5. How to report qualitative research findings?

Author(s): 
Laurence.Kohn
Author(s): 
Wendy.Christiaens

Interviews can be presented in a number of ways, there is no specific format to follow. However, alike other research methods, justification and methodology of the study should be provided. The research process should be fully transparent so that any researcher can reproduce it. In addition, it should be comprehensible to the reader.

 

A possible structure could be:

1. Introduction and Justification

2. Methodology

2.1 How were respondents recruited?

2.2 Description of the sample

2.3 Description of selection biases if any

2.4 What instruments were used to collect the data?

    You may want to include the topic list or questionnaire in an appendix

2.5 Over which period of time was the data collected?

3. Results : What are the key findings?

4. Discussion

4.1 What were the strengths and limitations of the information?

4.2 Are the results similar or dissimilar to other findings

     (if other studies have been done)?

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

6. Appendices (including the interview guide(s)/ topic guide)

&

 

 When writing up findings qualitative researchers often use quotes from respondents. Quotes are useful in order to63:

  • Illustrate the themes emerging from the analysis.
  • Provide evidence for interpretations, comparable to the use of tables of statistical data appearing in reports based on quantitative findings.
  • Strengthen credibility of the findings (despites critics argue that researchers can always find at least one quote to support any point they might with to make).
  • Deepen understanding. The actual words of a respondent could sometimes be a better representation of the depth of feeling.
  • Enable voice to research participants. This enables participants to speak for themselves and is especially relevant in a participatory paradigm.
  • Enhance readability by providing some vividness and sometimes humour: Braking up long passages of text by inserting spoken words, could help to keep the reader focused, but there could be a danger in moving too far towards a journalistic approach.

Ideally, quotes are anonymous and are accompanied by a pseudonym or description of the respondents. For example, in a research about normal birth, this could be: (Midwife, 36 years). There are however exceptions the rule of anonymity, e.g. stakeholder interviews, in which the identity of the respondent is important for the interpretation of the findings. In that case the respondent should self-evidently be informed and his agreement is needed in order to proceed.

Also in terms of lay out quotations should be different from the rest of the text, for example by using indents, italic fond or quotation marks. Quotes are used to strengthen the argument, but should be used sparingly and in function of the findings. Try to choose citations in a way that all respondents are represented. Be aware that readers might give more weight to themes illustrated with a quotation.

When the research is conducted in another language than the language of the report in which the findings are presented, quotes are most often translated. “As translation is also an interpretive act, meaning may get lost in the translation process (Van Nes et al, 201064, p. 313)”. It is recommended to stay in the original language as long and as much as possible and delay the use of translations to the stage of writing up the findings64.

KCE practice is to translate quotes only for publications in international scientific journals, but not for KCE reports. Although KCE reports are written in English, inserted quotes are in Dutch or French to stay close to the original meaning. The authors should pay attention to the readability of the text and make sure that the text without quotes is comprehensive to English speaking readers.