The use of Qualitative Research in studying Self-Medication with Antibiotics: Lessons Learnt

Ghada Omar Shouna


Self-medication with antibiotics (SMA) is a major contributor of anti-microbial resistance in most of the developing countries leading to treatment failures, clinical complications and significant economic losses. The practice of SMA is to a large extent attributed to the behavior of individuals in using antibiotics without medical advice. In this regard, a study was carried out as a part of MSc thesis in order to gain an insight into the current practices of self-medication with antibiotics in Sudan and investigate the beliefs, behavior, and practices that lead to the use of these medicines without prescription.

In recent years, focus-group discussions, as a means of qualitative data collection, have gained popularity amongst professionals within the health care arena. The author of this article explores this method as applied in the study of self-medication with antibiotics, focusing on concepts and application of data collection and the approach of analysis. This article introduces focus group methodology, gives advice on group composition, running the groups, and analyzing the results using the example from the author’s own research.

Focus groups have advantages for researchers in the field of health and medicine: they do not discriminate against people who cannot read or write and they can encourage participation from people reluctant to be interviewed on their own or who feel they have nothing to say. This article critically reflects on the approach employed and reports the experiences of researchers throughout the analysis process. The article concludes with lessons learned, in order to assist the newcomer to qualitative research to engage with the methodology.


Qualitative methods, Focus group discussion, Self-medication, Sudan.

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