In examining the level of evidence, there is a hierarchical structure in place. This hierarchical structure is such that the highest level of evidence can be arrived at through the utility of randomized control trial (RCT). At the second level are Quasi-experiments whereby there is no random assignment of participants to treatment groups, however, treatment and the causal relationship is determined utilizing the same standards as RCTs (Penrod & Morrison, 2004). This is followed by case control studies, case series studies and expert opinion (Slade, Kuipers, & Priebe, 2002).
An examination of the implications of the research methodology utilized begs a closer look at RCTs and the Phenomenological approach to research. First and foremost, randomized control trials are defined as study designs where treatments, interventions, or enrollment into different study groups are assigned by random allocation rather than by conscious decisions of clinicians or patients. The goal of RCTs is to ensure that the results obtained from a study are strictly based on the treatment administered and not a direct result of bias or other confounding variables (Philadelphia Panel, 2001). The Phenomenological approach to research, on the other hand, is one that dates back further than the advent of the experimental approach which utilizes RCTs. It is an approach that inextricably links people and the environments of which they are an integral part. Furthermore, it operates from the vantage point which dictates that by virtue of being human, we are dynamic in nature and the determinants of health, behavior and other attributes can be described and summarized utilizing clear and concise qualitative methods. These methods as delineated in the phenomenological approach to research offers a vehicle for exploring as well as explaining the experiences of the individuals being studied. In so doing, the data is captured utilizing phenomenological methods and are reported utilizing statistical methods designed for categorical data (Sandelowski, 1986).
Qualitative and quantitative research methodology
In order to fully explore the similarities and differences between RCTs and the phenomenological approach to research, it is prudent that we first make a distinction between quantitative and qualitative data. First and foremost, quantitative data can be utilized to articulate some notions that may be true when applied generally, they cannot be applied to any specific cases. For example, quantitative methods can be utilized to gather data on the number of patients who respond positively to a certain level of radiation delivered to the tumor and how those numbers compare to similar data collected over the course of several years. In so doing, the data cannot explain why the patients respond to the treatment in a positive manner or what may influence the way in which they respond. Essentially, quantitative methods are limited. As a direct result, quantitative methods prove inadequate when the nature of the research dictates that an explanation of behaviors is needed and qualitative methods are called to task (Sandelowski, 1986). In connecting RCTs and phenomenological research methods, with the notion