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.

lit-review-table

Image captured from: https://a2ua.com/quality.html

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