Challenges and Pitfalls in the Design and Reporting of Qualitative Research in the Health Sciences: Reflections from a Referee and Reviewer
This paper aims to highlight some of the common areas of concern in qualitative research proposals and manuscripts, gleaned from the authors’ first-hand experience as an external referee and peer-reviewer. The purpose is to provide broad guidance to researchers who are contemplating on writing a research proposal or journal manuscript using a qualitative approach. The three issues are (1) application of the generic label “qualitative” when proponents or authors describe the study design; (2) overreliance on, and even misuse of, interviews and focus groups for data collection; and (3) misconceptions on the process of qualitative data analysis. Practice points are offered on how researchers can avoid these missteps.
Research has been characterized as a quest for knowledge, and it has been proposed that both qualitative and quantitative approaches uncover different dimensions of “truth”. The predominance of a positivist ontology in health research in the Philippines and elsewhere, coupled with intense methodological training in quantitative approaches, however, has relegated qualitative research to second-class status. Improving the quality of qualitative research work by addressing some of the issues outlined in this paper is one way of moving past this situation.