gms | German Medical Science

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007

17. bis 21.09.2007, Augsburg

Qualitative research methods in medical informatics: a curriculum and a framework for semi-structured interviews

Meeting Abstract

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  • Christa Weßel - Institut für Medizinische Informatik, Aachen
  • Cord Spreckelsen - Institut für Medizinische Informatik, Aachen

Kongress Medizin und Gesellschaft 2007. Augsburg, 17.-21.09.2007. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2007. Doc07gmds452

The electronic version of this article is the complete one and can be found online at:

Published: September 6, 2007

© 2007 Weßel et al.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( You are free: to Share – to copy, distribute and transmit the work, provided the original author and source are credited.



Qualitative research methods (QRM) provide powerful means for the exploration and formative and summative evaluation of IT projects. Interviews and observations can be applied to gain traceable and comprehensive insights [1]. QRM have been developed in social sciences [2]. Computer scientists and IT experts planning to use these methods ask for a tailor-made training and frameworks for the introduction to QRM, the field of application, the preparation, performance and analysis based upon scientific standards [3].

Our curriculum for the training in QRM focuses on semi-structured interviews. It consists of an introducing lecture, a self study of selected literature, and a training module in small groups [4]. The participants are enabled to use a two-part framework: a process-schema describes how to prepare, to conduct, to analyse and to report on semi-structured interviews; a template is to be used for the development of the interview-guideline. A social scientist performs the training and gives continued feedback on the researchers' interview-guidelines, their interviews (tapes and transcripts) and their findings.

From 2004 until 2006 seventeen researchers took part in the training. Their studies covered areas like knowledge management in medical research, hospital management, web-based information platforms and web-based learning. The formative evaluation revealed a high participant satisfaction and facilitated the continuous improvement of the participants' skills. The curriculum was embedded in continued multi-disciplinary project based learning (CM-PBL) [5].

The next step is to adopt the curriculum to a compact workshop format. The target groups are scientists and IT experts looking for a QRM-based method to perform either (1) an exploration on users' needs and ideas, (2) a requirements analysis, or (3) a formative or a summative evaluation of both their development processes and results. Assessment criteria on the participants' skills and knowledge at the start and at the end of the training are under construction.


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