The Total Quality Framework (TQF) is built around the idea that a quality approach to qualitative research is strengthened by a host of essential critical thinking skills developed by the researcher and the research team. Indeed, the central goal of the TQF is to aid in the development of researchers’ critical thinking skills as they go about the design and implementation of their qualitative research studies. The TQF encourages researchers to stop and think about data collection considerations — such as sampling, mode, and interviewer bias — as well as the integrity of the theme-constructing process during analysis, and the ultimate interpretations and usefulness of the research outcomes. In this way, the TQF is squarely focused on
“bringing greater rigor to qualitative research without stifling or squelching the creative approaches and interpretations that skilled qualitative researchers properly embrace, practice, and celebrate.” (Roller & Lavrakas, p. 3)
The TQF research proposal has been discussed in other articles posted in Research Design Review. A general overview of the TQF proposal sections is discussed in “A Quality Approach to the Qualitative Research Proposal,” the Design component of the TQF proposal is discussed in three articles — “The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Credibility of Design,” “The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Method & Mode,” and “Writing Ethics Into Your Qualitative Proposal” — and the Literature Review section of the TQF proposal is discussed in this article, “The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Background & Literature Review.”
The following is a modified excerpt from Roller & Lavrakas (2015, pp. 342-343) describing the Research Team component of the TQF research proposal:
The principal researcher and the other people making up the research team (e.g., interviewers, moderators, observers, coders) that will be working on the proposed research are critical to the credibility of the data collected, the completeness and accuracy of the data analysis and interpretation, the transparency in the final documents, and ultimately the usefulness of the research. This is why a TQF research proposal includes a section that briefly: (a) identifies members of the team (either by name, if appropriate, or at least by job title and affiliation); (b) states the basis by which team members have been (or will be) chosen; (c) describes their knowledge of the subject matter or target population central to the proposed research; (d) identifies the particular philosophical or theoretical orientation of the principal researcher(s), as appropriate, and the effect this will have on how the study is conducted1; and (e) highlights the particular skills team members bring to the study.
For example, a researcher might propose a study for the state agency in charge of water resources involving in-person group discussions with environmental “activists” concerning environmental issues related to water use in the state. At the time of proposal writing, the researcher may not have determined the individuals who will be on the research team; however, the researcher might specify that there will be three members on the team, including the proposal author and two other researchers who (1) have 10 years’ experience (each) conducting qualitative research, generally, and focus groups, specifically; (2) have worked with this particular state agency in the past and are familiar with the agency’s operations; (3) have worked in the area of environmental issues for many years and, specifically, on issues related to water resources; and (4) bring unique skills to the proposed research (as discussed below).
The researcher might discuss team members’ particular skills in terms of the roles they will play in conducting the study and the capabilities associated with those roles. Using the focus group study with environmental activists as an example, the person selected to moderate these group discussions could be described as someone who (a) is highly experienced in moderating focus groups and has particular experience moderating discussions with topic enthusiasts or activists; (b) understands the issues of primary importance to the state agency; (c) has been fully trained on how to minimize potential bias due to the moderator’s behavior or inconsistency; and (d) possesses all the interpersonal skills of a good interviewer as well as the unique ability to manage group dynamics and effectively use enabling techniques in a group setting to gain deeper insights. Likewise, the individuals who will work on the proposed focus group analyses might be described as researchers who not only know the subject matter but are also experienced at (a) analyzing qualitative data on environmental issues, (b) identifying themes and patterns in the manifest and latent content of group discussions, (c) looking for outliers in the data that serve to support or refute preliminary interpretations, and (d) working closely with other researchers and the client to conduct debriefings that provide useful input in the analysis.