Steps Involved in Conducting a Qualitative Research Study
The first step is to identify the topic of interest. This is then followed by developing a research problem that will be investigated through the research and to state the purpose of investigating that particular problem. In order to carry out the study, the researcher would then be required to develop a number of research questions that would be answered by the research.
The second step is to carry out a literature review in which the researcher reviews the past studies that have already been conducted. This helps to identify what has already been done about the problem and the gap that still exists. The third step is to collect data.
Data collection can be done using different methods such as self-directed questionnaires, interviews, and focus group discussions. The last step involves data analysis. In qualitative research studies, data analysis is done by first coding the collected data so as to identify the emerging themes as presented by the respondents (Flick, 2009).
Implications in Conducting Qualitative Research and its Contribution to Evidence-based Practice
Qualitative research methods are concerned with the collection and analysis of subjective and descriptive data, which are used by the researcher to have a better insight into the problem under investigation. This is different from quantitative research methods whose aim is to collect and analyze numerical data for the sake of making generalizations about the population.
Qualitative research plays an important role in evidence-based practice. First, qualitative research provides a context for assessing evidence-based practice. If a program is newly implemented, qualitative research can be used to evaluate its effectiveness and the strategies that can be used to improve it (Walsh, 2001).
Second, qualitative research can help healthcare organizations to develop nursing interventions for evidence-based practice (Morse, Penrod, and Hupcey, 2000). Third, qualitative studies result in the discovery of new research questions concerning evidence-based practice. These questions can form the basis upon which future studies can be carried out.
Qualitative Research Methods Related to Sampling and Data Collection
Purposive sampling is widely used in qualitative research when the researcher wants to use participants who will achieve the major objectives of the study (Hesse-Biber and Leavy, 2005, p.73). This ensures that only those participants who are most likely to make a significant contribution to the study are selected.
The collection of data for the study can be done using two different methods: in-depth interviews and focus groups. “An in-depth interview is a technique that allows person-to-person discussion and can lead to increased insight into people’s thoughts, feelings, and behavior on important issues,” (Belk, 2006, p.34).
Focus groups are “an informal assembly of participants whose opinions are requested about a specific topic,” (Zikmund, 2003, p.56). In-depth interviews and focus groups are relevant to qualitative studies in a number of ways. First, the two methods require that the researcher should establish rapport with the informants.
The informants should be able to trust the researcher while the researcher should have respect towards the informants irrespective of their conflicting beliefs. This is because in-depth interviews and focus group discussions are conducted through a close and personal interaction between the researcher and informants. Second, the two methods allow the researcher to clarify any vague responses given by the informants.
They also enable him to dig deeper and probe further when he feels that the responses given are too short or inadequate and that the informants are holding back useful information.
The informants also have the opportunity to provide additional information that they feel would be appropriate to the study. This is useful in any qualitative study because its main objective is to understand the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions of the participants.
Challenges in Analyzing Qualitative Data
The analysis of qualitative data is normally seen as strenuous by most researchers. This is because the analysis of qualitative data is a continuous process that begins from the minute the data is collected and continues throughout the research. In addition, the analysis of qualitative data cannot be left in the hands of expert analysts who had no part in the data collection process.
Researchers interested in qualitative research have to collect data and analyze the data by themselves because one of the main objectives of qualitative research is to provide the researchers with a deeper understanding of the subjects of their study and how these subjects view the world and the problem under investigation.
As a result, researchers have to make use of their personal experiences with the subjects of the study; and the settings under which the data were collected (Flick, 2009).
Steps in Analyzing Qualitative Data
The analysis of the data collected is done using several steps. In the first step, data reduction, the interview/group discussion transcripts are read, and the text coded sentence by sentence in order to identify the main themes presented by the informants.
In the second step, data display, the themes identified by the informants are classified into a conceptually clustered matrix (Basit, 2003). The cross-case analysis is used to establish any existing relationships between the themes and to identify converging, diverging, mirror, and marginal themes. The final step involves drawing conclusions, making inferences, and providing recommendations based on the findings.
Basit, T.N. (2003). Manual or electronic? The role of coding in qualitative data analysis. Educational Research, 45(2), 143-154.
Belk, R.W. (2006). Handbook of qualitative research methods in marketing. London: Edward Elgar Publishing.
Flick, U. (2009). An introduction to qualitative research. London: SAGE.
Hesse-Biber, S.N. & Leavy, P. (2005). The practice of qualitative research. London: SAGE.
Morse, J.M., Penrod, J. & Hupcey, J.E. (2000). Qualitative outcome analysis: evaluating nursing interventions for complex clinical phenomena. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 32, 125-30.
Walsh, D. (2001). Evidence-based care: and finally how do we put all the evidence into practice? British Journal of Midwifery, 9(2), 74-80.
Zikmund, W. (2003). Business research methods (7th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Thomson/South-Western.