Wednesday, 28 September 2016

The power of multiple perspectives: service user involvement enhanced research quality

Nina Helen Mjøsund, Monica Eriksson, Geir Arild Espnes, Mette Haaland-Øverby, Sven Liang Jensen, Irene Norheim, Solveig Helene Høymork Kjus, Inger-Lill Portaasen, Hege Forbech Vinje

Service user involvement enhanced the research quality in a study using interpretative phenomenological analysis – the power of multiple perspectives

Persons with mental illness and their family members possess experiences that when shared can become valuable contributions to nursing research and mental health research. Service user involvement is requested; however, evidence for its quality-enhancing potential in research needs to be examined. Our article emphasises this. In doing so, our envisioned impact is threefold:
  1. to encourage researchers to utilise this experiential knowledge
  2. to remind the health service users of the valuable knowledge they possess
  3. to positively influence attitudes towards patients with severe mental illness
We aimed to examine how service user involvement contributed to the development of interpretative phenomenological analysis methodology and enhanced research quality. Interpretative phenomenological analysis is a qualitative methodology used in health research internationally to understand human experiences that are essential to the participants. Included are some ideas about how to improve breadth and depth of findings when working on interpretation of texts.

We, service users and researchers, shared experiences from four years of collaboration (2012 – 2015) on a qualitative mental health promotion project. Five research advisors either with a diagnosis or related to a person with severe mental illness constituted the advisory team. They collaborated with the research fellow throughout the entire research process, and have co-authored this article. In the project we explored how twelve persons diagnosed with severe mental disorders and with experiences of in-patient care perceived positive mental health. In this article we have described and examined the joint process of analysing the empirical data from interviews. Our analytical discussions were audiotaped, transcribed and subsequently interpreted following the guidelines for good qualitative analysis in interpretative phenomenological analysis studies.

The advisory team became ‘the researcher’s helping hand’. The power of multiple perspectives came across in the interpretation of interview texts. Multiple perspectives gave more insightful interpretations of nuances, complexity, richness or ambiguity in the interviewed participants’ accounts. The interpretative element of interpretative phenomenological analysis was enhanced by the emergence of multiple perspectives in the analysis of the empirical data.

Our conclusion was that service user involvement improved the research quality in our project. We argue that service user involvement and interpretative phenomenological analysis methodology can mutually reinforce each other. The methodology has the potential to make service user involvement meaningful, creative and manageable. The methodology holds features that may benefit from service user involvement in terms of more breadth and depth, as well as validation of findings.

Our research contributes to the ongoing process of improving nursing and health research methodology. These findings should be of value to all qualitative researchers and especially for those who are required by funding bodies to involve service users in their research projects. Our experiences can be included in academic training of nurses and other health professionals as a way of advancing the methodological approaches in qualitative research. We hope this article can inspire nurses in clinical practice and service users to be aware of the synergy and the power of multiple perspectives when service users are brought into decision making in nursing and health care.


Mjøsund N.H., Eriksson M., Espnes G.A., Haaland-Øverby M., Jensen S.L., Norheim I., Kjus S.H.H.,Portaasen I.-L. & Vinje H.F. (2016) Service user involvement enhanced the research quality in a study using interpretative phenomenological analysis – the power of multiple perspectives. Journal of Advanced Nursing. doi: 10.1111/jan.13093

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