Skip to main content
Search form
  • 00:04

    LESLIE CURRY: Hi, I'm Leslie Curry from the YaleSchool of Public Health.[Leslie Curry, Professor of Public Health at Yale Schoolof Public] Welcome back to our series on qualitative researchmethods.This module addresses evaluating the rigorof qualitative research.[Overview of the modules] To remind usof the goal of the series, we're intendingto enhance our capacity to conceptualize, design,and conduct qualitative research in the health sciences.

  • 00:28

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: There are six modules in the series,and this last module addresses scientific rigorin qualitative research.[What are some common criticism of qualitative research?] Soit's exciting to see that qualitative research isincreasingly adopted in the health sciences' literature.We're seeing grants be funded, we'reseeing publications in high impact journals,and so it's an exciting time for qualitative research

  • 00:48

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: in the world of health sciences.And yet, there are some common criticismsthat qualitative studies face.And it's important to recognize thoseand to know that there are techniques,processes, principles that help mitigatesome of these limitations.The first is that qualitative research lacks reproducibility.

  • 01:11

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: So what is it in that black box of qualitative data analysis?Very different than taking a structured data setfor a quantitative study, and simplyrerunning the code and the statistical modeling,which is reproducible.And it's absolutely true that qualitative methods are notas directly reproducible.

  • 01:34

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: A second common criticism is that it lacks generalizability.And we talked about small sample sizesin qualitative methods, determined by the principleof theoretical saturation.So we're studying and studying and studying, until we hearno new ideas from the data.These, however, are often small sample sizes.

  • 01:54

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: And because they're purposefully derived,they're not representative random samples.We can't generalize reliably to a larger population.And the last common criticism of qualitative researchis that there's the potential for researcher bias--all over the place, in the data collection instrumentsthat we design, in the process of interviewing and collecting

  • 02:17

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: data in the field, in the processof analysis and interpretation.And so these are the worries/concernsof people as they address or explore the rigorin qualitative methods.It's important as qualitative researchers for usto recognize and to be explicit about the factthat there are a number of standards

  • 02:39

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: that qualitative research has long rootsin a number of traditions.But even in the health sciences, back to the early 1990s,in the BMJ, a paper by Mays and Pope, which I consider,really, a seminal piece in defining qualityin qualitative research.And then many papers since then from the NIH,

  • 02:60

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: from Kirsti Malterud in The Lancet,from Giacomini and their group in the JAMA --so plenty of resources, the COREQ tool,which is a checklist for researchers as theyreport interview and focus group studies.So there are many resources that describe the establishedtechniques that do assure rigor, and thatshould be used in order to address

  • 03:22

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: the inherent limitations of qualitative methods.[Qualitative articles should report]When a researcher is reporting a qualitative study,we should be looking for articlesto include a whole host of dimensions of the research.And in this series, we've addressed many of these --first, the relevance of the question and the rationale

  • 03:42

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: for the approach.And so this gets to the issue of conceptualizing a researchstudy.Why qualitative methods?We need to be very clear in the reporting in our articleswhy it was we chose a qualitative approach.And within that, why, for instance, we're doinga focus group study as opposed to an ethnographicobservational study.And a qualitative article should be very explicit

  • 04:04

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: about the rationale for the defined methodologicalapproach.A manuscript should also be very clear on the sampling strategy.How were the key informants selected?What were the decisions and decisional criteriafor selection in the development of a purposeful sample?What was the principle of saturation?

  • 04:25

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: How was that achieved, in very clear detail providedin the methods section of the manuscript.In terms of data collection, we liketo see the interview guides.It's very useful for reviewers and for readers of an articleto be able to see what the instrument lookedlike, the interview guide itself.And often, we have the opportunity

  • 04:46

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: to include these as appendices.And more and more online journalsfor peer review or empirical work are offering appendices.We also want to know about the depth of the data,and so for commentary within the analysis section that addressesa number of features of analysis,the number of coders who are on the team, whattheir training was, was it a multidisciplinary team,

  • 05:09

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: what did the code structure look like.This is another product of the research studythat we like to see submitted with manuscriptsand included in online appendices for the consumersof the study to have a sense of how the analysis progressed.We want to understand systematic processes, the use of software,were diverging cases included, what happened when there was

  • 05:31

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: dis-confirming evidence, how was that handled,was there a process for participant confirmation,that respondents validate the findings themselves,was there an audit trail -- this is the process of documentingthe analytic process that I referred to in a prior module.So we want to be looking for all of these aspectsof the methodology in published articles.

  • 05:54

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: [Overview of the modules] So to remind us where we've been,this series was designed to enhance our capacityto conceptualize, design, and conduct qualitative researchin the health sciences.We've worked through six modules defining what is qualitativeresearch, spending a bit of time on developing a qualitativeresearch question, when is there an optimal opportunity to use

  • 06:17

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: qualitative methods -- and just by way of another example,for instance, I was part of a team recently who wasinterested in understanding the experience of young women whohave heart attacks, and what is the representation of symptomsfor those women, and what is their internal decision-makingprocess as they decide whether or not to engage 9-1-1

  • 06:39

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: and the health care system.And so that study reported out in-depth, individual interviewswith 30 women who had had heart attacks,and we asked them to recount for us those momentsof the event and their internal decision making process,a topic that really is perfectly suitedfor a qualitative design.

  • 07:01

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: We talked about major qualitative study designsin the health sciences.Those are interviews and focus groups.We spent a little bit of time on qualitative data analysis,which is complex, and takes practice to learn how to do,but we reviewed some of those principles and practices.And then we've closed with some notationsabout scientific rigor and qualitative research, reminding

  • 07:23

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: ourselves and others that there isa long tradition of qualitative researchin a number of disciplines.Recently, we see more and more of this in the health sciences.And we can look back, and should look back, and turnto the established methodological literature,which offers a number of principles and techniquesin order to ensure scientific rigor of this methodology.

  • 07:45

    LESLIE CURRY [continued]: So I hope that you've enjoyed this series,and I appreciate you spending time.And so thank you, and good luck in your work.


Leslie Curry, PhD, MPH, Professor of Public Health, Yale College, in this last module of the fundamentals of qualitative research series, discusses evaluating the rigor of qualitative research, including addressing common criticisms, report standards, and summarizes the key takeaways of the series.

Looks like you do not have access to this content.

Evaluating Rigor of Qualitative Research

Leslie Curry, PhD, MPH, Professor of Public Health, Yale College, in this last module of the fundamentals of qualitative research series, discusses evaluating the rigor of qualitative research, including addressing common criticisms, report standards, and summarizes the key takeaways of the series.

Copy and paste the following HTML into your website