Evidence and practice: a review of vignettes in qualitative research
Evidence and practice    

Evidence and practice: a review of vignettes in qualitative research

Jayne Murphy Senior lecturer, Institute of Health Professions, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, England
Jonathan Hughes Senior lecturer, Keele University, Keele, England
Sue Read Emerita professor, Keele University, Keele, England
Sue Ashby Honorary lecturer, Keele University, Keele, England

Why you should read this article:
  • To learn about the qualitative research process

  • To consider vignettes as a possible research tool

  • To inform your design of vignettes

Background Developing and working through a PhD research study requires tenacity, continuous development and application of knowledge. It is paramount when researching sensitive topics to consider carefully the construction of tools for collecting data, to ensure the study is ethically robust and explicitly addresses the research question.

Aim To explore how novice researchers can develop insight into aspects of the research process by developing vignettes as a research tool.

Discussion This article focuses on the use of vignettes to collect data as part of a qualitative PhD study investigating making decisions in the best interests of and on behalf of people with advanced dementia. Developing vignettes is a purposeful, conscious process. It is equally important to ensure that vignettes are derived from literature, have an evidence base, are carefully constructed and peer-reviewed, and are suitable to achieve the research’s aims.

Conclusion Using and analysing a vignette enables novice researchers to make sense of aspects of the qualitative research process and engage with it to appreciate terminology.

Implications for practice Vignettes can provide an effective platform for discussion when researching topics where participants may be reluctant to share sensitive real-life experiences.

Nurse Researcher. 29, 3, 8-14. doi: 10.7748/nr.2021.e1787



Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software

Conflict of interest

None declared


To reuse this article or for information about reprints and permissions, please contact permissions@rcni.com

Write for us

For information about writing for RCNi journals, contact writeforus@rcni.com

For author guidelines, go to rcni.com/write-for-nurse-researcher

Want to read more?

Already subscribed? Log in


Unlock full access to RCNi Plus today

Save over 50% on your first 3 months

Your subscription package includes:
  • Unlimited online access to all 10 RCNi Journals and their archives
  • Customisable dashboard featuring 200+ topics
  • RCNi Learning featuring 180+ RCN accredited learning modules
  • RCNi Portfolio to build evidence for revalidation
  • Personalised newsletters tailored to your interests
RCN student member? Try Nursing Standard Student

Alternatively, you can purchase access to this article for the next seven days. Buy now