Setting Qualitative Research Essay

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Writing Qualitative Research
Joan L. Bottorff, PhD, RN
Professor and CIHR Investigator
School of Nursing, UBC
Phone: (604) 822-7438

Purpose of a Research Proposal
‘Communicates research plan to others

(e.g., funding agencies)
‘Serves as a detailed plan for action
‘Serves as a contract between investigator and funding bodies when proposal approved Qualitative Research: Basic
‘Reality is complex, constructed and

ultimately subjective
‘Research is an interpretative processes
‘Knowledge is best achieved by conducting research in the natural setting

Qualitative research
‘Qualitative research is unstructured.
‘Qualitative designs are “emergent” rather

than fixed.
‘The results of qualitative research are unpredictable. Morse, 1994

Kinds of Qualitative Research
‘Grounded theory
‘Ethnography (critical ethnography,

institutional ethnography, ethnomethodology, ethnoscience, etc.)
‘Narrative Inquiry

The Challenges for Qualitative
‘ Developing a solid convincing argument that the study contributes to theory, research, practice, and/or policy (the “so what?” question)
‘ Planning a study that is systematic, manageable, and flexible (to reassure skeptics):
– Justification of the selected qualitative method
– Explicit details about design and methods, without limiting the project’s evolution
– Attention to criteria for the overall soundness or rigor of the project

Questions a proposal must answer
‘Why should anyone be interested in my

‘Is the research design credible, achievable, and carefully explained?
‘Is the researcher capable of doing the research? Marshall & Rossman, 1989

To answer these questions:
‘Be practical (practical problems can not

easily be brushed off)
‘Be persuasive (“sell” your proposal)
‘Make broad links (hint at wider context)
‘Aim for crystal clarity (avoid jargon, assume nothing, explain everything)
Silverman, 2000

Sections of Typical Qualitative
‘ Introduction
– Introduce topic and significance
– Statement of purpose, research questions/objectives

‘ Review of Literature
– Related literature and theoretical traditions

‘ Design and Methods


Overall approach and rationale
Sampling, data gathering methods, data analysis
Trustworthiness (Soundness of the research)
Ethical considerations

Dissemination Plan

Introducing the Study – 1st para
‘Goal: capture interest in the study
– Focus on importance of study (Why bother with the question?)
– Clear and concise (details will follow later)
– Synopsis of the primary target of the study
– Persuasive logic backed up with factual evidence The Problem/Research Question
‘The problem can be broad, but must be

specific enough to convince others that it is worth focusing on.
‘Research questions clearly delineated
(sometimes with sub-questions)
‘Scope of the research question(s) needs to be manageable within the time frame and context of the study.

Purpose of the Qualitative Study
‘Conceptualization (theory building)?

Literature Review
‘Selective and persuasive – building a case

for what is known or believed, what’s missing, and how the study fits in.
‘Literature is used to demonstrate openness to complexity of phenomenon, rather than funneling toward an a priori conceptualization. Methods – challenges here
‘Quantitative designs are often more

familiar to reviewers
‘Qualitative researchers have a different language Methods section
‘Orientation to the Method:
– Description of the particular method that will be used and its creators/interpreters
– Rationale for qualitative research generally and for the specific method to be used.

Qualitative Studies are Valuable for
‘ that delves in-depth into complexities and processes
‘ on little-known phenomena or innovative systems
‘ on informal and unstructured processes in organizations