An important lesson in research design is the idea of learning from past research in order to not repeat the “mistakes” from comparable research in a given area. In qualitative research, if recruiting participants via email has reaped mediocre levels of response and cooperation in the past, a different recruiting strategy (e.g., personal letters by way of FedEx followed by phone) would be adopted for future studies with this population segment. And, if a particular moderating technique has not resulted in a dynamic and open focus group discussion on a certain topic, the researcher will dig deeper next time into the proverbial “toolbox” to find a more effective approach.
To facilitate the design process, while keeping in mind what has “worked” and “not worked” in the past, it is useful to create some type of grid or display of earlier research. This grid might include the researcher’s own work in the particular area of interest as well as that of others’ research published in peer-reviewed journals. For each study cited, the researcher’s display should include information pertaining to effective as well as ineffective elements of data collection. [NOTE: Similar grids could be developed relating to analysis and reporting.] For instance, a display looking at sampling and recruitment for face-to-face focus group research with cancer patients or survivors might look something like the grid shown above. [NOTE: Click on image to enlarge]
By expanding the display and allowing it to guide the design process, the qualitative researcher can efficiently develop qualitative studies that build on past successes and result in useful outcomes.
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Ferrell, B. R., Grant, M. M., Funk, B., Otis-Green, S., & Garcia, N. (1997). Quality of life in breast cancer survivors as identified by focus groups. Psycho-Oncology, 6(1), 13–23.
Frazier, L. M., Miller, V. A., Horbelt, D. V., Delmore, J. E., Miller, B. E., & Paschal, A. M. (2010). Comparison of focus groups on cancer and employment conducted face to face or by telephone. Qualitative Health Research, 20(5), 617–627.