The ultimate goal of gaining understanding and knowledge for use in caring guides the


Qualitative Inquiries

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The ultimate goal of gaining understanding and knowledge for use in caring guides the

conduct any nursing research (Grove, Burns, & Gray, 2013). Evaluation of this type of evidence-

based research enables nurses to use the results to establish best practice for the nursing

profession in all care settings applications.

This type of inquiry is well suited to formulation of hypotheses and theories about areas

in which little is known. It serves evidence-based practice by discovering new aspects of human

behavior, patterns, and practices which might not be detected or well understood by quantitative


Criteria for evaluating this type of research vary from quantitative methods It also varies

between several approaches of qualitative inquiry but inductive reasoning and holistic practices

characterize all qualitative research. The inquiry should move from design, data collection, and

analysis toward hypothesis and theory formulation. There are several philosophical approaches

practiced. Concern for meaning and observation of human activities by using the researcher as

the instrument for assessing data is a characteristic which all approaches share. Interpretation

of data is based on identification of feelings, ideas, concepts, and events which have influenced

the lives of subjects in a variety of situations (Polit & Beck, 2014; Waltz, Strickland, & Lenz,


Assessment of Researcher Qualifications

Examination of criteria for evaluation of qualitative work begins with assessment of the

qualification of the researchers. In qualitative research the researcher needs to have a firm base

of understanding of the method which they plan to use including the underlying philosophy


which justifies and governs its use. Therefore, qualifications of the research team needs to be

clearly assessed (Cobb & Hagemaster, 1987).

Appropriateness of Title and Abstract

These aspects of any study should be included. The title should inform the potential

reader as to the focus of interest and approach of the inquiry. An abstract will briefly and

succinctly review essential aspects of the study making it possible or a reader to understand and

assess usefulness and applicability of the study.

Problem Statement

Statement of the problem should explain the author’s connection and access to the target

population. This might be personal or professional experience. For example, nurses

participating in outreach programs to assess incidence of iron deficiency among infants might

identify a problem in interaction patterns between parents and their infants who suffer from

colic. A nurse on an oncology ward might wish to explore the experience of grief experienced

by caregivers. The important point is that the inquiry will be structured in a way which will

begin without hypotheses about causes or other aspects of the problem but will attempt to form

conclusions about the data which will then be organized to form a conceptual framework. This

may be used to formulate hypotheses and theory.

Justification for conducting this inquiry should be discussed by the researchers. The

research gap should be explained. Lack of information about this aspect of human behavior and

beliefs and the suitability of the qualitative approach should be supported based on the nature of

the problem, the approach used, and needs in the target population. Support may come from a

review of the state of knowledge in this area. Questions about the topic under study should be

proposed (Grove, 2013) and justifiable based on the stated aims of the project (CASP, 2010)


Review of Literature

There are conflicting opinions about when the review of the literature should be done by

the qualitative researcher. In order to identify the research gap and to familiarize the reader with

the problem some qualitative approaches justify placing a review of literature at the beginning of

the work. Explanation for the study protocol by way of identifying the theoretical method – i.e.

grounded, phenomenological, or ethnographic and explanation of the significance of the problem

may be cited as a reason for placing the review at the beginning. However, other investigators

who practice this type of research object to reviewing previous evidence-based research on the

basis that it will prejudice the researcher and influence how the research will be conducted and

interpretation of data (Ryan, Coughlan, & Cronin, 2007).

There is no well-established rule for placement of the review of literature but the content

should be similar wherever it is situated. It should justify conducting the study (Sandelowski, &

Barroso, 2003). Strauss is credited for advising review of literature early in the study because it

stimulates theoretical receptivity, helps to pose questions, and adds validity to the

appropriateness of using the chosen method (McGhee, Marland, Atkinson, 2008). Previous

work should be cited, discussed, and evaluated for similarities and differences between present

and past studies, and analysis of the methods employed (School of Human Ecology –University

of Wisconsin, 2014).

Materials cited in the review should meet evidence based criteria. While important

contribution from classic literature and primary sources may be cited, most of the material

should have been published within the last 5 years. Information should be available concerning

descriptors and sources used for the search.


Philosophical Foundation

The researcher should specify the governing philosophical basis (Grove, 2013) because it

will effect evaluation of the inquiry. There are procedural differences between thinkers in

several of the qualitative approaches of inquiry. This aspect of qualitative research should be

mentioned and the position of the planned inquiry specified – for example Straussian Grounded

Theory as opposed to Glaser (Waltz, Stickland, & Lenz, 2010).

Sampling, Sample, and Ethical Considerations

Identification of the population, reason and method of selection (Chesnay, 2015),

inclusion and exclusion criteria, size, attrition rate, and relevant demographic characteristics

should be included in information about the sample (Grove, Burns, & Gray, 2013). The reader

should be informed about how the sample was accessed by the researcher. Adherence to ethical

procedures as specified by Federal Law 45 CFR 46 should be explained including justice,

respect, and beneficence in the practices used in the study (Cornell University, Undated).

Data Collection

Depending on which approach has been selected by the researcher, data collection

methods will differ. However, the specific steps of the collection procedure should be carefully

explained. The type of data, location, form and format, number and type of contacts with

subjects, method of collection, and data preservation method should be discussed. Details about

preservation of confidentiality and privacy are part of this section. Some approaches to

qualitative inquiry vary number of contacts with subjects and sample size based on emerging

data (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) in an iterative process which explores new themes as they emerge

(Frankel, 1999). This process should be discussed carefully.


Data Analysis

The reader should be advised of the complete process of data analysis. Although this

process will be different depending on which approach is being used, it should be carefully and

meticulously explained.

A portion of this section should include some discussion of the research qualifications of

the investigator and use of mechanical methods of analysis if any (De Chesnay, 2015). How data

analysis will sort categories and themes should be discussed. If computer software is being

employed it should be identified.

Another portion of data analysis should address reliability and validity. Lincoln and

Guba discussed dependability, confirmability, credibility, transferability, and authenticity as a

group of concepts known as trustworthiness (Polit & Beck, 2014). These are concepts related to

rigor or validity. Measures which specifically address these concepts depend on the particular

philosophical approach used (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008). Overall significance, relevance, impact

and utility form another set of assessment criteria formulated for measuring the value of

qualitative research (Morse, et al., 2002). Therefore the reviewer needs to become familiar with

the specific requirements of the stated philosophical approach.

The reader should be advised of methods of improving quality of the data such as

triangulation, audio-recording, reflexivity, intercoder checking, thick description, member

checking, and use of peers, expert consultants, or mentors (Morse, 2002) . Other steps which

are sometimes used are: looking for negative cases, examination of alternative explanations, and

audit of the data trail (Cohen & Crabtree, 2008; De Chesnay, 2015).


Findings, Discussion, and Implications for Best Practice

Themes, emerging concepts, hypotheses, and theories should be discussed. These

products should be exemplified by narrative from subjects in their own words (Grove, 2013).

While not commonly used, frequency data which reports how often themes are reported by

subjects will assist the reader in interpreting the data.

At this point the researcher should return to or present the review of literature.

Connections and comparisons should be drawn between past work and the present. Lessons

learned should be clearly explained. Suggestions for further research, recommended action, and

implications for best practice are discussed here.

In summary, readers need to be advised of the sound judgement of the investigators in

data analysis. Of major concern should be the way the data has been organized, how it has been

synthesized, formed into a congruent whole, and how well that is described and supported by

narrative and explanation of emerging themes, hypotheses, and theories through careful use of

their chosen philosophical approach (Polit & Beck, 2014).

Statement Related to Conflict of Interest

This statement was not found.



Critical Appraisal Skills Programme. (2010). Making sense of evidence about clinical effectiveness –

10 questions to help you make sense of qualitative research. Retrieved from:http:..www.casp-

Cobb, A. & Hagemaster, J. (1987). Ten Criteria for Evaluating Qualitative Research Proposals.

Journal of Nursing Education. 26 (4), 138-143.

Cohen, D. & Crabtree, B. (2008). Evaluaative Criteria for Qualitative Reserch in Health Care:

Controversies and Recommendations. Annals of Family Medicine. 6 (4), 331-339.


Cornell University. (Undated). 45 CFR 46.103 – Assuring compliance with this policy – research

conducted or supported by any Federal Department or Agency. Retrieved from:

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in Nursing. Springer: New York, NY

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Qualitative Research (2nd edition) p. 341. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA Retrieved


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Qualitative Investigations


The ultimate goal of gaining understanding and knowledge for use in caring directs the learning process.

carry out any nursing research (Grove, Burns, & Gray, 2013). This type of evidence’s evaluation-

Based research allows nurses to use the findings to establish best practices in nursing.

applications of the profession in all care settings

This type of investigation lends itself well to the development of hypotheses and theories about specific topics.

where little is known It contributes to evidence-based practice by discovering new aspects of human behavior.

Quantitative methods may not detect or understand behavior, patterns, or practices.


Criteria for evaluating this type of research vary from quantitative methods It varies as well.

between several approaches of qualitative inquiry but inductive reasoning and holistic practices