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).

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.

Shared Constructs in Research Design: Part 3 — Validity

validity in research designNot unlike Part 1 (concerning sampling) and Part 2 (concerning bias) of the discussion that began earlier, the shared construct of validity in research design has also been an area of focus in several articles posted in Research Design Review. Most notable is “Quality Frameworks in Qualitative Research” posted in February 2021 in which validity is discussed within the context of the parameters or strategies various researchers use to define and think about the dimensions of rigor in qualitative research design. This article uses the Total Quality Framework (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015) and criteria of Lincoln and Guba (1985) to underscore the idea that quality approaches to design cuts across paradigm orientation, leading to robust and valid interpretations of the data.

Many other qualitative researchers, across disciplines, believe in the critical role that the shared construct of validity plays in research design. Joseph Maxwell, for example, discusses validity in association with his realism approach to casual explanation in qualitative research (Maxwell, 2004) and discusses in detail five unique dimensions of validity, including descriptive, interpretative, and theoretical validity (Maxwell, 1992). And of course, Miles & Huberman were promoting greater rigor by way of validity more than three decades ago (Miles & Huberman, 1984).

More recently, Koro-Ljungberg (2010) takes an in-depth look at validity in qualitative research and, with extensive literature as the backdrop, makes the case that “validity is in doing, as well as its (un)making, and it exhibits itself in the present paradox of knowing and unknowing, indecision, and border crossing” (p. 609). Matteson & Lincoln (2008) remind educational researchers that validity does not solely concern the analysis phase of research design but “the data collection method must also address validity” (p. 672). Creswell & Miller (2000) discuss different approaches to determine validity across three paradigm orientations — postpositivist, constructivist, and critical — and “lens” of the researcher, participants, and researchers external to the study.

Among qualitative health researchers, Morse (2020) emphasizes the potential weakness in validity when confusing the analysis of interpretative inquiry with that associated with “hard, descriptive data” (p. 4), and Morse et al. (2002) present five verification strategies and argue that validity (as well as reliability) is an “overarching” construct that “can be appropriately used in all scientific paradigms” (p. 19).

These researchers, and those discussed in Part 1 – Sampling and Part 2 – Bias, are admittedly a small share of those who have devoted a great deal of thought and writing concerning these shared constructs. The reader is encouraged to utilize these references to build on their understanding of these constructs in qualitative research and to grow their own library of knowledge.


Creswell, J. W., & Miller, D. L. (2000). Determining validity in qualitative inquiry. Theory into Practice, 39(3), 124–130.

Koro-Ljungberg, M. (2010). Validity, responsibility, and aporia. Qualitative Inquiry, 16(8), 603–610.

Lincoln, Y. S., & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Matteson, S. M., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2008). Using multiple interviewers in qualitative research studies: The influence of ethic of care behaviors in research interview settings. Qualitative Inquiry, 15(4), 659–674. Retrieved from

Maxwell, J. A. (1992). Understanding and validity in qualitative research. Harvard Educational Review, 62(3), 279–300.

Maxwell, J. A. (2004). Casual explanation, qualitative research, and scientific inquiry in education. Educational Researcher, 33(2), 3–11.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1984). Drawing valid meaning from qualitative data: Toward a shared craft. Educational Researcher, 13(5), 20–30.

Morse, J. (2020). The changing face of qualitative inquiry. International Journal for Qualitative Methods, 19, 1–7.

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.