Total Quality Framework

Qualitative Analysis: A Reflexive Exercise for Category Development

The second component of the Total Quality Framework (TQF) is Analyzability. This component provides researchers with critical thinking considerations relevant to the completeness and accuracy of their analyses and interpretations of the data. Analyzability consists of two fundamental elements — processing and verification — the first of which involves coding followed by deriving categories and themes from the data.

From a TQF perspective, a useful exercise for category development — particularly when the study entails multiple researchers and a large amount of data — is by way of the reflexive template. Although similar in spirit to the writing function in computer-assisted qualitative data analysis software programs, the primary purpose of this reflexive template is to encourage researchers to actively reflect as they go about developing categories or buckets from the underlying constructs gained from the data. By way of the template, the analyst can document the relationship they perceive between the category and the construct as well as provide an example or further input to support their thinking.

For instance, a researcher conducting a qualitative content analysis study of diaries written by women confined to prison concerning their activities and experiences during confinement, may have derived the category “educational opportunity” (EDUOPPTY) from the coded data defined in part (i.e., along with other relevant constructs) by the underlying construct “well-being.” Within the well-being construct, the researcher also identified three key subconstructs — physical well-being, mental well-being, and financial well-being — that play a central role in understanding the meaning of the well-being construct as well as deepening the definition of the EDUOPPTY category. In this example, the reflexive exercise (by way of the template, see below) has facilitated the researcher’s ability to record the connections between the category and key constructs — highlighting instances of the relationship between EDUOPPTY (e.g., how to use the exercise equipment and art classes) and physical well-being, mental well-being, as well as financial well-being — while aiding collaboration with the research team and adding transparency to the analysis process.

Reflexive template for category development

Analyzability & a Qualitative Content Analysis Case Study

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 284-285).

Kuperberg and Stone (2008) present a case study where content analysis was used as the primary research method. Gender & SocietyIt is an example of how many of the Total Quality Framework (TQF) concepts can be applied — not only to the in-depth interview, focus group, observation, and case centered methods, discussed elsewhere in Research Design Review, but — to qualitative content analysis. The discussion below spotlights aspects of this study relevant to one of the four TQF components, Analyzability.

Purpose & Scope
The primary purpose of this content analysis study was to extend the existing literature on the portrayal of women’s roles in print media by examining the imagery and themes depicted of heterosexual college-educated women who leave the workforce to devote themselves to being stay-at-home mothers (a phenomenon referred to as “opting out”) across a wide, diverse range of print publications. More specifically, this research set out to investigate two areas of media coverage: the content (e.g., the women who are portrayed in the media and how they are described) and the context (e.g., the types of media and articles).

This study examined a 16-year period from 1988 to 2003. This 16-year period was chosen because 1988 was the earliest date on which the researchers had access to a searchable database for sampling, and 2003 was the year that the term “opting out” (referring to women leaving the workforce to become full-time mothers) became popular. The researchers identified 51 articles from 30 publications that represented a wide diversity of large-circulation print media. The researchers acknowledged that the sample “underrepresents articles appearing in small-town outlets” (p. 502).

Analyzability
There are two aspects of the TQF Analyzability component — processing and verification. In terms of processing, the content data obtained by Kuperberg and Stone from coding revealed three primary patterns or themes in the depiction of women who opt out: “family first, child-centric”; “the mommy elite”; and “making choices.” The researchers discuss these themes at some length and support their findings by way of research literature and other references. In some instances, they report that their findings were in contrast to the literature (which presented an opportunity for future research in this area). Their final interpretation of the data includes their overall assertion that print media depict “traditional images of heterosexual women” (p. 510).

Important to the integrity of the analysis process, the researchers absorbed themselves in the sampled articles and, in doing so, identified inconsistencies in the research outcomes. For example, a careful reading of the articles revealed that many of the women depicted as stay-at-home mothers were actually employed in some form of paid work from home. The researchers also enriched the discussion of their findings by giving the reader some context relevant to the publications and articles. For example, they revealed that 45 of the 51 articles were from general interest newspapers or magazines, a fact that supports their research objective of analyzing print media that reach large, diverse audiences.

In terms of verification, the researchers performed a version of deviant case analysis in which they investigated contrary evidence to the assertion made by many articles that there is a growing trend in the proportion of women opting out. Citing research studies from the literature as well as actual trend data, the researchers stated that the articles’ claim that women were increasingly opting out had weak support.

Kuperberg, A., & Stone, P. (2008). The media depiction of women who opt out. Gender & Society, 22(4), 497–517.

Evaluating Proposals Using the Total Quality Framework

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 345-346)

In addition to using the Total Quality Framework (TQF) to structure more rigorous and comprehensive research proposals, the TQF can be used by anyone who is evaluating a proposal for a research study that will use qualitative methods (e.g., members of a thesis or dissertation committee, funders at a granting agency or foundation, clients in the commercial sector). A TQF approach to evaluating research proposals effectively holds the proposal author(s) accountable for doing research that is likely to be accurate and, in the end, useful. The TQF provides a comprehensive system to methodically think about the strengths and limitations of the proposed study design and helps the reviewer ascertain whether there are outstanding threats to the quality of the proposed research that have been ignored or remain unanticipated by the researcher(s).

In essence, the TQF is a reminder to proposal evaluators that research integrity built around fundamental principles is equally important in qualitative as it is in quantitative research design.

The TQF criteria to be considered in the proposal review, within each of the four TQF components, are the following:

Credibility

• How the target population has been defined.
• How the list representing the target population will be created.
• How the sample of participants will be chosen from the list(s) that will be used.
• How many participants the researcher proposes to gather data from or about and the justification that is provided for this number, including its adequacy for the purposes of the study; a discussion of how the researcher will monitor and judge the adequacy of this number while in the field should also be included.
• How the researcher will gain cooperation from, and access to, the sampled participants.
• How the researcher will determine if those in the sample from whom data was not gathered differ in critical ways on the topics being studied from those participants who did provide data.
• What the researcher will do to account for the potential bias that may exist because not everyone in the sample participated in the research (i.e., no data was gathered from some individuals).
• The extent to which the relevant concepts that will be studied have been identified.
• How the researcher has operationalized these concepts in order to effectively collect data on them in the research approach.
• How the researcher has articulated and supported the research objectives and questions.
• How the data collection method(s) will be pilot-tested and revised as necessary.
• The precautions that will be taken to minimize (or at least better understand) the potential biases and inconsistencies that might be created in the data by those involved in data collection.
• The precautions that will be taken to assure high ethical standards throughout the entire study. Read Full Text