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Table 3 Summary of key similarities and differences between PPI and qualitative research

From: Combining PPI with qualitative research to engage ‘harder-to-reach’ populations: service user groups as co-applicants on a platform study for a trial

  Similarities Differences
Why Both PPI and qualitative research aim to incorporate deeper understanding of the research problem and ensure greater relevance of the findings to society. Both were used to gather information to help in the design of an intervention and potential clinical trial. PPI involves non-researchers and non-clinicians in research to inform study design and conduct. Qualitative research involves collecting data from participants to answer the research question(s).
Who Both PPI and qualitative research can include representatives of the target population of the study. PPI might only include representatives of patients or the public in general rather than the target population and representatives might be trained in PPI. PPI representatives are usually fewer in number than researchers or research participants. Qualitative research might seek to include broader perspectives and disconfirming data from as diverse a sample as possible.
What Both PPI and qualitative research (with consent) can collect data using traditional methods such as recorded discussions, interactive sessions, and activities. Any collection of data for research purposes, audio-recording or subsequent use of quotations requires research ethics committee approval (http://www.hra.nhs.uk/). PPI is predominantly involvement in the tasks of research and is a two way exchange of knowledge that influences study design, whereas qualitative research is predominantly for advancing understanding and thus involves the researchers being informed by the participants. Qualitative research requires research ethics committee approval whereas PPI usually does not.
Where Both PPI and qualitative research can take place in a range of settings, including Universities or public spaces and either face-to-face, by telephone or using remote audio-visual technology. PPI tends to involve inviting representatives to join research team meetings in academic settings, but can include researchers going out into the community. The setting for qualitative research takes into account participant preferences and where is best for the data collection.
When Both PPI and qualitative research can involve single or serial interactions or meetings. PPI is more likely to take place over an extended period and involve multiple meetings. Qualitative research is more likely to involve a one-time data collection session.
How Both PPI and qualitative research might employ similar purposive sampling approaches to represent specific populations. PPI is more likely to draw on established networks of people interested in contributing to research. Qualitative research designs vary based on the aims of the study, e.g. snowball, stratified, theoretical, purposive and convenience sampling [42].