Analysis of qualitative studies implies considerations of not only the methodology but also the meaning behind the scholarly exploration carried out by researchers. The goals of the study by Giannitrapani et al. (2018) is to develop an understanding of the critical roles that pharmacists take in the primary care of pain and to recognize limitations in expanding and assuming such roles. The study is of qualitative nature and involved real participants, primary care clinical pharmacists from the Veterans Health Administration (VA) setting. With the help of a two-part qualitative model, including semi-structured interviews and focus groups, the researchers carried out an interdisciplinary team-focused model. Thus, Giannitrapani et al. (2018) used the qualitative research approach to explore the clinical topic at hand. Qualitative research deals with non-numerical data and seeking to interpret meanings from the data to help understand the phenomena being researched. For the scholars, the meaning of qualitative study is attributed to the possibility to measure non-numerical data represented by the personal reflections and feedback provided by participants. By combining two qualitative models, the value of participants’ personal accounts was increased because of the opportunity to consider them from multiple angles. Although, qualitative research has its limitations associated with data collection, sampling, and the impact of scholars’ personal opinions.
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Since qualitative methods are concerned with human interactions, it is imperative that researchers understand their values and predispositions and “acknowledge them as inseparable from the research process” (Roulston and Shelton 2015, 333). Thus, when conducting their study with the help of focus groups and semi-structured interviews, researchers will have to acknowledge the subjectivity that they may have in the study process. Any personal views on the subject matter only apply to study participants and can, therefore, be included in qualitative data collection and analyses. Any personal views of researchers are therefore left behind in order to ensure study objectivity. In a qualitative study, bias is a threat of validity and can be caused by such issues as sampling, the personal characteristics of researchers, the responses of participants to the research process, instrumentation flaws, confirmation bias, and others (Roulston and Shelton 2015). Importantly, Giannitrapani et al. (2018) identified potential sources of bias that could have influenced the findings of the study (7). For example, the study used an interviewee as an author while also employing snowball sampling for identifying clinical pharmacists to include in the interviews and focus groups.
Both focus groups and qualitative interviews are intended for capturing the perceptions and stories of participants. Although, as noted by Kennedy-Lewis, Murphy, and Grosland (2016), the purpose for doing so as well as the nature and the conformity of facts in such stories will differ from one participant to another. The interviews implemented with clinical pharmacists revealed a range of perspectives from different practitioners in regards to their experience with pain management therapies. This aligns with the narrative inquiry approach that aims to reveal a variety of perspectives and attitudes that would help answer relevant research questions. Narrative inquiry entails collecting information through storytelling, which was carried out by allowing researchers to develop a narrative of experiences offered by participants.
Criteria of quality in qualitative research should also be considered in the discussion of the approach applied in the study. According to Tracy (2010), such criteria include a worthy topic, rich research rigor, sincerity, credibility, resonance, significant contribution, ethics, and meaningful coherence. For instance, Giannitrapani et al.’s (2018) research topic was relevant, significant, interesting, and timely because of the high need to expand the scope of practice of clinical pharmacologists to help care for patients with extreme pain. Sincerity is an important component of qualitative research because it enables scholars to study relevant topics from the perspective of transparency, vulnerability, and honesty (Tracy 2010). Semi-structured interviews and focus groups all call participant to be honest about their views in order to establish an environment of transparency in the exchanges between participants and researchers. As suggested by Ortlipp (2008), engaging with the idea of transparency in the research process is an important consideration because of the need to make participants’ experiences visible and impactful. Also, the study by Giannitrapani et al. (2018) had meaningful coherence because it achieved what it purported to be about as well as used methods and procedures that would fit its stated goals. The components of quality in qualitative research also align with the principle of study from a personal perspective.
The final point of consideration regarding the use of the qualitative methodology in the study by Giannitrapani et al. (2018) is associated with embedding philosophical assumptions into qualitative studies. Depending on the approach taken by researchers, in some qualitative studies, the philosophical assumptions are hidden from view and can be deducted, while in other studies, the philosophy is made explicit, with clearly described characteristics of qualitative inquiry (Creswell and Poth 2017). In their research, Giannitrapani et al. (2018) do not discuss philosophical underpinnings explicitly. It is expected that the scholars used the postpositivist assumptions, which suggest that process of inquiry is developed on the series of logically relates steps as well as multiple perspectives from participants instead of a single reality, with the exposure to rigorous methods of qualitative data collection and analysis (Creswell and Poth 2017). In the example of Giannitrapani et al.’s (2018) research, two waves of data emerged as a result of rigor based on logically relates steps. The first wave of data was from focus groups, it was recorded, professionally transcribed, and cleaned from unnecessary information while the second wave of data included transcripts of semi-structured interviews. While the postpositivist approach was not clearly identified in the study, the dependence on research inquiry and the various perspectives that data collection and analysis can reveal.
To conclude, qualitative research was applied in the reviewed study to understand how the study participants experienced the world and how they deal with the main barriers that impact their practice. The research by Giannitrapani et al. (2018) revealed the need to expand the role of clinical pharmacists when supporting the care of complex pain patients to reduce the burden on physicians as well as establishing better guidance in pain care that is based on reliable drug treatment. It was possible to reach such conclusions through exploring data on the personal views of clinical pharmacologists, which helped to facilitate transparency, objectivity, credibility, and significance of contribution, all of which are positive indicators of quality in qualitative studies. However, qualitative research is limited by bias in sampling and data collected, which should be considered by scholars when discussing research shortcomings in order to illustrate a high degree of objectivity and transparency.
Creswell, John, and Cheryl Poth. 2017. Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design. New York: Sage Publications.
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Giannitrapani, Karleen, Glassman, Peter, Vang, Derek, McKelvey, Jeremiah, Day, Thomas, Dobscha, Steven, and Karl A. Lorenz. 2018. “Expanding the Role of Clinical Pharmacists on Interdisciplinary Primary Care Teams for Chronic Pain and Opioid Management.” BMC Family Practice 19 (107): 1-9.
Kennedy-Lewis, Brianna, Amy Murphy, and Tanetha Grosland. 2016. “Using Narrative Inquiry to Understand Persistently Disciplined Middle School Students.” International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education 29 (1): 1-28.
Ortlipp, Michelle. 2008. “Keeping and Using Reflective Journals in the Qualitative Research Process.” The Qualitative Report 14 (4): 695-705.
Roulston, Kathryn, and Stephanie Anne Shelton. 2015. “Reconceptualizing Bias in Teaching Qualitative Research Methods.” Qualitative Inquiry 21 (4): 332-342.
Tracy, Sarah. 2010. “Qualitative Quality: Eight “Big-Tent” Criteria for Excellent Qualitative Research.” Qualitative Inquiry 16 (10): 837-851.