Steps of the Qualitative Research Process

Steps of the Research Process and Journal Format: Qualitative Research

Research Process Steps and/or Format Issues Usual Location in Journal Heading or Subheading Identifying the phenomenon Abstract and/or in introduction Research question study purpose Abstract and/or in beginning or end of introduction Literature review Introduction and/or discussion Design Abstract and/or in introductory section or under method section entitled “Design” or stated in method section Sample Method section labeled “Sample” or “Subjects” Legal-ethical issues Data collection or procedures section or in sample section Data collection procedure Data collection or procedures section Data analysis Methods section under subhead “Data Analysis” or “Data Analysis and Interpretation” Results Stated in separate heading: “Results” or “Findings” Discussion and recommendation Combined in separate section: “Discussion” or “Discussion and Implications” References At end of article

Whereas qualitative research looks for meaning, quantitative research encompasses the study of research questions and/or hypotheses that describe phenomena, test relationships, assess differences, seek to explain cause-and-effect relationships between variables, and test for intervention effectiveness. The numeric data in quantitative studies are summarized and analyzed using statistics. Quantitative research techniques are systematic, and the methodology is controlled. Appendices A, B, and D illustrate examples of different quantitative approaches to answering research questions. Table 1.2 indicates where each step of the research process can usually be located in a quantitative research article and where it is discussed in this text. Chapters 2, 3, and 8 through 18 describe processes related to quantitative research.

TABLE 1.2 Steps of the Research Process and Journal Format: Quantitative Research

Research Process Steps and/or Format Issue Usual Location in Journal Heading or Subheading

Text Chapter

Research problem Abstract and/or in article introduction or separately labeled: “Problem” 2 Purpose Abstract and/or in introduction, or end of literature review or theoretical framework section, or labeled separately: “Purpose” 2 Literature review At end of heading “Introduction” but not labeled as such, or labeled as separate heading: “Literature Review,” “Review of the Literature,” or

“Related Literature”; or not labeled or variables reviewed appear as headings or subheadings 3

TF and/or CF Combined with “Literature Review” or found in separate section as TF or CF; or each concept used in TF or CF may appear as separate subheading 3, 4 Hypothesis/research questions

Stated or implied near end of introduction, may be labeled or found in separate heading or subheading: “Hypothesis” or “Research Questions”; or reported for first time in “Results”


Research design Stated or implied in abstract or introduction or in “Methods” or “Methodology” section 8–10 Sample: type and size “Size” may be stated in abstract, in methods section, or as separate subheading under methods section as “Sample,” “Sample/Subjects,” or

“Participants”; “Type” may be implied or stated in any of previous headings described under size 12

Legal-ethical issues Stated or implied in sections: “Methods,” “Procedures,” “Sample,” or “Subjects” 13 Instruments Found in sections: “Methods,” “Instruments,” or “Measures” 14 Validity and reliability Specifically stated or implied in sections: “Methods,” “Instruments,” “Measures,” or “Procedures” 15 Data collection procedure In methods section under subheading “Procedure” or “Data Collection,” or as separate heading: “Procedure” 14 Data analysis Under subheading: “Data Analysis” 16 Results Stated in separate heading: “Results” 16, 17 Discussion of findings and new findings

Combined with results or as separate heading: “Discussion” 17

Implications, limitations, and recommendations

Combined in discussion or as separate major headings 17

References At end of article 4 Communicating research results

Research articles, poster, and paper presentations 1, 20

CF, Conceptual framework; TF, theoretical framework.

The primary difference is that a qualitative study seeks to interpret meaning and phenomena, whereas quantitative research seeks to test a hypothesis or answer research questions using statistical methods. Remember as you read research articles that, depending on the nature of the research problem, a researcher may vary the steps slightly; however, all of the steps should be addressed systematically.

Critical reading skills To develop an expertise in evidence-based practice, you will need to be able to critically read all


types of research articles. As you read a research article, you may be struck by the difference in style or format of a research article versus a clinical article. The terms of a research article are new, and the content is different. You may also be thinking that the research article is hard to read or that it is technical and boring. You may simultaneously wonder, “How will I possibly learn to appraise all the steps of a research study, the terminology, and the process of evidence-based practice? I’m only on Chapter 1. This is not so easy; research is as hard as everyone says.”

Remember that learning occurs with time and help. Reading research articles can be difficult and frustrating at first, but the best way to become a knowledgeable research consumer is to use critical reading skills when reading research articles. As a student, you are not expected to understand a research article or critique it perfectly the first time. Nor are you expected to develop these skills on your own. An essential objective of this book is to help you acquire critical reading skills so that you can use research in your practice. Becoming a competent critical thinker and reader of research takes time and patience.

Learning the research process further develops critical appraisal skills. You will gradually be able to read a research article and reflect on it by identifying assumptions, key concepts, and methods, and determining whether the conclusions are based on the study’s findings. Once you have obtained this critical appraisal competency, you will be ready to synthesize the findings of multiple studies to use in developing an evidence-based practice. This will be a very exciting and rewarding process for you. Analyzing a study critically can require several readings. As you review and synthesize a study, you will begin an appraisal process to help you determine the study’s worth. An illustration of how to use critical reading strategies is provided in Box 1.1, which contains an excerpt from the abstract, introduction, literature review, theoretical framework literature, and methods and procedure section of a quantitative study (Nyamathi et al., 2015) (see Appendix A). Note that in this article there is both a literature review and a theoretical framework section that clearly support the study’s objectives and purpose. Also note that parts of the text from the article were deleted to offer a number of examples within the text of this chapter. BOX 1.1

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