Total Quality Framework

Evaluating Quality Standards in a Qualitative Research Literature Review

A December 2015 article in Research Design Review discusses “A Quality Approach to the Qualitative Research Proposal.”  The article outlinesquality-image the eight sections of a “TQF proposal,” i.e., a proposal whereby quality design issues – specifically, related to the four components of the Total Quality Framework – play a central role throughout the writing of each proposal section.  This approach enables the researcher to be mindful of the considerations that go into developing, implementing, and reporting a qualitative research study that is built on quality standards.  The TQF proposal can then live on beyond the proposal phase to inform the researcher as he/she goes about executing the proposed design.

The second section of the TQF proposal is called “Background and Literature Review” and is devoted to giving the reader the context in which to situate the relevance of the proposed study as well as details of the target population and past research efforts with the population segment and/or research topic.   When conducting a literature review for a TQF proposal, it is worthwhile for the researcher to use a reference table or matrix that helps to evaluate each relevant study according to the steps that were taken to maximize Credibility (e.g., representativeness of the sample, validity of the data), Analyzability (i.e., completeness and accuracy of the data processing and verification), Transparency (i.e., completeness and disclosure of the study details), and Usefulness (i.e., the ability to do something of value with the outcomes).

This literature review evaluation table is predicated on the idea that not all qualitative research studies are equally reliable and valid.  In addition to keeping track of the relevant research unearthed in his/her investigation, the literature review table allows the researcher to efficiently evaluate the quality standards that were employed in these studies, along with their strengths and limitations from a quality standpoint, and determine which studies to cite in the proposal.

Further, a revised table comprised of just those references actually cited in the proposal is a useful addition to the proposal itself.  This table provides proposal readers with a convenient way to view cited references in conjunction with the researcher’s comments related to each study’s strengths and limitations from a TQF perspective.

An example of a partial Literature Review Reference Summary Evaluation Table for a proposed study on physician-patient relations is shown below.


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Reporting Qualitative Research: A Model of Transparency

A number of articles in Research Design Review have discussed, in one form or another, the Total Quality Framework (TQF)* approach to qualitative research design.  An RDR post last month pertained to applying the TQF to the in-depth interviewing method; while other articles have focused on transparencyways to integrate quality measures – in harmony with the TQF – into ethnography, mobile research, and the research proposal.  Separate from applications per se, an article in February 2015 discussed the compatibility of a quality approach with social constructionism.

One of the four components of the TQF is Transparency** which is specific to the reporting phase of the research process.  In particular, Transparency has to do with the researcher’s full disclosure of the research design, fieldwork, and analytical procedures in the final document.  This sounds simple enough yet it is common to read qualitative research reports, papers, and articles that too quickly jump to research findings and discussion, with relatively scant attention given to the peculiarities of the design, data gathering, or analysis.  This is unfortunate and misguided because these details are necessary for the user of the research to understand the context by which interpretations were derived and to judge the applicability of the outcomes to other situations (i.e., transferability).

There are, of course, exceptions; and, indeed, many researchers are skillful in divulging these all-important details.  One example is Deborah C. Bailey’s article, “Women and Wasta: The Use of Focus Groups for Understanding Social Capital and Middle Eastern Women.”  In it, Bailey provides Read Full Text

Applying a Quality Framework to the In-depth Interview Method