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Revista Española de Salud Pública

Print version ISSN 1135-5727

Abstract

CONDE GUTIERREZ, Fernando. The similarities and differences between the qualitative and the quantitative perspective throughout Medical History. Rev. Esp. Salud Publica [online]. 2002, vol.76, n.5, pp. 395-408. ISSN 1135-5727.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1135-57272002000500003.

The presentation of qualitative research methods in the health care field underlines how these methods are irrelevant to and inconsistent with scientific traditions in the Health Sciences field. These methods are to of a quantitative nature - epidemiology usually being cited as an example - the connection between, but, qualitative methods and what are referred to as the Social Sciences seems predominant. This article is aimed, on the contrary, at pointing out that qualitative methodologies, which are richer and more highly complex that the quantitative approach, do comprise an intrinsic part of Health Science traditions. A run through the major milestones and events throughout the history of Medicine reveals the paradoxical protocol of Health Sciences, overlapping the Natural Sciences and Social Sciences, overlapping qualitative and the quantitative view. More specifically, this analysis revolves around the twofold approach to illness, by way of signs and symptoms, as a condensing of said paradoxical protocol considered. A historical analysis reveals how the twofold, complex way of signs and symptoms is equivalent to the complex relationship which exists between the qualitative and the quantitative perspective. The signs correspond to quantitative approach and the symptoms to the more qualitative. The relationships between the two would be similar to that existing come to bear between the qualitative and quantitative perspectives in the field of the Social Sciences. Theses results show the qualitative perspective to be rooted in medical tradition itself and may therefore facilitate its use by all health care professionals as a whole. The fact that the "semiology" so in vogue today in the social sciences stems from "clinical semiology" should not be overlooked.

Keywords : History; Qualitative research; Clinical signs; Clinical symptoms.

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