PROPOSED Author Guidelines for Qualitative Research Manuscripts Submitted to the Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research (JSSWR)
Over the past few months, the JSSWR staff has been working to create guidelines for qualitative research manuscripts. Our intent is to help authors increase the rigor of their reporting of qualitative studies, and thereby, to strengthen manuscripts submitted to the Journal.
To help us further refine the guidelines and to contribute to what we hope will be a useful tool for social work researchers, we are interested in receiving comments and feedback on our work to date.
To leave a comment, you must enter your name and e-mail address (comment box at bottom of page), but only your name will be posted with your comment. Comments are monitored, and all comments will be posted unless the author requests otherwise or the comment is deemed inappropriate.
The sections and subsections are numbered to facilitate referring to specific points, such as ” I think 2.3 in Lit Rev should include…” or ” Does 3.1 include assent of minors?”
In advance, we thank you for your time and sharing your opinion.
Mark W. Fraser – Editor
Diane Wyant – Managing Editor
Shiyou Wu – Editorial Assistant
Post Script: For those interested in the process used to develop these guidelines, a preliminary report is posted here:Preliminary Report -Developing JSSWR Guidelines for Qualitative Research
Comments Period: July 1, 2015 to August 31, 2015
** Comments Period is now closed **
Guidelines for Qualitative Research Manuscripts
JSSWR is committed to publishing high-quality research. We ask authors of quantitative manuscripts to follow standardized reporting guidelines (e.g., TREND, CONSORT-SPI, or PRISMA guidelines). However, to our knowledge, no standardized reporting guidelines with broad support exist for qualitative research manuscripts. This gap is due, in part, to the nature of qualitative research, which encompasses a wide variety of methods and perspectives, making it difficult to provide a single, comprehensive checklist. However, to strengthen manuscripts reporting qualitative research, we recommend authors consider the following.
1.1 Describe the background and research question(s), including the study setting or context and the significance in terms of practice or policy
1.2 Link your research questions and/or specific aims to important social or health problems
1.3 Briefly discuss the compatibility of your research questions with qualitative inquiry
2. Literature review
2.1 Review recent research findings on the topic
2.2 Briefly discuss alternative theoretical perspectives (depending on relevance)
2.3 Note limitations in methods in addressing complexities or nuances of the problem
2.4 Summarize both the strengths and limitations of previous studies
The Method section of the manuscript should provide sufficient detail to fully inform readers of the processes and procedures used to carry out the research. This section is key to making the research process transparent to the reader, and should include the following sections:
3.1 IRB Statement
All manuscripts reporting studies on human participants should include a statement regarding review and approval (or waiver) by the relevant institutional review board and/or research ethics committee. The informed consent procedures (i.e., oral or written) should be described in the Method section. In addition, describe the steps taken ensure participant confidentiality or anonymity, and the procedures used to ensure data safety. If pseudonyms are used to protect participants’ anonymity, be sure to note this protection. To protect the identities of study participants, avoid lengthy description of study sample or site, omitting details not essential to understanding the method or findings.
Identify your research perspective or tradition (e.g., biography/narrative research, ethnography, grounded theory, phenomenology). Briefly describe any theoretical lenses and sensitizing concepts used in the study. Explain the rationale for selecting this method of inquiry and how your methods meet your stated aims.
3.3 Recruitment and Sampling
Provide a detailed account of how participants were recruited and engaged for the research study. Describe the sampling method (e.g., purposive, convenience, snowball), which should flow from the guiding methodology. For example, if using phenomenology, a sample of eight to 10 participants might be appropriate, whereas a larger sample size would be expected with grounded theory.
3.4 Data Collection
Describe the data collection methods (e.g., interviewing, observation, document review) in sufficient detail to inform the reader about the potential richness of the data (e.g., more than one interview per participant, extended time spent doing observation). Include information regarding who collected the data and their training or background. Highlight data triangulation and note limitations related to using a single form of data collection at one time point. If unique or unusual methods are used for data collection, describe them in detail and explain the rationale for their selection.
3.5 Analysis: Provide details of the steps taken in data analysis, and the process by which you arrived at the conclusions. Full description is important for the reader to get a sense of how themes were established and to strengthen the trustworthiness of the findings.
3.5.1 If coding was used, be sure to state how many people were involved in co-coding. If more than one coder was used, explain how consistency – if viewed as important – was established between coders and how conflicts were resolved. In addition, describe the steps taken to increase the credibility, transferability, auditability, confirmability, or other goodness metrics related to the findings. These can include peer debriefing, audit trail, negative case analysis, prolonged engagement, triangulation of data, and member checking.
3.5.2 If used, the type of data analytic software should be mentioned as helping to organize and retrieve data.
4. Results or Findings
4.1 The Results section should clearly present the themes abstracted from the analyses and — unless the study is purely descriptive — this presentation should move beyond the level of description-only. Authors can enhance the Results section by noting complexities within the results and, when possible, pointing out unexpected or surprising findings.
4.2 Although the use of participant quotations enriches qualitative manuscripts, do not overuse quotations within the Results section. Link quotes to the findings and your interpretations.
4.3 Including a graphic or schematic chart can be helpful in guiding the reader through the Results or Findings section and illustrating how the themes fit together. Color graphics can be included for articles posted online, and JSSWR can include a limited number of color graphics in each print issue.
5.1 Synthesize the findings and link them to the research questions
5.2 Note whether and how findings fit within or advance the literature
5.3 Describe the ways in which the findings contribute to the knowledge bases for practice or policy
5.4 Explain the implications of the findings for practice, research, and/or public policy
5.5 Discuss the strengths and limitations of the methods in the context of your research perspective. For example, limitations related to sampling should be identified within a qualitative framework. The sample size or lack of depth in the data might limit transferability; however, a lack of generalizability is not a limitation in qualitative research
JSSWR recognizes that qualitative research is diverse and that all guidelines—no matter how expertly crafted—will apply differentially. Overall, authors should aim to include sufficient detail and description to make the research process transparent to the reader. Strengths and limitations should be assessed within a qualitative framework of credibility, transferability, auditability, and confirmability (see Lietz & Zayas, 2010; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Padgett, 2008).
Many people contributed their time, talent, and expertise to the development of these guidelines. We thank each for their contribution and for their interest in promoting the rigor of qualitative research. Special thanks to the many people who reviewed the guidelines before we posted them — especially Laura Abrams, Cynthia Lietz, and Deborah Padgett, each of whom gave extensive feedback on earlier drafts of the guidelines. Special thanks also to Bruce Thyer, editor of Research on Social Work Practice (RSWP). Bruce shared a draft of the guidelines RSWP has recently adopted.
During this comments period, we hope you’ll help us think through guidelines for qualitative submissions for JSSWR. Because qualitative methods are so broad, these guidelines will not be as specific as those developed, for example, by CONSORT–Social and Psychological Interventions. We hope, however, to find some common language that will promote the credibility, transferability, auditability, and confirmability of all qualitative methods.
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