Ethnography: An Example of Transparent Reporting

A portion of the following is an excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 221).

Ethnography: An Example of TransparencyThe important component in research design concerning transparency has been discussed many times in Research Design Review. And indeed, Transparency is the third component of the Total Quality Framework. The integrity and ultimate Usefulness of qualitative research hinges on exposing design and data collection details in the final reporting documents.

An excellent example of transparency can be found in “Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation” (Small et al., 2006). Here, the authors report on a participant–observation study that was conducted to complement a broader study concerning the impact of enforcement on illicit drug-use-related behavior. Their description of what went on in the field is a good example of giving the reader a clear understanding of the field activity:

Trained observers spent time “hanging out” in and around locales where drug sales and injecting took place, talking to and interacting with drug users. Discussions, occurrences, and observations were documented in fieldnotes. Observational data recorded in extensive fieldnotes included: location and character of public injection venues; syringe acquisition, availability, and disposal; public drug consumption patterns for injection and non-injection drugs; and description of public drug users. . . . Each observational field visit incorporated two hours of participant–observation conducted in streets and alleys as well as time spent writing fieldnotes to document observations and discussions. A target area and schedule of observations was devised, drawing on previous ethnographic research examining needle exchange practices. . . . The observations targeted both street-side and in the alleyways along 10 blocks of Hastings Street, where numerous clusters of drug market and consumption activity were identified by ethnographic mapping techniques. . . . Observations were distributed between morning, afternoon, and evening hours, with an increased number of observations occurring around monthly welfare payments when public drug scene and police activity increases. As some drug market and using locales shifted and new ones emerged, ethnographic data collection activities were altered accordingly to survey the largest portion of the open drug using scene, including areas far outside the central Hastings corridor. (pp. 86–87)


Small, W., Kerr, T., Charette, J., Schechter, M. T., & Spittal, P. M. (2006). Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 85–95.

Elevating Qualitative Design to Maximize Research Integrity

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 9-10).

All research that is aimed at understanding how people think and behave requires a principled approach to research design that is likely to maximize data quality and to instill users’ confidence in the research outcomes. This is no less so in qualitative than it is in quantitative research; and, in fact, the distinctive attributes and underlying complexities in qualitative research necessitate a quality approach to qualitative research design. This approach requires qualitative researchers to build certain principles into their research studies by way of incorporating and practicing fundamental research standards.

Total Quality FrameworkTo that end, the Total Quality Framework (TQF) was devised to provide a basis by which researchers can develop critical thinking skills necessary to the execution of qualitative designs that maximize the integrity of the research outcomes. This framework is not intended to prescribe a formula or specific procedure by which qualitative researchers should conduct qualitative inquiry. Rather, the TQF provides researchers with a flexible way to focus on quality issues, examine the sources of variability and possible bias in their qualitative methods, and incorporate features into their designs that mitigate these effects and maximize quality outcomes. Integral to the TQF is the idea that all qualitative research must be Credible, Analyzable, Transparent, and Useful. These four components are fundamental to the TQF and its ability to help researchers identify the strengths and limitations of their qualitative methods while also guiding them in the qualitative research design process.

By holding the quality of qualitative research design to a deep level of scrutiny when applied across the diverse, multidisciplinary fields utilizing qualitative methods — e.g., education; psychology; anthropology; sociology; nursing, public health, and medicine; communication; information management; business; geography and environmental science; and program evaluation — the discussion of qualitative research is significantly elevated and enables students, faculty, and practitioners to design and interpret qualitative research studies based on the quality standards that are the hallmark of the TQF.

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

Qualitative Research: A Call for Collective Action

Among thCollective action in qualitative researche many keynote speakers, presentations, and posters at the American Psychological Association 2020 Virtual Convention (which is available online until August 1, 2021), the program includes a symposium on “Questioning Qualitative Methods – Rethinking Accepted Practices.” This session includes three presentations: “Do We Have Consensus About Consensus? Reconceptualizing Consensus as Epistemic Privilege” (by Heidi Levitt), “Is Member-Checking the Gold Standard of Quality Within Qualitative Research?” (by Sue Motulsky), and “Is Replication Important for Qualitative Researchers?” (by Rivka Tuval-Mashiach).

Ruthellen Josselson serves as discussant for this session. In her remarks, Dr. Josselson uses the symposium theme of “rethinking accepted practices” to discuss the second-tier status or “marginalization” of qualitative research, particularly in the field of psychology, and suggests a way to think differently about working in qualitative research. Josselson begins by acknowledging the core realities of qualitative research. Drawing on the panelists’ presentations – and not unlike an earlier article in Research Design Review on the “10 Distinctive Qualities of Qualitative Research” – she highlights unique aspects of qualitative research such as the multiple, contextual nature of “truth,” the absence of isolated variables to measure, and the impossibility of exact replication. These realities, however, do not or should not condemn qualitative research to the periphery of the research methods arena.

To drive qualitative research away from the periphery and its marginalized status, Josselson offers an approach centered on “collectivism” or the idea of a concerted effort among qualitative researchers to investigate phenomena together with the objective of making meaningful contributions toward addressing the research issue. In this spirit, qualitative researchers set out Read Full Text