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A quadrant model of medical research traditions

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posted on 06.10.2020 by Andrew Huang

This quadrant model of medical research traditions conceptualises research on a continuum of two axes. The x-axis is informed by Engel’s biopsychosocial model1 while the y-axis represents the continuum between in-vitro and in-vivo research and methodologies. Laboratory-based research is represented in the in-vitro/biomedical quadrant; clinical research in the in-vivo/biomedical quadrant; simulation-based research in the in-vitro/psychosocial quadrant; and professional practice research in the in-vivo/psychosocial quadrant. Those traditions tending towards the biomedical model might be best researched using quantitative positivist methodologies, whilst those tending towards the psychosocial model might be best researched using qualitative methodologies.

Overlying the quadrants is the Taijitu (太极图/太極圖) better known in Western traditions as a representation of Yin-Yang (阴阳/陰陽). Its purpose is to act as a reminder that each medical research tradition is “complementary, interconnected, and interdependent”2; and that there may be other ways of finding and seeing truth and knowledge.

1. Engel GL. The clinical application of the biopsychosocial model. AJP. 1980;137(5):535-544. doi:10.1176/ajp.137.5.535

2. Yin and yang. In: Wikipedia. ; 2020. Accessed October 6, 2020.