Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Methodological Rigour: Ensuring Quality in Occupational Therapy Qualitative Research

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy

Methodological Rigour: Ensuring Quality in Occupational Therapy Qualitative Research

Article excerpt


To produce rigorous and credible research, occupational therapists need a solid understanding of the match between topic, methodology, and methods. Sometimes the fit between the topic, the methodology and its associated methods is poor, diminishing the rigour and quality of the research evidence that will potentially be used to inform practice. In this article three research approaches: grounded theory, phenomenology, and qualitative descriptive, are examined in terms of the link between theoretical orientation and the chosen approach, and the congruence between the methodological decisions and the chosen approach. Recommendations for occupational therapists reading and conducting qualitative research are offered.


Grounded theory, phenomenology, qualitative descriptive, research, rigour


Stanley, M. & Nayar, S. (2014). Methodological rigour. Ensuring quality in occupational therapy qualitative research. New Zealand Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67(1), 6 - 12.

Internationally there is an increasing call for rigorous research to inform evidence based practice. In occupational therapy the trend has been towards research situated within the qualitative paradigm, including methodological approaches such as grounded theory, phenomenology and qualitative descriptive. Integral to rigorous qualitative research is the fit between the choice of topic, appropriate methodology and associated methods. However, in our opinion research is being published which does not have the internal consistency and congruency of methodological approaches and methods. This poses a potential problem for occupational therapists drawing on such research to inform their evidence based practice. Indeed, the evidence may not have been rigorously produced.

Researchers have previously described the fit between qualitative research methods and occupational therapy research, and how to appraise the trustworthiness of the research (Curtin & Fossey, 2007; Frank & Polkinghome, 2010; Wicks & Whiteford, 2006; Wright-St. Clair, 2012). Therefore it is not our intention to cover this ground. Rather our aim is to increase reader's understanding of how to determine the quality of qualitative research. The paper will be presented in two parts. In part one, three methodological approaches: grounded theory, phenomenology and qualitative descriptive will be described with particular reference to: 1) the link between theoretical orientation and the chosen approach and 2) congruence between the chosen approach and methodological decisions such as data collection and analysis. These three methodological approaches have been chosen as they are most commonly used in occupational therapy research. Published articles will be used to illustrate our discussion. In part two, recommendations are offered for occupational therapists, as readers and researchers, to evaluate the methodological rigour of qualitative research studies.

In keeping with qualitative research conventions, we position ourselves in relation to the content of this paper. We have published in occupational therapy journals and in other academic journals and have experience supervising postgraduate students conducting qualitative studies. Our research has been scrutinised and reviewed by peers, and funded by national granting bodies. Yet, we do not hold ourselves to be experts in the area of qualitative research. Rather we are continually learning about qualitative methodologies and approaches and, have shared concerns about the quality of that which is being published and how it reflects on the profession when researchers outside of occupational therapy read our work. Therefore we share our thoughts on ways in which occupational therapists conducting and/or reading qualitative research can ensure a rigorous process and thus achieve quality research.

Part one

In this, the first part of the discussion, we have chosen to focus on three qualitative methodologies: grounded theory, phenomenology and qualitative descriptive to showcase the link between epistemology and methods. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.