In what follows we will elaborate on two other checklists enabling qualitative researchers to guard the quality of their work.
Henwood and Pidgeon105 identified seven attributes which characterise good qualitative research. Their schema, which links criteria with methods of achieving sound research, offers a helpful guide for novice researchers. They argue for:
- The importance of fit - The themes or analytical categories offered by the researcher should fit the data. The researcher demonstrates this by writing clear, explicit accounts of how these categories were evolved.
- Integration of theory - The researcher needs to discuss the relationship between units of analysis and the degree to which they can be integrated or generalised (for instance, exploring how themes might be combined moving towards a theory).
- Reflexivity – The role of the researcher needs to be acknowledged and accounted for in the documentation of the research.
- Documentation – The researcher needs to provide an audit trail: a comprehensive account of what was done and why.
- Theoretical sampling and negative case analysis – The researcher needs to continuously develop and modify any emerging theory, exploring cases that do not fit as well as those which might generate new knowledge.
- Sensitivity to negotiated realities – While participant validation may be necessary, the researcher needs to demonstrate awareness of the research context, power differentials and participant reactions to the research. It is particularly important to explain any differences between the researcher’s interpretations and those of the participant(s).
- Transferability - The researcher should suggest how the research may have applicability beyond the particular research context.
Malterud106 provides the following checklist:
- Is the research question a relevant issue?
- Is the aim sufficiently focused, and stated clearly?
- Are the researcher's motives, background, perspectives, and preliminary hypotheses presented, and is the effect of these issues sufficiently dealt with
Method and design
- Are qualitative research methods suitable for exploration of the research question?
- Has the best method been chosen with respect to the research question?
Data collection and sampling
- Is the strategy for data collection clearly stated (usually purposive or theoretical, usually not random or representative)?
- Are the reasons for this choice stated?
- Has the best approach been chosen, in view of the research question?
- Are the consequences of the chosen strategy discussed and compared with other options?
- Are the characteristics of the sample presented in enough depth to understand the study site and context?
- Are the perspectives and ideas used for data interpretation presented?
- Is the framework adequate, in view of the aim of the study?
- Does the author account for the role given to the theoretical framework during analysis?
- Are the principles and procedures for data organization and analysis fully described, allowing the reader to understand what happened to the raw material to arrive at the results?
- Were the various categories identified from theory or preconceptions in advance, or were they developed from the data?
- Which principles were followed to organize the presentation of findings?
- Are strategies used to validate results presented, such as cross-checks for rivalling explanations, member checks, or triangulation? If such strategies are not described in this section, they should appear as validity discussion later in the report.
- Are the findings relevant with respect to the aim of the study?
- Do they provide new insight?
- Is the presentation of the findings well organized and best suited to ensure that findings are drawn from systematic analysis of material, rather than from preconceptions?
- Are quotes used adequately to support and enrich the researcher's synopsis of the patterns identified by systematic analysis?
- Are questions about internal validity (what the study is actually about), external validity (to what other settings the findings or notions can be applied), and reflexivity (the effects of the researcher on processes, interpretations, findings, and conclusions) addressed?
- Has the design been scrutinized?
- Are the shortcomings accounted for and discussed, without denying the responsibility for choices taken?
- Have the findings been compared with appropriate theoretical and empirical references?
- Are a few clear consequences of the study proposed?
- Is the report easy to understand and clearly contextualized?
- Is it possible to distinguish between the voices of the informants and those of the researcher?
- Are important and specific sources in the field covered, and have they been appropriately presented and applied in the text?