The Total Quality Framework (TQF) is an approach to qualitative research design that integrates quality principles without stifling the fundamental and unique attributes of qualitative research. In so doing, the TQF helps qualitative researchers develop critical thinking skills by showing them how to give explicit attention to quality issues related to conceptualization, implementation, analysis, and reporting.
The following case study offers an example of how many of the concerns of the Credibility (or data collection) component of the TQF were applied to an in-depth interview (IDI) study conducted by Roller Research. This case study can be read in its entirety in Roller & Lavrakas (2015, pp. 100-103).
This study was conducted for a large provider of information services associated with nonprofit organizations based in the U.S. The purpose was to investigate the information needs among current and former users of these information services in order to facilitate the development of “cutting edge” service concepts.
Eighty-six (86) IDIs were conducted among individuals within various grant-making and philanthropic organizations (e.g., private foundations, public charities, and education institutions) who are responsible for the decision to purchase and utilize these information services.
There were two important considerations in choosing to complete 86 interviews: (a) the required level of analysis – it was important to be able to analyze the data by the various types of organizations, and (b) practical considerations – the available budget (how much money there was to spend on the research) and time restrictions (the research findings were to be presented at an upcoming board meeting). In terms of mode, 28 IDIs were conducted with the largest, most complex users of these information services, while the remaining 58 interviews were conducted on the telephone.
Participants were stratified by type, size, and geographic location and then selected on an nth-name basis across the entire lists of users and former users provided by the research sponsor.
A high degree of cooperation was achieved during the recruitment process by way of:
- A preliminary letter sent to all sample members.
- Identification of the research sponsor (whose positive reputation strengthened the credibility of the research).
- A non-monetary incentive consisting of a summary of the research findings, which was highly desired by participants given their interest in knowing how others were using nonprofit information as well as others’ reactions to several proposed concepts that were presented during the interviews.
- Utilizing one professional executive recruiter who was highly trained on how to gain access to and cooperation from decision makers. This recruiter shared office space with the researcher to facilitate a close interaction to discuss the scheduling needs of potential interviewees and work out ways to meet these needs to their satisfaction.
- Flexible scheduling, e.g., in-person interviewees were allowed to choose a location for the interview without restrictions, and all interviewees were permitted to select any time – day or night, week day or weekend – for the interview.
The researcher/interviewer, with over 30 years of professional experience, developed the interview guide and completed all 86 IDIs. The validity and accuracy of the research results were maximized by:
- Meeting with various managers within the sponsoring organization who had a vested interest in the outcome of the research – e.g., the president and CFO as well as the directors of research, programs, and communications – in order to gain a clear understanding of the research objectives and the constructs to measure.
- Learning as much as possible about the category via websites and literature particular to competitive providers of similar nonprofit information, how organizations use this information, and background details on each of the organizations that were included in the sample.
- Reviewing and deliberating with the sponsoring organization on multiple drafts of the interview guide for both the in-person and telephone IDIs.
- Organizing the interview guide as a “funnel,” moving from broad to narrow topics.
- Prioritizing topics so that the issues of most importance to the research objectives were consistently discussed in every IDI – e.g., opinions concerning other types of information providers and the usability of specific features on the research sponsor’s website.
- Ensuring that each interviewee was a qualified participant. For instance, making a concerted effort during recruitment to track down the person within each organization that met all screener requirements including being the decision maker and user of nonprofit information.
- Scheduling IDIs at least two to three hours apart so the interviewer did not rush the interviews and allowed the interviewees to talk beyond the 45-minute time commitment (some in-person IDIs ran up to two hours and some telephone IDIs ran an hour or more).
- Building rapport with interviewees early in the process by way of emailing and telephoning recruited individuals to confirm the interview appointment and introduce the interviewer, along with providing contact information for the interviewee to use in order to request a change in the schedule or otherwise communicate with the interviewer. The interviewer also encouraged interviewees to ask questions about the research before, during, and after the IDI.
- Emphasizing at the onset of each interview that, even though the client was openly acknowledged as the sponsor of the research, the interviewee’s candid opinions were essential to the success of the study. The interviewer reminded interviewees that she was not affiliated with the sponsoring organization and she had no vested interest in the research outcomes beyond the quality of the data, analysis, and reporting.
- Maintaining an informal reflexive journal in which the interviewer recorded her thoughts and observations of her conduct and that of her participants.
Roller, M. R., & Lavrakas, P. J. (2015). Applied qualitative research design: A total quality framework approach. New York: Guilford Press.