Research Proposal

The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Background & Literature Review

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 336-337).

TQF Proposal-Literature Review

The second section of the Total Quality Framework (TQF) research proposal is Background and Literature Review. This section of the research proposal gives the reader the necessary context in which to situate the relevance of the proposed study. Here, the proposal author provides background details about the particular target population (e.g., in a study concerning cancer patients’ consultations with their doctors, information regarding the participating oncologists and the medical facility where they practice and conduct patient consultations), past research efforts among this population (e.g., with similar types of physicians and/or their patients), and a discussion of pertinent research published in professional literature and presented at professional conferences.

In conducting the review of earlier research (either internal research with the same target population or others’ research in the literature), the author of the proposal should pay particular attention to not only the compatibility of the subject matter but also the quality standards that were utilized in the design of each prior study. In fact, if the review of a past study finds it lacking from a TQF perspective, it is possible the proposal author will not cite it at all or, if it is cited, its shortcomings should be duly noted. To the extent that earlier research is cited, the researcher should identify the ways in which these studies included appropriate steps to maximize Credibility (e.g., coverage of key population segments as well as valid data gathering), Analyzability (e.g., accurate processing and verification of the data), and Transparency (e.g., full disclosure and thick description in the final document), as well as the Usefulness of the research in terms of making a valuable contribution to the subject matter. In this regard, the proposal should also discuss the author’s assessment of these earlier studies, emphasizing the strengths and limitations of that research from a TQF perspective.

It is recommended that the researcher include a Literature Review Reference Summary Evaluation Table (see below) in the proposal. This table allows the researcher to organize relevant past studies and to lay out the considerations of each as it relates to the TQF, giving proposal readers an encapsulated way to view compatible studies along with the researcher’s comments on their strengths and weaknesses from a TQF perspective.

TQF Proposal Lit Review Reference Table


Forbat, L., White, I., Marshall-Lucette, S., & Kelly, D. (2012). Discussing the sexual consequences of treatment in radiotherapy and urology consultations with couples affected by prostate cancer. BJU International, 109(1), 98–103.

López, A., Detz, A., Ratanawongsa, N., & Sarkar, U. (2012). What patients say about their doctors online: A qualitative content analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 27(6), 685–692.

The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Method & Mode

TQF Research Proposal-Design

As discussed in “A Quality Approach to the Qualitative Research Proposal,” one of the eight sections of the Total Quality Framework (TQF) proposal is Research Design. Within this section of the proposal, there are six areas to be covered by the researcher:

  • Method and Mode
  • Scope and Data Gathering
  • Analysis
  • Ethical Considerations
  • Dissemination of Findings
  • Summary of the Research Design

The following is a modified excerpt from Roller & Lavrakas (2015, pp. 338-339) describing the Method and Mode area of the Research Design section:

The proposal author should identify the method(s), and the mode(s) within the method(s), that will be used to contact study participants, gain their cooperation, and gather data for the proposed study. The proposal should go on to support the selection of the methods and modes by outlining the strengths—alone and in comparison to other approaches—with the acknowledgment of the limitations of the proposed design.

As an example, a researcher proposing a face-to-face and phone in-depth interview (IDI) study of African American and Hispanic high school students in a particular school district would discuss the advantages of the IDI method in terms of the ability to establish rapport and develop a strong interviewer–interviewee relationship, thereby reducing the potential for bias (e.g., distortion in the interviewees’ responses) and increasing the credibility of the data. This researcher would elaborate by linking the choice of method and modes to the research objectives. For instance, the researcher would explain that the goal of understanding the deep-seated factors that impact academic performance requires a research approach that is both personal in nature and creates a trusting environment wherein the interviewer can gather detailed, meaningful responses from the students to potentially sensitive questions, such as disruptive influences outside of school (e.g., family life).

The researcher would then explain that no other qualitative method (or quantitative method) could effectively gain the depth of information sought by the proposed IDI study, but also acknowledges that the success of the study will hinge on well-thought-out techniques for sampling participants and gaining cooperation from the target population (examples of which should be included in the proposal). And finally, the researcher would note that the face-to-face IDI method costs more and adds time to the study completion compared to other IDI modes, stating that this is one of the reasons that some of the IDIs will be conducted via phone.

For a discussion of the Scope and Data Gathering area of the Research Design section, see “The TQF Qualitative Research Proposal: Credibility of Design.”

Roller, M. R., & Lavrakas, P. J. (2015). Applied qualitative research design: A total quality framework approach. New York: Guilford Press.

Writing Ethics Into Your Qualitative Proposal

A qualitative research proposal is comprised of many pieces and parts that are necessary to convey the researcher’s justification for conducting the research, how the research will be conducted (including the strengths and limitations of the prTQF Proposaloposed approach), as well as what the sponsor of the research can expect in terms of deliverables, timing, and cost. The eight sections of the Total Quality Framework (TQF) proposal are discussed briefly in this 2015 post in Research Design Review. One of the sections in the TQF proposal is Design. This is where the researcher discusses the research method and mode along with Scope and Data Gathering (consistent with the TQF Credibility component), and analysis (including aspects of processing and verification as described by the TQF Analyzability component). Another important part to the Design section is a discussion of the ethical considerations associated with the proposed research.

Every research proposal for studying human beings must carefully consider the ethical ramifications of engaging individuals for research purposes, and this is particularly true in the relatively intimate, in-depth nature of qualitative research. It is incumbent on qualitative researchers to honestly assure research participants their confidentiality and right to privacy, safety from harm, and right to terminate their voluntary participation at any time with no untoward repercussions from doing so. The proposal should describe the procedures that will be taken to implement these assurances, including gaining informed consent, gaining approval from the relevant Institutional Review Board, and anonymizing participants’ names, places mentioned, and other potentially identifying information.

Special consideration should be given in the proposal to ethical matters when the proposed research (a) pertains to vulnerable populations such as children or the elderly; (b) concerns a marginalized segment of the population such as people with disabilities, same-sex couples, or the economically disadvantaged; (c) involves covert observation that will be conducted in association with an ethnographic study; or (d) is a narrative study in which the researcher may withhold the full true intent of the research in order not to stifle or bias participants’ telling of their stories.

Furthermore, the researcher should pay particular attention to ethical considerations when writing a proposal for a focus group study. The focus group method (regardless of mode) brings together (typically) a number of strangers who are often asked to offer their candid thoughts on personal and sensitive topics. For this reason (and other reasons, e.g., the moderator may be sharing confidential information with the participants), it is important to gain a signed consent form from all participants; however, the reality is that there is no way the researcher can totally guarantee confidentiality. These and other associated ethical considerations should be discussed in the Design section of the focus group proposal.