Exploring Human Realities: A Quality & Fair Approach

The following incorporates modified excerpts from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 2-3).

Quality and fairness to explore human realitiesAs the channel by which researchers explore the depths of human realities, qualitative research has gained prominent status that is accelerating over time as quantitatively trained mentors in academia are increasingly asked to assist in students’ qualitative research designs, and as the volume of published works in qualitative research aggressively grows (cf. Charmaz, 2008; Lincoln, Lynham, & Guba, 2011; Silverman, 2013). Even psychology, a discipline that has traditionally dismissed qualitative research as “subjective” and “unscientific,” has come of age with slow but continued growth in the field of qualitative psychology (cf. Wertz, 2014). These advances have given rise to a vibrant array of scholars and practitioners who harbor varying perspectives on how to approach qualitative research.

These differing perspectives are best exemplified by the paradigm debates among qualitative researchers. The focus of these debates is on the underlying belief or orientation the researcher brings to any given qualitative study. In particular, these discussions center on the philosophical constructs related to the nature of reality (ontology) and that of knowledge (epistemology). It is the researchers’ sometimes divergent views on the presence and extent of a “true” reality—for example, whether it is the (post)positivism view that there is a single objective reality that can be found in a controlled scientific method, or the constructivism–interpretivism paradigm that emphasizes the idea of multiple realities existing in the context of social interactions and subjective meanings—as well as the source of this knowledge—for example, the dominant role of the researcher in critical theory—that have fueled an ongoing dialogue concerning paradigms within the qualitative research arena.

And yet, regardless of the philosophical or theoretical paradigms that may guide researchers in their qualitative inquiries, qualitative researchers are united in the fundamental and common goal of unraveling the convoluted and intricate world of the human experience.

The complexities of the human experience present unique challenges to qualitative researchers who strive to develop research designs that result in contextual data while incorporating basic standards of good research. To that end, many qualitative researchers, routinely focus their attention on the importance of methodically rigorous data collection practices and verification checks (Creswell, 2013; Marshall & Rossman, 2011; Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002); well-thought-out procedures and analytic rigor (Atkinson & Delamont, 2006; Berg & Lune, 2012), and frameworks that promote critical thinking throughout the research process (Levitt, Motulsky, Wertz, Morrow, & Ponterotto, 2017; Roller & Lavrakas, 2015).

By transcending the paradigm debates, a quality approach to qualitative research fosters the essential element of fairness while maximizing the ultimate usefulness of the research. Fairness means giving participants a fair voice in the research.  A “fair voice” is not a small q positivist-Big Q non-positivist issue (see Braun & Clarke, 2022) but rather the researcher’s quality approach to data collection and analysis that gives careful consideration to the scope of the sample design, researchers’ skills that prioritize inclusion, ongoing reflexivity, and other quality research strategies that embrace diversity in our participants and our methods.

A quality approach that promotes fairness to explore the complexity of human realities is a non-debatable goal of the qualitative researcher.

Atkinson, P., & Delamont, S. (2006). Rescuing narrative from qualitative research. Narrative Inquiry, 16(1), 164–172. https://doi.org/10.1075/ni.16.1.21atk

Berg, B. L., & Lune, H. (2012). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (8th ed.). Boston: Pearson.

Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2022). Toward good practice in thematic analysis: Avoiding common problems and be(com)ing a knowing researcher. International Journal of Transgender Health. https://doi.org/10.1080/26895269.2022.2129597

Charmaz, K. (2008). Views from the margins: Voices, silences, and suffering. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 5(1), 7–18. https://doi.org/10.1080/14780880701863518

Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Levitt, H. M., Motulsky, S. L., Wertz, F. J., Morrow, S. L., & Ponterotto, J. G. (2017). Recommendations for designing and reviewing qualitative research in psychology: Promoting methodological integrity. Qualitative Psychology, 4(1), 2–22. https://doi.org/10.1037/qup0000082

Lincoln, Y. S., Lynham, S. A., & Guba, E. G. (2011). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences, revisited. In N. K. Denzin & Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), The Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 97–128). Sage Publications.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (2011). Designing qualitative reserach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Morse, J. M., Barrett, M., Mayan, M., Olson, K., & Spiers, J. (2002). Verification strategies for establishing reliability and validity in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(2), 13–22.

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

Silverman, D. (2013). What counts as qualitative research? Some cautionary comments. Qualitative Sociology Review, IX(2), 48–55.

Wertz, F. J. (2014). Qualitative inquiry in the history of psychology. Qualitative Psychology, 1(1), 4–16.