Editorial Perspective: Writing Qualitative Manuscripts

Article excerpt

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. …