Editorial Perspective: Writing Qualitative Manuscripts
Oliver, Marvarene, Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research
Qualitative methodology is the appropriate choice for many of the kinds of questions counselors and counselor educators wish to investigate. Qualitative researchers are likely to be those who enjoy "the endless possibilities to learn more about people... the opportunity to connect with them at a human level" (Corbin & Strauss, 2008, p. 13). Effective qualitative researchers accept the self as a research instrument, have the ability to live with ambiguity, are willing to take risks, have a strong sense of logic, and are able to recognize both diversity and regularity (Corbin &c Strauss, 2008). Qualitative research is difficult to define as there is no single theory or paradigm and no single set of methods or practices that encompass qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Perhaps in part because of this broad range of paradigms and methods, producing good qualitative manuscripts can be difficult, especially for those new to qualitative research. Qualitative research scholars discuss and debate a variety of issues in qualitative methodology. For example, processes for evaluating data vary according to the qualitative paradigm being used. However, there are some areas of widespread agreement among those who regularly conduct and evaluate qualitative research about common problems and about elements of good manuscripts.
First, the choice of genre, methods, and analysis must be made on the basis of the purpose of the study (Patton, 2002). Authors should be sure that the type of qualitative research and its attendant methods are appropriate for the purpose of the study. A closely related concern is that good qualitative inquiry demands attention to and consistency in choice of methods throughout data gathering, analysis, presentation of findings, and discussion (Kline, 2008). Thus, authors are encouraged to carefully consider how the whole of the project fits together in order to be certain the purpose of the study and the intended audience are considered as they design the research project, formulate interview questions or identify sources of data, gather and analyze data, and present their results, Consistency in approach to the project, including ways in which data is analyzed and presented, provides credibility and assures reviewers and readers that the author is sufficiently knowledgeable about the methods used, and the findings and discussion can be trusted.
A second area of consensus about good qualitative manuscripts is the issue of trustworthiness or goodness. Methods used to establish trustworthiness or goodness of the research depend on the paradigm used in the overall research, Qualitative research based on a postpositivistic paradigm will use criteria for trustworthiness as described by Lincoln and Guba (1985), including credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability. Triangulation of data is one way to demonstrate the credibility and dependability of the study and may combine different methods or kinds of data, Researchers may have multiple data sources or use different researchers or evaluators for examining data. Different methods for examining the same problem may be used, or multiple theoretical orientations may be used to interpret data. For example, researchers and authors may use a mix of interviews, focus groups, and document analysis in order to have multiple data sources. Triangulation serves as a test for consistency (Patton, 2002). In order to assess transferability, the audience needs sufficient information about research participants as well as the setting to be able to determine whether the results may be applicable to their own settings, Thus, sufficient description of study participants as well as the setting in which the study was conducted is crucial (Lincoln & Guba). Researchers should also provide sufficient information about how they conducted the study, including particulars about how the data was analyzed, how results were identified, and how audit trails were composed. Researcher bias and preconceptions should be identified. All of these strategies increase the likelihood that the research could be confirmed. While the purpose of qualitative research is not to produce generalizations, establishing trustworthiness depends on the transparency of methods used throughout (Choudhur, Glauser, & Peregoy, 2004).
Researchers using a constructivism or interpretive paradigm will be concerned with fairness, authenticity, and meaning as indicators of trustworthiness (Morrow, 2005). Triangulation and dependability (Patton, 2002) as well as deep understanding of participants' meaning, expansion of meaning, and mutual construction of meaning between/among researcher participants are seen as critical components of trustworthiness (Morrow, 2005) Explanations of processes used in arriving at meanings or that consider issues of fairness and authenticity must be clear in the manuscript. Authors using a critical/ideological paradigm, which is often used when examining social justice multicultural, or feminist issues, may include methods from other paradigms to establish trustworthiness, but may also consider the extent to which the research was successful in achieving change or inciting discourse about critical issues (Guba &c Lincoln, 2005; Morrow, 2005) Once again, transparency in how the authors deal with goodness or trustworthiness should be evident. Authors should cite qualitative research literature that addresses and supports the use of the methods chosen. Authors can find detailed information about these paradigms and approaches to trustworthiness in Patton (2002) and Guba and Lincoln (2005).
Whatever the paradigm, all qualitative manuscripts should address how subjectivity is approached. Reflexivity on the part of the researcher is crucial in qualitative research; that is, the researcher must be able to be self -reflective in order to be aware of biases and assumptions, Information about how reflexivity was encouraged and managed should be part of the manuscript. Adequacy of data is another indicator of good qualitative research. Sufficient data is not determined by numbers of participants, but by the depth of data, the variety of kinds of data, and adequate information about unique outcomes or data that is incongruent with the identified themes (Morrow, 2005). A final key indicator of good qualitative research is adequacy of interpretation, Often, qualitative researchers stop too soon in considering what their data has to offer. Authors should be immersed in the data and should explain the framework used to analyze the data. Immersion in data requires time spent thinking, analyzing, re-thinking, and re-analyzing data. Thus, descriptions of how the author was immersed in and analyzed the data are as important as consistency of design, Reviewers and readers should be able to see from the data presented how interpretations were made, thereby achieving balance between interpretation and the data.
Qualitative research is exciting, engrossing, and rewarding. However, consistency in genre, transparency in and explanation of processes, and familiarity with (and citation of) qualitative research literature that supports the approach and methods used will enhance the likelihood of a positive outcome for manuscript submissions.
Choudhuri, D., Glauser, A., & Peregoy, J. (2004). Guidelines for writing a qualitative manuscript for The Journal of Counseling & Development, journal of Counseling & Development, 82, 443-446.
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2008). Basics of Qualitative Research (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (2005). The discipline and practice of qualitative research. In N. K. Denzin and Y. S. Lincoln (Eds.), Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 1-32). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Guba, E. G., & Lincoln, Y S. (2005). Paradigmatic controversies, contradictions, and emerging confluences. In N. K. Denzin and Y S. Lincoln (Eds.), Sage handbook of qualitative research (pp. 191-215). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Kline, W B. (2008). Developing and submitting credible qualitative manuscripts. Counselor Education and Supervision, 47, 210-217.
Lincoln, Y S., & Guba, E. G (1985). Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Morrow, S. L. (2005). Quality and trustworthiness in qualitative research in counseling psychology. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52, 250-260.
Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative research & evaluation methods (3rd Ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
Marvarene Oliver, Ed.D., LPC, LMFT, Associate Editor
Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Editorial Perspective: Writing Qualitative Manuscripts. Contributors: Oliver, Marvarene - Author. Journal title: Journal of Professional Counseling, Practice, Theory, & Research. Volume: 38. Issue: 2 Publication date: Winter 2011. Page number: 1+. © Texas Counseling Association Fall 2008/Winter 2009. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.