Q: How should I present qualitative interview data in a research article?
As an article has a limitation in word counts, what would be the best way of presenting interview data?
Analyzing and presenting qualitative data in a research paper can be difficult. The Methods section is where one needs to justify and present the research design. As you have rightly said, there are stipulations on the word count for a manuscript. The method should be outlined briefly and illustrated with examples such as the main interview questions (which form the crux of your study), criteria for selection participants, sampling methods, how the data was transcribed, ethical approval and informed consent, when it was decided to stop the data collection, data analysis and methods of extrapolating themes and concepts from the data, and how the results were validated.
To present the interview data, you can consider using a table. The data can be tabulated and presented succinctly in the Methods section. Or if it is a questionnaire based study, the questionnaire can be given as a part of online Supplementary Data for the manuscript – many journals have a provision for this.
The main point to remember while presenting qualitative interview data is that the reader should not be bored with the minute details – mention the key points and themes as they relate to the research question, rather than reporting everything that the interviewees said; use charts or tables to help the reader understand the data and then highlight the most interesting findings; analyze the data rather than just describing it - use it to tell a story that focuses on answering the research question. Basically, avoid very long reports and present the main findings.