The Analytic Challenge in Interpretive Description

  • Sally Thorne University of British Columbia
  • Sheryl Reimer Kirkham Trinity Western University
  • Katherine O’Flynn-Magee University of British Columbia


The past decade has witnessed remarkable evolution within qualitative health research as scholars have moved beyond initial adherence to the specific methods of phenomenology, grounded theory, and ethnography to develop methods more responsive to the experience-based questions of interest to a practice-based discipline. Interpretive description (Thorne, Reimer Kirkham, & MacDonald-Emes, 1997) is an inductive analytic approaches designed to create ways of understanding clinical phenomena that yield applications implications. In this article, we further develop our understanding of this methodological alternative by elaborating on the objective and mechanisms of its analytic processes and by expanding our consideration of its interpretive products.