Total Quality Framework

The “Quality” in Qualitative Research Debate & the Total Quality Framework

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp.15-17).

The field of qualitative research has paid considerable attention in the past half century to the issue of research “quality.” Despite these efforts, there remains a lack of agreement among qualitative researchers about how quality should be defined and how it should be evaluated (cf. Lincoln & Guba, 1985, 1986; Lincoln, 1995; Morse et al., 2002; Reynolds et al., 2011; Rolfe, 2006; Schwandt, Lincoln, & Guba, 2007). Some who seem to question whether quality can be defined and evaluated appear to hold the view that each qualitative research is so singularly unique in terms of how the data are created and how sense is made of these data that striving to assess quality is a wasted effort that never leads to a satisfying outcome about which agreement can be reached. Among other things, this suggests that validity – meaning, “the correctness or credibility of a description, conclusion, explanation, interpretation, or other sort of account” (Maxwell, 2013, p. 122) – is solely in the eye of the beholder and that convincing someone else that a qualitative study has generated valid and actionable findings is more an effort of subjective persuasion than an effort of applying dispassionate logic to whether the methods that were used to gather and analyze the data led to “valid enough” conclusions for the purpose(s) to which they were meant to serve.

Controversy also exists about how to determine the quality of a qualitative study. Arguments are made by some that the quality of a qualitative study is determined solely by the methods and processing that the researchers have used to conduct their studies. Others argue Read Full Text

Making Connections: Practical Applications of the Total Quality Framework in Mixed Methods Research

The Total Quality Framework (TQF) (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015) offers researchers a way to think about qualitative research design from the vantage point of core principles. It is an approach that helps qualitative researchers develop critical thinking skills by giving explicit attention to the quality of the conceptualization and implementation of their qualitative studies. The TQF is composed of four components, each pertaining to a phase of the research process – data collection (Credibility), analysis (Analyzability), reporting (Transparency), and the ability to do something of value with the outcomes (Usefulness).

Qualitative research is most often conducted as a standalone study but frequently conducted in conjunction with quantitative methods. A mixed methods research (MMR) design involves collecting both qualitative and quantitative data, then integrating or connecting the two datasets to draw interpretations derived from the combined strengths of both sets of data (Creswell, 2015). The integration of, or making the connection between, the qualitative and quantitative components is fundamental to MMR and distinguishes it from a multi-method approach that simply utilizes different methods.  In contrast, a mixed methods design incorporates any number of qualitative and quantitative methods (and modes) with the specific intention of blending the data in some fashion. Mixed methods research is the subject of an earlier article in Research Design Review.

So, how do we apply the TQF to a MMR design? It is not good enough to simply think of the qualitative component Read Full Text

Useful Qualitative Research: The Total Quality Framework Usefulness Component

Our research is of little value if the outcomes are not deemed useful in some way. This is true for all types of research. Whether it is qualitative, quantitative, or a mixed methods approach, the “carrot” that dangles ahead of the research team is the promise of reaching worthwhile, actionable conclusions and recommendations for the users and sponsors of the research. Achieving this objective – reaching the “carrot” of useful research – is the product of the quality measures put into place at the data collection, analysis, and reporting phases of the research design.

The Total Quality Framework (TQF)* offers a way of thinking about these quality measures in a qualitative research design. The TQF is comprised of four inter-related components, each having to do with a stage of the research process.  Recent articles in Research Design Review have discussed three of these components – Credibility pertaining to data collection, Analyzability having to do with the processing and verification of qualitative data, and Transparency relating to the reporting of details associated with data collection, analysis, and the drawing of interpretations.

The fourth component of the TQF is Usefulness or the “ability to do something of value with the outcomes.” The ultimate strength of the Usefulness component is a function of the vigor – the attention to quality – within the Credibility (data collection), Analyzability (analysis), and Transparency (reporting) components. In this way, the Usefulness component relies on each of the other components independently as well as collectively. The goal is to maximize the value of a qualitative research study for Read Full Text