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

25 Ingredients to “Thicken” Description & Enrich Transparency in Ethnography

Transparency plays a pivotal role in the final product of any research study. It is by revealing the study’s intricacies and details in the final document that the ultimate consumers of the research gain the understanding they need to (a) fully comprehend chocolatethe people, phenomena, and context under investigation; (b) assign value to the interpretations and recommendations; and/or (c) transfer some aspect of the study to other contexts. Transparency, and its importance to the research process, has been discussed often in this blog, with articles in November 2009 and December 2012 devoted to the topic.

At the core of transparency is the notion of “thick description.” The use of the term here goes beyond its traditional meaning of

“describing and interpreting observed social action (or behavior) within its particular context…[along with] the thoughts and feelings of participants as well as the often complex web of relationships among them. Thick meaning of findings leads readers to a sense of verisimilitude, wherein they can cognitively and emotively ‘place’ themselves within the research context”  (Ponterotto, 2006, p. 543).

to also include detailed information pertaining to data collection and analysis. Ethnography, for example, is greatly enriched (“thickened”) by the reporting of specifics in 25 areas related to the: Read Full Text

Reporting What We Know From What We Ask

For most of us, it is important to write a final research report that goes beyond the questions we asked and the responses we received. Unlike a topline debriefing that may require a simple rundown of the questions and responses, our qualitative and quantitative studies typically Pop-tartsculminate in write-ups that provide thoughtful discussions of our analyses and interpretations of the data.

The consumers of our research reports take it on blind faith that the data along with the corresponding questions and issues are reported accurately, and that the researchers’ interpretations of the findings are consistent with both the data and the questions asked or issues raised.   And yet blind faith is not always enough. Those are the times when a closer look at what the research actually asked and what is actually reported is needed.

One example is a July 2014 report from Gallup on its research concerning Americans’ consumption habits. The report, in part, shows that nearly all (more than 90%) Read Full Text