Joan L. Bottorff, PhD, RN
Professor and CIHR Investigator
School of Nursing, UBC
Phone: (604) 822-7438
Purpose of a Research Proposal
- Communicates research plan to others (e.g., funding agencies)
- Serves as a detailed plan for action
- Serves as a contract between investigator and funding bodies when proposal approved
Qualitative Research: Basic
- Reality is complex, constructed and ultimately subjective
- Research is an interpretative processes
- Knowledge is best achieved by conducting research in the natural setting
- Qualitative research is unstructured.
- Qualitative designs are “emergent” rather than fixed.
- The results of qualitative research are unpredictable.
Kinds of Qualitative Research
- Grounded theory
- Ethnography (critical ethnography, institutional ethnography, ethnomethodology, ethnoscience, etc.)
- Narrative Inquiry
The Challenges for Qualitative
- Developing a solid convincing argument that the
- study contributes to theory, research, practice, and/or policy (the “so what?” question)
- Planning a study that is systematic, manageable, and flexible(to reassure skeptics):– Justification of the selected qualitative method– Explicit details about design and methods, without limiting the project’s evolution – Attention to criteria for the overall soundness or rigor of the project
Questions a proposal must answer
- Why should anyone be interested in my research?
- Is the research design credible, achievable, and carefully explained?
- Is the researcher capable of doing the research?
To answer these questions:
- Be practical (practical problems can not easily be brushed off)
- Be persuasive (“sell” your proposal)
- Make broad links (hint at wider context)
- Aim for crystal clarity (avoid jargon, assume nothing, explain everything)
Sections of Typical Qualitative
– Introduce topic and significance
– Statement of purpose, research questions/objectives
Review of Literature
– Related literature and theoretical traditionsDesign and Methods
– Overall approach and rationale
– Sampling, data gathering methods, data analysis
– Trustworthiness (Soundness of the research)
– Ethical considerations
Introducing the Study – 1st para
Goal: capture interest in the study
– Focus on importance of study (Why bother
with the question?)
– Clear and concise (details will follow later)
– Synopsis of the primary target of the study
– Persuasive logic backed up with factual
The Problem/Research Question
- The problem can be broad, but must be specific enough to convince others that it is worth focusing on.
- Research questions clearly delineated (sometimes with sub-questions)
- Scope of the research question(s) needs to be manageable within the time frame and context of the study.
Purpose of the Qualitative Study
- Conceptualization (theory building)?
- Selective and persuasive – building a case for what is known or believed, what’s missing, and how the study fits in.
- Literature is used to demonstrate openness to complexity of phenomenon, rather than funneling toward an a priori conceptualization.
Methods – challenges here
- Quantitative designs are often more familiar to reviewers
- Qualitative researchers have a different language
Orientation to the Method:
– Description of the particular method that will
be used and its creators/interpreters
– Rationale for qualitative research generally
and for the specific method to be used.
Qualitative Studies are Valuable for
- that delves in-depth into complexities and processes
- on little-known phenomena or innovative systems
- on informal and unstructured processes in organizations
- that seeks to explore where and why policy and local knowledge and practice are at odds
- on real, as opposed to stated, organizational goals
- research that can not be done experimentally for practical or ethical reasons
- for which relevant variables have not been identified
Purposive or theoretical sampling
– The purpose of the sampling
– Characteristics of potential types of persons, events or
processes to be sampled
– How decisions about sampling will be made.
– Estimates provided based on previous experience,
pilot work, etc.
Access and recruitment
Data Collection and Analysis
- Types: Individual interviews, participant observation, focus groups, personal and public documents, internet-based data, videos, etc. (all vary with different traditions)
- Analysis methods vary depending on qualitative approach
- Add DETAILS and MORE DETAILS about how data will be gathered and processed (procedures should be made public, not magical)
Data Management & Analysis
- How will data be keep organized and retrievable?
- How will data be “broken up” to see something new?
- How will the researchers engage in reflexivity
- (e.g., be self-analytical)?
- Convinces the reader that the researcher is
- sufficiently knowledgeable about qualitative
- analysis and has necessary skills.
Trustworthiness (Soundness of the
Reflected throughout the proposal.
And address this specifically, using relevant
criteria for the qualitative approach used.
Examples of strategies used:
– Prolonged contact with informants, including
continuous validation of data
– Continuous checking for representativeness of data
and fit between coding categories and data
– Use of expert consultants
Examples of Strategies for Limiting
Bias in Interpretations
- Include plan to search for negative cases
- Describe how analysis will include a purposeful examination of alternative explanations
- Using members of the research team to critically question the analysis
- Planning to conduct an audit of data collection and analytic strategies