JAN Forum: your views and letters


A reply to van Teijlingen's critique

I am grateful to Dr van Teijlingen for responding to our guidelines on reporting qualitative research. This gives me an opportunity to clarify a couple of points that may not have been as clear as we would have wished.

I completely agree that there are different views on how to assess the quality of qualitative studies and that checklists are only one such approach. That is why we did not ask for a checklist of any kind to be used in papers reporting qualitative research. Rather, we suggested that authors use ‘criteria appropriate for qualitative research’. What we do look for is consideration of issues of rigour, and this formulation was intended to invite authors to use criteria that they judged appropriate.

On Dr van Teijlingen's second point about the exclusion of interviews, he is right that these are probably the most frequently used qualitative methods in nursing research. A problem that we encounter when reviewing papers for JAN is that authors use terminology in rather flexible ways, and it is not always immediately clear which type of interview they have used. This particularly applies to the terms ‘semi-structured’ and ‘unstructured’ interviews. The former can be applied to a range from focused conversational interviews to fairly structured ones, probably using at least some open-ended questions. With regard to the latter, I would argue that there is no such thing as an unstructured interview because, simply by setting up the encounter and giving the interviewee a topic to consider, some structure is introduced. However, since research methods textbooks are equally ambiguous on interview terminology, we were reluctant to appear prescriptive about this.

In the editorial note we invited readers and contributors to discuss the guidelines and to suggest areas for further development, and I am glad that Dr van Teijlingen has done this. It would be even better if he would draft an additional section on interviews for us!