There is a common misconception that qualitative studies in the field of health are not as useful as empirical studies. Qualitative studies are often believed to lack scientific rigor. In fact, these studies have an important role to play in the field since they provide insights into the emotions, experiences, and perceptions of key players: clinicians, care providers, caregivers, and patients. To optimize the benefits of qualitative health research and to counter prejudice from other members of the scientific community, qualitative researchers should ensure their reporting is as thorough, transparent, and at par with the best quantitative studies. One good way of doing this is to follow guidelines like the Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research (COREQ) checklist. Doing so will not only provide a balanced account of the research but also make the paper more credible and appealing to journal editors and peer reviewers.
Listed below are five points that researchers often miss while reporting a qualitative health study:
1. In addition to merely reporting your methodological orientation and theory (e.g., ethnography, phenomenology, or grounded theory), state its advantages over other methodologies in addressing your research question/study aim.
2. Report the sampling method (e.g., purposive, snowball) as well as how participants were approached. Mention the duration of interviews, discussions, etc., and describe the research setting.
3. Clearly state who conducted interviews, facilitated focus group discussions, coded the data, etc. Give that person’s credentials and training in the concerned methodology, as well as pertinent demographic information (e.g., the sex of the researcher can be important when studying a topic such as post-mastectomy experiences).
4. Report whether data saturation was achieved or at what point data collection stopped.
5. Specify whether any form of triangulation was employed (e.g., having multiple researchers, research methods, or theoretical schemes for data interpretation), as it boosts the internal validity of your findings.
As qualitative data are strongly influenced by context, inattention to methodological detail can seriously limit the usefulness of the findings. To guard against this, high-profile journals like The BMJ and Social Science and Medicine provide specific checklists and detailed guidelines for authors of qualitative papers. Regardless of the journal you are submitting to, follow these guidelines as well as the COREQ checklist to conduct and present your research in the best way possible.