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Last year we developed statistical guidelines for JAN papers. Reviewers were consulted, drafts produced and further refined after more rounds of consultation. The agreed guidelines are now on the JAN website and are used by reviewers and editors when assessing papers with statistical content, and we hope that authors also consult them.

Next we turned our attention to papers based on qualitative research and went through the same drafting, consultation and redrafting process to produce similar guidelines. Reviewers with particular expertise in qualitative research and the editorial team participated in this, and the guidelines are now available at http://www.journalofadvancednursing.com. We will use the guidelines when considering qualitative research reports, and we ask authors to consult them when writing their papers for submission to JAN.

What made us decide that we needed these guidelines for statistical and qualitative research articles? JAN is the highest ranking international nursing journal listed in the Institute for Scientific Information Citation Reports: in 2002 it was ranked 10th of the 42 nursing journals on the list, and had an impact factor of 0·797. The Impact Factor for a given year is defined as the total number of citations received in that year to articles published in the previous two years, divided by the total number of citable items published by the journal in those two years. To improve the quality of JAN further, we try to ensure that papers published are as rigorous as possible. We know that authors want this, because it adds to the prestige of having an article accepted for JAN. Readers want it too, so that they can rely on what they read in JAN as they look for sound research that they can incorporate into their own practice, research or teaching. Supporting new authors is also one of JAN's aims, and we think that giving guidance will help new contributors to design their research, carry it out and write it up using standards that are considered to be trustworthy.

JAN was founded in 1976, when nursing education and research were on the way to becoming well-established in universities in the United States of America. However, in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong and the Scandinavian countries, the move into higher education has been more recent. For some of us it may still be necessary to convince colleagues in other disciplines that nursing research and education have a rightful place in the university and that our standards of scholarship are high enough to justify this status. Increasingly, too, the trend is towards multidisciplinary research and this will expose our work to scrutiny beyond our own discipline.

Research methodologies and methods are shared among all disciplines, whose members adapt them accordingly. Practice-orientated subjects such as nursing may use different combinations and applications than others whose interface with humans as the focus of their work is less direct, such as physics or modern languages. However, the fundamental epistemologies and methodologies underpinning research are the same whatever the field of application, and the research approach chosen for a project has implications for the methods used to carry it out. For example, grounded theory involves concurrent data collection and analysis, and first and second level coding. Theoretical sampling may be used to develop the analysis, and saturation may be achieved. A core category to which the other categories are related should be identified, and some studies may allow a grounded theory to be developed. If all the data in a study are collected and then the analysis is done, then this cannot be considered as grounded theory. If a number of discrete themes with no interlinkages are reported, this is not grounded theory; it is probably more appropriately termed thematic or content analysis.

Phenomenology also has certain essential features with which some methods are not compatible. Firstly, it is necessary to distinguish between the different schools of phenomenology, such as Husserlian, Heideggerian, Gadamerian or Ricoeurian, and then to ensure that implementing the chosen approach is consistent with its principles. In all forms, however, data collection is relatively unstructured. Interviews begin with a broad opening question which invites participants to talk about the topic from their own point of view. Follow-up questions to encourage them to expand on a particular point should take a similar open approach of the kind, ‘Could you say a little more about that?’ or ‘How did you feel about that?’. An interview guide, or list of possible areas of interest, may be drawn up in advance, but a structured or semi-structured interview schedule of questions to be asked of all participants is incompatible with a phenomenological approach.

All reports of qualitative research should discuss the findings in relation to the literature and should include consideration of the rigour of the work, using criteria appropriate to qualitative research.

Nothing is ever the last word on a topic, and we hope to receive feedback on the content and application of these guidelines. There may also be other topics within qualitative research, or other areas, where it would be useful to draw up similar guidelines. We hope that readers who identify such opportunities will tell us about them and perhaps be involved in developing them to help us take JAN forward in the direction in which authors, readers and reviewers would like it to progress.

Christine Webb Executive Editor

Essential

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    concurrent data collection and analysis
  • • 
    theoretical sampling used as part of analysis
  • • 
    identification of a core category grounded in the data (a study may not reach the final stage of fully developing an explanatory theory, but may usefully inform nursing by description and exploration)
  • • 
    first and second level coding (e.g. open, axial and selective coding)
  • • 
    theoretical saturation

Not compatible with

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    all data being collected and then analysed afterwards – this would be thematic analysis, content analysis or similar
  • • 
    identification of discrete themes with no linking core category

Essential

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    statement of which form is being used (Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur, etc.)
  • • 
    if Husserlian, discussion of bracketing and how this was done
  • • 
    focus on the meaning of experience (if Husserlian) or the interpretation of meaning (if hermeneutic)
  • • 
    unstructured data collection, e.g. interview starting with a very open question, followed up by general probes (Could you say more about that? How did that make you feel? etc)
  • • 
    use of appropriate and systematic data analysis method, e.g. Colaizzi, van Manen or an appropriate adaptation of an established, credible process
  • • 
    transparency about the research process, e.g. use of journal data, how the author's horizon of understanding and preunderstanding operated
  • • 
    attention is paid to representation (use of participant voice/s in the text)
  • • 
    identification of the essence of the phenomenon, not just ‘themes’ or ‘categories’

Not compatible with

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    structured methods of data collection, e.g. semi-structured interviews
  • • 
    group methods of data collection, e.g. focus groups, group interviews
  • • 
    ‘member checking’, attempt to ‘validate’ the interpretation with participants

Essential

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    relevance of individual biography
  • • 
    objective experiences
  • • 
    individual/s theorize about their life/lives
  • • 
    narrative segments included as data
  • • 
    patterns of meaning identified for events, process, themes

Essential

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    describes and interprets a culture or social group
  • • 
    includes observations, interviews, artefacts
  • • 
    carried out over an extended period of time
  • • 
    description, analysis of cultural themes, interpretation – questions raised and lessons learned
  • • 
    narrative includes description of cultural behaviour of an individual or group

Essential

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • • 
    in-depth analysis of single or multiple case/s
  • • 
    multiple sources of data, e.g. documentation interviews, observation, environmental detail
  • • 
    description, themes, assertions
  • • 
    description of case and context
  • • 
    development of issues, selected issues and assertions
  • • 
    consideration of rigour, using criteria appropriate for qualitative research
  • • 
    findings discussed in relation to the literature

Bibliography

  1. Top of page
  2. Basic criteria for acceptability – qualitative research
  3. ALL qualitative research reports
  4. Essential
  5. Grounded theory
  6. Essential
  7. Not compatible with
  8. Phenomenology
  9. Essential
  10. Not compatible with
  11. Focus groups
  12. Essential
  13. Not compatible with
  14. Biography
  15. Essential
  16. Ethnography
  17. Essential
  18. Case study
  19. Essential
  20. Bibliography
  • Annells M. (2002) Grounded theory (SchneiderZ., ElliottD., LoBiondo-woodsG. & HaberJ., eds). Nursing Research: Methods, Critical Appraisal and Utilisation, 2nd edn. Mosby, Sydney, pp. 163178.
  • Creswell J.W. (1998) Qualitative Inquiry and Research design. Choosing Among Five Traditions. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • Giorgi A. (1988) Validity and reliability from a phenomenological perspective. In Recent Trends in Theoretical Psychology (BakerW.J., MosL.P., RappardH.V. & StamH.J., eds). Springer-Verlag, New York, pp. 167176.
  • Giorgi A. (1997) The theory, practice and evaluation of the phenomenological method as a qualitative research procedure. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 28, 235260.
  • Stevens P.E. (1996) Focus groups. Collecting aggregate-level data to understand community health phenomena. Public Health Nursing 12, 170176.
  • Strauss A. & Corbin J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research Techniques and Procedures of Developing Grounded Theory. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • Webb C. & Kevern J. (2001) Focus groups as a research method: a critique of some aspects of their use in nursing research. Journal of Advanced Nursing 33, 798805.