“Keep it simple,” “keep it short,” and “make it fast.” These are the words that many qualitative researchers live by as they sit down to produce the final written report for their clients. The prevailing sense among some is that their all-too-busy clients do not have the time, inclination, or research backgrounds to read lengthy reports detailing nuanced findings and method. Instead, clients want a brief summary of outcomes that are actionable in the short term. It is no wonder that PowerPoint reporting has become so popular. Who needs complete sentences when a key implication from the research can be reduced to a bullet list or an alluring infographic?
But what has become lost in the ever-increasingly-shrinking report is the discussion of research design. Where once at least cursory attention would be given to the basic design elements – this is what we did, this is when we did it, this is where we did it, and these are the demographics of the participants – in the first few pages of the report, this all-important information has been pushed to the back, sometimes to the appendix where it sits like frivolous or unwanted content begging to be ignored. Not only should the research design not be sequestered to the badlands of reporting but the discussion of research design in qualitative research should be expanded and enriched with details of the:
- qualitative method that was used (along with the rationale for using that method),
- target population,
- sample selection and composition of the participants,
- basis by which the interviewer’s/moderator’s guide was developed,
- reason that particular field sites and not others were chosen for the research,
- interviewer’s/moderator’s techniques for eliciting participants’ responses,
- measures that were taken to maximize the credibility and analyzability of the data, and
- coding and other analysis procedures that were used to arrive at the reported interpretations and implications from the outcomes.
The inclusion and elaboration of the research design in qualitative reports matters. It matters because qualitative research has a life, and it is only the researcher’s thick description of the paths and byways the research traveled that allows the life of qualitative research to thrive Read Full Text