Lighting a Path to Guide Case-Centered Research Design: A Six-Step Approach

Elliot Mishler coined the term “case-centered research” to refer to the research approach that preserves the “unity and coherence” of research participants through the data collection and well-lit-pathanalysis process. Fundamental to case-centered research is its focus on complex social units (or “cases”) in their entirety as well as the emphasis on maintaining the cohesiveness of the social unit(s) throughout the research process. As discussed in Research Design Review back in 2013, two important examples of case-centered approaches are case study research and narrative research.

The complexity and need for cohesion in case-centered research present unique design challenges. Indeed, quality outcomes from case study and narrative research are the result of a well-defined process that guides the researcher from the initial conceptualization phase to data collecting in the field. Although the specifics within the process will vary from study to study, there exists an optimal design flow when implementing the case-centered research approach.

The appropriate path in case-centered designs, leading to data collection, involves the following six Read Full Text

Qualitative Data: Achieving Accuracy in the Absence of “Truth”

One of the 10 unique attributes of qualitative research is the “absence of truth.” This refers to the idea that the highly contextual and social constructionist nature of qualitative research renders data that is, not absolute “truth” but, useful knowledge that is the matter of the researcher’s own 10 Unique Attributes of Qualitative Researchsubjective interpretation. For all these reasons – contextuality, social constructionism, and subjectivity – qualitative researchers continually question their data, scrutinize outliers (negative cases), and implement other steps towards verification.

Qualitative researchers also conduct their research in such a way as to maximize the accuracy of the data. Accuracy should not be confused with “truth.” Accuracy in the data refers to gaining information that comes as close as possible to what the research participant is thinking or experiencing at any moment in time. This information may be the product of any number of contextual (situational) and co-constructed factors – i.e., the absence of “truth” – yet an accurate account of a participant’s stance on a given issue or topic.

It is accuracy that qualitative researchers strive for when they craft their research designs to mitigate bias and inconsistency. For example, focus group moderators are trained to give equal attention to their group participants – allowing everyone an opportunity to communicate their thoughts – rather than bias the data – i.e., leading to inaccurate information – by favoring more attention on some participants than on others. A trained moderator is also skilled at listening for inconsistencies or contradictions throughout a discussion in order to follow up on each participant’s comments, asking Read Full Text

Evaluating Quality Standards in a Qualitative Research Literature Review

A December 2015 article in Research Design Review discusses “A Quality Approach to the Qualitative Research Proposal.”  The article outlinesquality-image the eight sections of a “TQF proposal,” i.e., a proposal whereby quality design issues – specifically, related to the four components of the Total Quality Framework – play a central role throughout the writing of each proposal section.  This approach enables the researcher to be mindful of the considerations that go into developing, implementing, and reporting a qualitative research study that is built on quality standards.  The TQF proposal can then live on beyond the proposal phase to inform the researcher as he/she goes about executing the proposed design.

The second section of the TQF proposal is called “Background and Literature Review” and is devoted to giving the reader the context in which to situate the relevance of the proposed study as well as details of the target population and past research efforts with the population segment and/or research topic.   When conducting a literature review for a TQF proposal, it is worthwhile for the researcher to use a reference table or matrix that helps to evaluate each relevant study according to the steps that were taken to maximize Credibility (e.g., representativeness of the sample, validity of the data), Analyzability (i.e., completeness and accuracy of the data processing and verification), Transparency (i.e., completeness and disclosure of the study details), and Usefulness (i.e., the ability to do something of value with the outcomes).

This literature review evaluation table is predicated on the idea that not all qualitative research studies are equally reliable and valid.  In addition to keeping track of the relevant research unearthed in his/her investigation, the literature review table allows the researcher to efficiently evaluate the quality standards that were employed in these studies, along with their strengths and limitations from a quality standpoint, and determine which studies to cite in the proposal.

Further, a revised table comprised of just those references actually cited in the proposal is a useful addition to the proposal itself.  This table provides proposal readers with a convenient way to view cited references in conjunction with the researcher’s comments related to each study’s strengths and limitations from a TQF perspective.

An example of a partial Literature Review Reference Summary Evaluation Table for a proposed study on physician-patient relations is shown below.


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