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Qualitative methods in environmental health research.

Environmental Health Perspectives
Environmental Health Perspectives
Publication Date
  • Research Article
  • Design
  • Ecology
  • Geography
  • Psychology


Public health researchers increasingly turn to qualitative methods either on their own or in combination with quantitative methods. Qualitative methods are especially important to community environmental health research, as they provide a way to produce community narratives that give voice to individuals and characterize the community in a full and complex fashion. This article first traces the legacy of qualitative research in environmental health, then uses a case study of the author's experiences studying the Woburn, Massachusetts, childhood leukemia cluster to provide personal and scholarly insights on qualitative approaches. That material then informs a discussion of important components of qualitative methods in environmental health research, including flexible study design, access, trust, empathy, and personal shifts in the researcher's worldview, bias, and the nature of the researcher's roles. A concluding discussion addresses issues in funding policy and research practices.

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