Assessing quality in qualitative research
For this assignment you will need to identify a single piece of qualitative research that has been completed and written up in the form of a published, peer reviewed article. You will assess the quality of this work using the guidelines in Popay, et al. (1998) ‘Rationale and standards for the systematic review of qualitative literature in health services research’ (note that the term ‘health services research’ covers research in any health setting, for example, clinical, community, health services management).
In this article, Popay et al. (1998) highlight criteria for assessing the validity of qualitative research. Essentially they identify a number of questions that need to be addressed to assess the quality of qualitative research. These are:
• Does the research, as reported, illuminate the subjective meaning, actions, and contexts of those being researched?
• Is there evidence of the adaptation and responsiveness of the research design to the circumstances and issues of real-life social settings met during the course of the study?
• Does the sampling produce the type of knowledge necessary to understand the structures and processes within which the individuals or situations are located?
• Is the description detailed enough to allow the researcher or reader to interpret the meaning and context of what is being researched?
• How are different sources of knowledge about the same issue compared and contrasted?
• How does the research move from a description of the data, to an analysis and interpretation of the meaning and significance of it?, and
• What claims are being made for the generalisability of the findings to either other bodies of knowledge or to other populations or groups?
The scenario for this assignment is as follows:
Your boss has been interested in your progress in a topic you are studying on qualitative research in Public Health, Flinders University. She would like you to demonstrate that you can assess how worthwhile, useful and informative a piece of qualitative research can be. As such, she would like you to show her a piece of qualitative health research focused on one of the five health issues listed below, that you have passed judgment on (ranging from ‘excellent’ to ‘poor’ quality). She would also like you to justify your assessment. The five health issues are: 1). Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus; 2). Lung Cancer; 3). Obesity; 4). Under-nutrition; 5). Mosquito borne diseases (i.e. Malaria, Dengue Fever or Ross River Virus).
Your task therefore is to write a report to your boss assessing the quality and validity of a single piece of published qualitative research—entirely of your own choosing—with appropriate justification for your decisions (based on the criteria by Popay et al. above). Your report should be about 1500 words long.
Criteria for Grading
Your report will be assessed by the following criteria—the extent to which it:
• critically evaluates the quality of a piece of qualitative research against defined criteria (set out above)
• shows a sophisticated understanding of the issues involved in increasing validity and quality in qualitative research
• conveys an understanding of the relevance and the implications of qualitative research for health research
• is clearly written with accurate spelling, grammar and sentence and paragraph construction