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Keywords:

  • qualitative research;
  • quality standards;
  • research terminology

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Background Traditionally UK dietitians have tended to take a more quantitative approach to research. Qualitative research which gives an in-depth view of people's experiences and beliefs is also now being used to help answer some important dietetic research questions.

Review A review of the limited number of qualitative research papers in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 1990–2002 (nine papers in all), revealed a lack of specific discussion of the quality strategies commonly used in qualitative research. This could indicate a less than robust approach, but might also reflect a different perspective on quality, or simply the difficulties associated with disseminating qualitative research to a profession whose members lack familiarity with the language. The fact that qualitative research seems to be used rarely may also indicate a poor understanding of its role.

Purpose of this paper This paper seeks to clarify the potential role of qualitative research and draws on previously published guidelines for demonstrating quality. It is hoped that this will offer dietitians a framework for carrying out qualitative research and a language for reporting it, as well acting as a stimulus for discussion.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Having clarified their research question researchers need to select a method that will enable them to answer that question. Where there is a hypothesis to test, a quantitative approach is required and randomized controlled trials offer the route to the strongest evidence (Bowling, 1997b; DePoy & Gitlin, 1998c).

However, where little is known about a subject or where the researcher wants to understand the nature or meaning of human experiences, a qualitative approach offers the opportunity to gain deeper insights.

For example, a randomized controlled trial may prove or disprove the hypothesis that enteral feeding improves clinical outcomes for patients requiring bone marrow transplants. However, we may also want to know about what it is like to be a bone marrow transplant patient on an enteral feed and what patients believe about enteral feeding. We may offer patients enteral feeds on the basis that we feel that there is evidence that it will improve their prognosis, but consent and tolerance to feeding may be influenced by the patients' beliefs and experiences. Quantitative and qualitative approaches are both required if we are to get a full understanding of the issues. Similar arguments could be made about almost any area of dietetic practice.

It is important to understand that qualitative research does not offer generalizable proofs in the statistical sense. Some qualitative researchers choose not to make any attempt to generalize beyond the specific context of their research. However, qualitative research findings are often applicable to a wide range of settings not just the specific research context. Mason (1996) refers to this as theoretical or conceptual generalizability as distinct from the statistical generalizability seen in quantitative research. Qualitative research papers should invite the reader to consider whether their own experience has any commonality with the findings. This brings issues to the attention of practitioners and may help with practice reasoning by contributing to the reflective process. This in turn may highlight issues for further quantitative or further qualitative study. For example Anderson et al. (2001) used the results of their qualitative research into the reasons given by mothers for early weaning to design a more quantitative structured interview study. Sampling strategies such as theoretical and/or purposive sampling discussed later, can help improve generalizability. A further discussion on obtaining generalizability in qualitative research can be found in Silverman (2000).

Assuring the quality of qualitative research

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

All research whether quantitative or qualitative should be judged on the quality of the methods used.

Quantitative research is judged largely on issues of validity, reliability and reproducibility (Bowling, 1997b; DePoy & Gitlin, 1998c). There has been some debate about whether this language is suitable for judging qualitative research or whether different terms are required (Mays & Pope, 2000; Whittemore et al., 2001; Dodd & Davies, 2002).

Mays & Pope (2000) writing in the British Medical Journal assert that both qualitative and quantitative research should be seen as an attempt to represent reality rather than attain truth. On this basis they suggest that qualitative and quantitative research can be judged by common quality criteria particularly those of validity and relevance.

The advantage of a common language is clearly that all researchers can understand each other. However Mays & Pope (2000) go on to offer a variety of indicators of validity and relevance for qualitative research some of which would be unfamiliar to quantitative researchers. These are summarized in Table 1 and will be discussed and explained later.

Table 1.  Strategies for ensuring validity and relevance after Mays & Pope (2000). With permission from the BMA publishing group
Strategies to ensure validity
 Triangulation
 Member checking
 Clear exposition of methods of data collection and    analysis
 Reflexivity
 Attention to negative cases
 Fair dealing
Strategies to ensure relevance
 Sampling strategies, e.g. probability sampling or    theoretical sampling

Quantitative researchers seek to eliminate bias and demonstrate statistically that any phenomenon reported is likely to be associated with a particular intervention or event rather than chance. However, qualitative research does not seek to show statistical associations or cause and effect relationships. Instead the emphasis is on describing or illuminating social phenomena and human experience. Some approaches to qualitative research such as those described by Moustakas (1994) and Colaizzi (1978) seek to ‘bracket out’ potential bias emanating from the researcher's beliefs and preconceptions. However, there has been considerable debate about whether it is actually possible to achieve this (Finlay, 1999; Braddock, 2001; Caelli, 2001) and much qualitative research focuses more on exposing and discussing possible biases rather than eliminating them. Consequently, I would suggest that using the same language risks misinterpretation, which could distract those seeking to critique qualitative research from a proper consideration of the philosophical principles underpinning the particular approach used.

Numerous researchers working in the social sciences, psychology and medicine have proposed terms and strategies for assessing quality in qualitative research (Glaser, 1978, 1992; Le Compte & Goetz, 1982; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Marshall, 1990; Strauss & Corbin, 1990, 1998; Eisner, 1991; Greene, 1992; Hammersley, 1992; Altheide & Johnson, 1994; Janesick, 1994; Leininger, 1994; Lincoln, 1995; Mays & Pope, 1995, 2000, Thorne, 1997; Chapple & Rogers, 1998; Popay et al., 1998; Elliott et al., 1999; Emden & Sandelowski, 1999). Whittemore et al. (2001) offered a synthesis of these views and their terms have been used as a basis for this paper.

The quality strategies used commonly in qualitative research can be considered under four key headings. These are credibility, criticality, authenticity and integrity (adapted from Whittemore et al., 2001).

Credibility

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

It is broadly accepted that qualitative researchers should expose their biases and personal perspectives and demonstrate that these have been taken into account during analysis (DePoy & Gitlin, 1998e; Hall & Callery, 2001; Finlay, 2002). This is known as reflexivity and it is essential because qualitative researchers interpret what study participants do and say and often ask further probing questions based on the information they receive. They also interpret the data and allocate codes to phrases or phenomena as part of the analytical process. Clearly this could lead to bias which some qualitative research frameworks seek to ‘bracket out’ (Colaizzi, 1978) and others seek to expose and discuss (e.g. Hall & Callery, 2001). Either approach can be justified but researchers should articulate clearly the stance they are taking.

One way of ensuring reflexivity is for the researcher to keep a reflective diary throughout the research process. This could be analysed using a recognized approach (see Table 2) to reveal any biases, which the researcher should account for when reporting the findings. Researchers should also make their personal stance clear in relation to the subject being studied, along with any relevant personal characteristics such as their relationships with the participants.

Table 2.  Key qualitative research frameworks
FrameworkPurpose
Endogenous researchEnsure a true ‘insider perspective’
Action researchGenerate knowledge that can be applied in a  specific context to liberate the  participants and enhance their lives
EthnographyUnderstand culture
PhenomenologyReveal the meaning behind the participants  experience in a specific setting
Heuristic researchReveal personal experiences
Life historyReport biographical experience
Grounded TheoryEvolve theory

Using a process known as triangulation can also enhance credibility. In other words, the study design could incorporate the use of more than one method of data collection (e.g. semistructured interviews and field observations) or more than one analyst (e.g. peers or participants). The term triangulation gives the impression that three different approaches should be used in each case, however, in practice it is interpreted more loosely to include the use of more than one approach. Some qualitative research papers report the level of agreement between different analysts in statistical terms quoting interrater reliability figures. The tendency amongst social scientists is often to discuss coding decisions until an agreement is reached. Either approach is acceptable but the exact details should be clear in any paper or presentation. Examples from the field of nutrition are discussed in Savoca & Miller's (2001) paper on food selection and eating patterns amongst people with type 2 diabetes (interrater reliability 0.92) and Edstrom & Devine's (2001) study looking at women's orientations to food and nutrition where coding decisions were discussed until agreement was reached.

If time and skills constraints prevent peer or participant analysis, participants could be given the opportunity to check the data for accuracy and to discuss whether they feel the findings include their own experiences. This is often referred to as member checking. Equally peers could be invited to a meeting to review the findings and consider a summary of the researcher's path of thinking. This should enable them to evaluate the researcher's logic and the clarity of their decision-making. This is often described as peer debriefing or considering an audit trail of the findings.

It is essential that qualitative researchers keep detailed records of the rationale for their analysis in order to ensure that peers can trace the audit trail. This can be achieved by writing memos or drawing diagrams that reveal the logic behind each decision made.

Audio or videotapes of interviews with participants should also be kept along with transcripts, which should usually be made by the researcher themselves rather than an administrative colleague. This is significant because the way that something is said is often just as important as what is said. A note should be made of the participant's tone of voice, emotional state or body language wherever this is relevant. Only the researcher would be able to do this.

It is also worth stressing that all data must be kept in a manner that complies with the data protection act and any requirements of the ethics committee.

Qualitative research proposals and reports should give enough methodological detail to enable another researcher to repeat the study, although the exact conditions could not of course be replicated. There are numerous frameworks for qualitative research design and even more approaches to analysis. Tesch (1990) reviewed examples of qualitative analysis and found 26 different approaches. Some key qualitative research frameworks and analytical approaches are listed in Tables 2 and 3. It is not practical to discuss these in full here but references are given for further reading. Qualitative researchers should always discuss and reference the framework and analytical approach used and the reasons for their choice.

Table 3.  Examples of analytical approaches used in qualitative research
Analytical approachBrief explanation and sample references
Componential analysisDistinguishes items from each other on the basis of binary sets of features, i.e. features  that either apply or do not apply. For example if looking at weaning foods rice can  be separated from apple on the basis that rice is a starch but apple is not and  apple is a fruit and rice is not. See Spradley (1979)
TaxonomiesCapture the hierarchical structures in sets of terms. See Ryan & Bernard (1994)
Mental mapsDevelop explanations through visual displays of the degree of similarity  between phenomena. Things that are very similar are placed close to each  other and things that are different further apart. See Ryan & Bernard (1994)
Word countsLooks at the frequency of the use of words and phrases by different groups.  See Ryan & Bernard (1994)
Semantic network analysisLooks at the co-occurrence of words and phrases using quantitative matrices,  which researchers then interpret qualitatively. See Ryan & Bernard (1994)
CognitivemapsAs above but considers the meanings of the words and phrases in the matrix  as well as the meaning of the relationships. See Robson (1993) and  Ryan & Bernard (1994)
Grounded theoryAllows theory to evolve from data as a result of line by line analysis,  identification of themes and comparison within and across themes.  See Glaser & Strauss (1967), Glaser (1992) and Strauss & Corbin (1998)
Schema analysisLooks at metaphors and tacit assumptions in people's words and  actions and tries to determine people's cognitive interpretations of  their worlds. See Ryan & Bernard (1994)
Classical content analysisReduces text to a unit by variable matrix. See Patton (1990) and  Ryan & Bernard (1994)
Analytic inductionAssigns explanations to phenomena through consecutive analysis of  repeated examples of the phenomena. See Patton (1990)
Ethnographic decision modelsLooks at causes of behaviours in specific contexts and uses this  information to develop explanatory decision trees. See Robson (1993)  and Ryan & Bernard (1994)

Analytical computer software is available (EG NUD *IST produced by QSR Europe, Northampton and Ethnograph produced by Scolari, Sage Publications, London.) However, many qualitative researchers find it is more helpful to do all the analysis by hand as this gives them a deeper understanding of the data. If software is used it is essential to ensure that the data is transcribed in plain text only with no formatting.

Making the rationale behind the sampling strategy clear may further enhance credibility. In quantitative research probability sampling is considered favourable. Power studies and reviews of previous research are used to indicate the size of sample that would be required. This helps ensure that any effect seen is due to the intervention rather than chance. Random sampling is then used to ensure that the sample is not biased. Using a probability sample of this kind is often highly impractical for qualitative research as the number of participants required might be high and the data collection and analysis methods are very time intensive. Where probability sampling is possible it is a perfectly acceptable approach although it is not considered essential for quality. This is because the aim of qualitative research is not necessarily to show unbiased, generalizable results. However, the sampling technique should be clear and details should be given of any relevant characteristics of the population so that readers can interpret the findings. Sampling techniques commonly used in qualitative research are summarized in Table 4.

Table 4.  Some sampling techniques commonly used in qualitative research
Sampling techniqueBasic features
Purposive/systematic, nonprobabilisticSelects subjects with a particular characteristic
(Bowling, 1997a; Mays & Pope, 2000)
Theoretical (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)Data from an initial purposive sample is analysed. Further participants  are then selected to locate specific data that might help develop  or challenge emerging ideas
Snowball (Bowling, 1997a)An initial group of respondents are asked to recruit others who they know  have the characteristics that are of interest to the researchers. If even more  participants are still required the second group are asked to do the same thing
Convenience (Bowling, 1997a)Sample selected based on convenience, i.e. location, willingness to take part
Quota (Bowling, 1997a)Known parameters of a population and their distribution are used to  purposively select a sample that is representative of the population
Deviant case (Neuman, 1999)A special type of purposive sampling. Selects cases that differ  substantially form the dominant pattern.

Sample size in qualitative research is often determined by convenience but it is also common practice to collect data until a point termed saturation (Glaser & Strauss, 1967) or informational redundancy (Lincoln & Guba, 1985) is reached. Both terms refer to the point where the researcher finds that new sources of data reveal nothing new about the analytical categories. Researchers should ensure that they specify the approach used.

An interesting review of sample extensiveness in qualitative nutrition education research can be found in Sobal (2001).

Criticality

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

A qualitative study proposal needs to include a detailed account of how the researchers intend to critically appraise their own findings. This information should also be evident in any report or academic paper that results from the study.

Again analyst triangulation and methods triangulation have important contributions to make.

Qualitative analysis is not simply a case of counting up the number of times a view is expressed and presenting the most frequently expressed view. Qualitative researchers often look carefully at more unusual views and ask what the data tells them about the causes and consequences of these. This is known as searching for negative cases. The technique can be seen in Cossrow et al.'s (2001) paper on weight stigmatization.

Authenticity

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

This term refers to the extent to which the research reflects the experiences of the respondents as they lived them and perceived them.

Member checking and respondent analysis, discussed previously enhance the authenticity of qualitative research as well as the credibility and criticality.

Qualitative research papers can further demonstrate authenticity by quoting significant blocks of raw narrative from the original data. This narrative is often referred to as being ‘rich’ or ‘thick’. These terms are used to express the vivid picture of experience that extensive narrative offers. Qualitative researchers should ensure that their research reports include enough raw narrative to convey a vivid picture and support each of the points they are making from the analysis. Paisley et al. (2001) demonstrate the use of this approach in their paper on the meanings associated with eating fruits and vegetables.

Another way of helping to ensure strong authenticity is for the participants themselves to act as the researchers. This approach is used in endogenous research and action research (DePoy & Gitlin, 1998d). Alternatively researchers could ensure that participants are free to talk about issues that are important to them rather than issues that are important to the researchers. This is why qualitative research questions are often very broad, e.g. ‘How do bone marrow transplant patients perceive their experiences of enteral feeding?’ rather than ‘Do bone marrow transplant patients accept the side-effects of enteral feeding?’ The latter question assumes that the side-effects are an issue of importance to the group of bone marrow transplant patients being studied; this may not be the case. This approach to research is known as ‘emic’ (DePoy & Gitlin, 1998b). This means that the researcher is seeking to present an insider perspective on the subject being studied.

Consequently questionnaires and highly structured interviews are rarely appropriate unless previous qualitative studies have already given a strong indication of the issues of relevance. Even if this is the case the questions used should be open.

This raises important ethical issues and ethics committees may be reluctant to sanction research that does not have a clear agenda from the outset. This leads us to the next quality issue in qualitative research, that of the integrity of the researchers. Whilst this is clearly an important issue for all researchers there are particular issues to attend to in qualitative research.

Integrity

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

Dodd & Davies (2002) point out that ethics in qualitative research needs to be looked at contextually and flexibly. It is of some concern that NHS ethics forms tend to focus heavily on issues of relevance to quantitative studies. Qualitative researchers could offer the following strategies as evidence of their trustworthiness as ethical researchers:

  • 1
    A full and verifiable declaration of their position and beliefs about the subject they are investigating could be made on the ethics form, which could be backed up by references from someone of suitable standing in the organization. Alternatively representatives of the ethics committee could interview researchers and referees could be asked to verify the information obtained at interview.
  • 2
    Consent forms should ensure that respondents are clear that they are consenting to an open interview and that they can refuse to answer any question that they feel uncomfortable about.
  • 3
    Researchers should ensure that they have access to ethical advice from an experienced qualitative researcher during data collection and analysis should any unforeseen incidents occur.
  • 4
    Researchers should also ensure that participants have access to counselling support should the interview unearth issues that the respondent finds distressing.

Qualitative researchers can also demonstrate their integrity in general terms by ensuring credibility, authenticity and criticality.

Judging quality

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

A qualitative study does not have to demonstrate every one of the quality measures discussed in this paper to be acceptable. As with quantitative research what is important is that quality issues are highlighted and discussed so that readers can make a fully informed decision about the findings.

Qualitative research in UK dietetics

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

It is impossible to say exactly the extent to which UK dietitians use qualitative research. Qualitative studies may have been published by dietitians in a wide variety of journals and these cannot be identified using standard computer searches. Our UK professional journal might be expected to reflect the extent to which UK dietitians use qualitative research and the approach taken. A hand search of the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 1990–2002 identified nine qualitative studies. It is interesting that so few qualitative studies were found and this may indicate a poor understanding of the role of qualitative research. However, those that were found showed a number of similar characteristics that raise some important issues for our consideration as a profession.

The extent to which these nine studies used or discussed some key quality strategies is summarized in Table 5.

Table 5.  Quality strategies described in qualitative research papers published in the Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics 1990–2002
Reference and keywords Framework specified yes/no Analytic approach specified yes/no Triangulation yes/no Sampling yes/no Saturation yes/no Reflexivity yes/noNegative cases yes/no
Hart et al. (2002) – children's knowledge,  nutritionNoYes. Krueger, (2000)AnalystQuotaNoNoNo
Fiske & Zhang (1999) – oral health,  diet, elderly mentally illNoNoMethodsNot discussedNoNoNo
Mitchell (1999) – audit,  nutrition, community hospitalNoNoNoNot discussedNoNoNo
Wylie et al. (1999) – nutritional intake,  elderly, mobility problemsNoNoNoNot discussedNoNoNo
Rayner & Ziebland (1999) – research workshop, evaluationNoYes  Constantcomparative  method. Software(NUDIST)NoNot discussedNoNoNo
Roberts & Ashley (1999) – rural general  practice, weight loss, obesityNoNoNoNot discussedNoNoNo
Williams & Sultan (1999) – Asian women,  healthy eating, exerciseNoNoNoNot discussedNoNoNo
Chapman & Chan (1995) – calcium,  education materialsNo, but  published procedures  for focus groups  were followedNoAnalystPurposive but  not discussedNoNoNo
Williams & Sahota (1990) – Asian, Muslim mothers,  feeding, dental healthBlinkhorn et al.  (1989) was referenced  but not discussedNoNoPurposive  but not  discussedNoNoNo

Notably only two studies (Rayner & Ziebland, 1999; Hart et al., 2002) specified the analytical strategy used. The remaining studies described identifying themes or categories from the data without giving details of how this was carried out. Describing techniques and procedures in detail can lead to verbose reports that would be difficult to read. However, using frameworks and strategies that can be recognized and understood by readers can help make this process more concise.

The rationale behind the sampling technique was only discussed explicitly in one paper (Hart et al., 2002) and none of the studies mentioned collecting data until all the analytical categories were saturated. This reduces the credibility of the studies and is an issue also taken up in Sobal's (2001) review of qualitative nutrition education research.

Many studies identified the characteristics of the participants (Chapman & Chan, 1995; Fiske & Zhang, 1999; Williams & Sultan, 1999; Wylie et al., 1999; Hart et al., 2002) and three of these linked the characteristics with significant sections of raw narrative (Williams & Sultan, 1999; Wylie et al., 1999; Hart et al., 2002). The other studies only reported raw narrative in a very limited way reducing the vividness of the information presented. Interestingly several studies also reported quantitative information about the narrative such as the proportion of respondents who said certain things (Williams & Sahota, 1990; Rayner & Ziebland, 1999; Wylie et al., 1999). The last of these even mentioned statistical findings. It is possible that the focus on counts of responses reflects a lack of belief in the value of rich narrative alone and an underlying reliance on numerical results.

Only four of the studies (Chapman & Chan, 1995; Fiske & Zhang, 1999; Rayner & Ziebland, 1999; Hart et al., 2002) described a process of triangulation, member checking or peer review to increase the credibility of their work and demonstrate criticality. This is disappointing but understandable as it may have been difficult to find people with an adequate understanding of qualitative research methods. However, where meticulous notes explaining coding decisions have been kept and recognized frameworks for analysis used, peer review and member checking become more realistic propositions even for peers or respondents with no experience of qualitative research.

None of the studies mentioned searching for or analysing negative cases. As already discussed the studies seem to emphasize the views noted to be most common. This reflects a rather quantitative approach to qualitative analysis.

Reflexivity was not discussed in any of the papers and only one group of researchers gave any information about themselves (Rayner & Ziebland, 1999). This study reported a qualitative evaluation of a research workshop and the researchers pointed out that neither of them had been tutors at the workshops they were evaluating. This is important information as respondents might have been expected to give different responses if their tutors were interviewing them. This helps the reader develop a more thorough understanding of the findings. In qualitative research it is essential that potential sources of bias are exposed and discussed.

All the studies used predefined topics as a guide for their observations or interviews. Most also used predefined questions (Williams & Sahota, 1990; Fiske & Zhang, 1999; Mitchell, 1999; Rayner & Ziebland, 1999; Williams & Sultan, 1999; Wylie et al., 1999; Hart et al., 2002.) However, Fiske & Zhang (1999) based their questions on their observations of the participants rather than on their own opinions about what was important. Whilst Wylie et al. (1999) encouraged participants to continue talking freely after the end of the interview in order to elicit additional views. Overall the studies gave very limited consideration to quality strategies relating to authenticity. Only one of the papers reported involving participants in the analysis through the process of member checking (Rayner & Ziebland, 1999). As already discussed the use of recognized frameworks and the keeping of meticulous coding notes could help facilitate this process.

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

It is not surprising that dietitians who are more familiar with carrying out and critiquing quantitative research should initially try to underpin qualitative research with quantitative principles.

Qualitative research is founded on naturalistic philosophy, which espouses the view that the knower and knowledge are interrelated and interdependent (DePoy & Gitlin, 1998a). It is used to develop in-depth descriptions and to illuminate social phenomena and human experience. Quantitative research is based on logical-positivist philosophy, which views knowledge as part of a reality that is separate from individuals and verifiable through scientific method (DePoy & Gitlin, 1998a). It is precisely these philosophical differences that confirm the need for a new and distinct language of quality for qualitative research.

In an era of interprofessional learning it is essential that we seek to understand the language of quality used by professions with more experience in the field. In relation to our own research we need to ensure that we use appropriate language to clearly articulate our research methods and quality strategies and that we engage in debate with other health care professionals about how these can be developed.

Acknowledgements

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References

I would like to thank Susan Ryan and Jacqueline Potter at the University of East London for introducing me to qualitative research and for their continued help and encouragement. I would also like to thank Liza Draper, Dr Gary Frost, Shirena Counter, Mary Kelly and the BDA research committee in particular Dr Angela Madden for their helpful comments and support.

References

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Assuring the quality of qualitative research
  5. Credibility
  6. Criticality
  7. Authenticity
  8. Integrity
  9. Judging quality
  10. Qualitative research in UK dietetics
  11. Conclusion
  12. Acknowledgements
  13. References
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