Qualitative longitudinal research in health research: a method study

Åsa Audulv, Elisabeth Hall, Åsa Kneck, Thomas Westergren, Liv Fegran, Mona Kyndi, Hanne Aagaard, Herdis Kristianna Lund Dam, Mette Splid Ludvigsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Qualitative longitudinal research (QLR) comprises qualitative studies, with repeated data collec-
tion, that focus on the temporality (e.g., time and change) of a phenomenon. The use of QLR is increasing in health
research since many topics within health involve change (e.g., progressive illness, rehabilitation). A method study can
provide an insightful understanding of the use, trends and variations within this approach. The aim of this study was
to map how QLR articles within the existing health research literature are designed to capture aspects of time and/or
Methods: This method study used an adapted scoping review design. Articles were eligible if they were written
in English, published between 2017 and 2019, and reported results from qualitative data collected at different time
points/time waves with the same sample or in the same setting. Articles were identified using EBSCOhost. Two inde-
pendent reviewers performed the screening, selection and charting.
Results: A total of 299 articles were included. There was great variation among the articles in the use of methodolog-
ical traditions, type of data, length of data collection, and components of longitudinal data collection. However, the
majority of articles represented large studies and were based on individual interview data. Approximately half of the
articles self-identified as QLR studies or as following a QLR design, although slightly less than 20% of them included
QLR method literature in their method sections.
Conclusions: QLR is often used in large complex studies. Some articles were thoroughly designed to capture time/
change throughout the methodology, aim and data collection, while other articles included few elements of QLR.
Longitudinal data collection includes several components, such as what entities are followed across time, the tempo
of data collection, and to what extent the data collection is preplanned or adapted across time. Therefore, there are
several practices and possibilities researchers should consider before starting a QLR project.
Original languageEnglish
Article number22:255
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalBMC medical research methodology
Issue number255
Publication statusPublished - 2022


  • Qualitative longitudinal research
  • Data collection
  • Temporality


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