A Total Quality Framework (TQF) approach to the qualitative research proposal has been discussed many times in Research Design Review over the years. The current compilation includes 11 articles that appeared in RDR from 2013-2022. These articles range from a general discussion of quality considerations associated with the qualitative research proposal to specific attention to individual components of the proposal such as the literature review and research design.
“TQF Research Proposal: 11 Articles on the Total Quality Framework Qualitative Research Proposal” is available for download here.
Six other RDR compilations — devoted to particular qualitative methods or facet of qualitative research — are also available:
“Ethnography & the Observation Method: 15 Articles on Design, Implementation, & Uses” is available for download here.
“Reflexivity: 10 Articles on the Role of Reflection in Qualitative Research” is available for download here.
“The Focus Group Method: 18 Articles on Design & Moderating” is available for download here.
“The In-depth Interview Method: 12 Articles on Design & Implementation” is available for download here.
“Qualitative Data Analysis: 16 Articles on Process & Method” is available for download here.
“Qualitative Research: Transparency & Reporting” is available for download here.
The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 338).
The background and literature review section of the Total Quality Framework (TQF) proposal provides the context for the research question(s) and/or hypotheses that the proposed research is designed to address. In this section, the proposal author must not only put forth the questions/hypotheses under study, but provide support as to why these are the ones that merit investigation. In doing this, the author should rely on the TQF to bolster the logical arguments that are advanced in support of these research questions/hypotheses.
The extent to which the research questions revolve around quality-design issues will depend, in part, on the results of the literature review and the nature of the research topic. For example, a proposal to study physician–patient consultations might state the primary research question as “What are the main factors that appear to contribute to the frequency and type of conversations concerning cancer patients’ sexual functioning among a representative sample of a clinic’s oncology physicians?” The researcher may or may not harbor a hypothesis along with the research question. However, depending on the literature review, the researcher might enter into the research hypothesizing, for example, that the frequency and substance of physician–patient conversations concerning sexual function are associated with how closely the physician’s demographic characteristics (e.g., age, gender, and race) match those of the patient. Or, a proposal on this topic may focus on methodological, rather than substantive, hypotheses such as noting TQF flaws in past research and hypothesizing that the author’s proposed methods for the new study will avoid the problems of earlier research (which the researcher may believe led to biased findings and ill-advised recommendations) and thereby result in outcomes that are more credible and therefore more useful.
Careful, thoughtful attention needs to be paid to this section of the proposal. It is the research questions and/or hypotheses that the researcher describes here that will play a large role in guiding the next section of the TQF proposal, the design of the research study.
The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, p. 344).
The Total Quality Framework (TQF) research proposal has been discussed in several articles appearing in Research Design Review. In “A Quality Approach to the Qualitative Research Proposal,” the importance of critical thinking in proposal writing and the essential eight sections of the TQF research proposal — built around the central role of quality design — are introduced. Three articles in RDR focus on the Design section of the proposal — one article discussing Scope and Data Gathering (i.e., the Credibility component of the TQF), another article reflecting specifically on method and mode, and a third article concerning the ethical considerations of the proposed study. Beyond the Design section, RDR also includes articles on the Background & Literature Review and Research Team sections of the TQF proposal.
Another section of the TQF research proposal is devoted to Limitations. In this section, the proposal author will methodically apply the TQF to produce a critique of the proposed research design in ways that are consistent with what has been discussed in the Design section of the proposal. That is, the Limitations section will contain subsections on Credibility (Scope and Data Gathering), Analyzability (Processing and Verification), Transparency, and Usefulness. In each of these subsections the researcher will acknowledge the likely limitations of the study design that is being proposed, and briefly opine on the likely implications of these limitations to the overall usefulness of the research.
No qualitative (or quantitative) research study is perfect (with only strengths and no drawbacks). By readily (and unhesitatingly) acknowledging that there are limitations in the proposed design, the proposal writer takes the “high road” and thereby strengthens the case that the proposed design is the best one possible, given the funding, time, and other resources that are available to support the study. It also demonstrates that the researcher will be cognizant of these limitations in formulating conclusions and making recommendations based on the study’s findings.