cases, it presents both a general illustration of such a model and a realistic example from a published article in QHR. It concludes with a call for greater recognition of the role that models play in capturing the results of qualitative research.

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