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How to write a publishable qualitative article

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1 How to write a publishable qualitative article
Kerstin Stenius, Klaus Mäkelä, Michal Miovsky, Roman Gabrhelik

2 Qualitative research Qualitative research “investigates the why and how of decision making, not just what, where, and when” (Wikipedia). The often small but focused samples required to study social processes or reasons behind behavior can be gathered through participant or direct observation, interviews, and analysis of documents and materials.

3 Increasing demand Qualitative studies used in policy evaluation, program implementation Growing interest in mixed methods: two data sets (qualitative and quantitative) collected and analysed to complement each other

4 Special challenges Qualitative writing demands the same general skills as quantitative articles, but prejudice and communication barriers are added challenges Few competent referees, fewer journals and ”quantitative” hegemony in science

5 Similarities and differences between quantitative and qualitative research
Quantitative research Qualitative research Choice of population is a theoretical task Applies classification, deduction and interperation Conceptualization and (often) classification of findings done before data collection – determines the interpretation Usually a pre-defined set of applicable methods Data set clearly deliminated Clear-cut analytical sequential operations Choice of subject is a theoretical task Applies classification, deduction and interpretation Pre-conceptualization does not necessarily determine data-collection; collection and interpretation of data intertwined Methods can change during the study Data set not always clearly demarcated and there are not always clear rules for data processing Analytical steps not always easily described

6 Researchers’, referees’ and editors’ criteria for evaluating qualitative analyses
Significance of the data set; contextualization and production conditions Sufficiency of the data Coverage of the analysis Transparency and repeatability of the analysis

7 Common reasons for rejection of qualitative papers
* Research question not clearly stated * Unclear structure of paper * Theories, methods and data analysis not consistent * Central concepts not presented or used consistently * Poor methodology * Not convincing rationale for size of dataset * Data set not contextualized; selection bias * Poor data collection (validity problems) * Methods and analysis not explained properly * Unsound conclusions or unfounded generalizations * Violations of ethical rules * Text too long

8 Format and structure of the paper
If you target a specific journal, be sure to follow the format they recommend If you want a wider choice of journals: choose a traditional structure for the article

9 Title of the article Focus on the research question
Consider pointing to your data set Give realistic expectations

10 Research question Present it early on, maybe under a special subtitle
Check that you don’t present a new research question later on in the text Concentrate on one question and formulate it so that it orients the readers interest and links it to your methods and ambitions: Do you explore, discover, present a perspective, raise consciousness, test a hypothesis etc? Readers are not as a rule interested in things like if and when you have changed your research question

11 Review of earlier research
Shows that you want to establish your place in the research community Cover the culturally relevant literature, but do not limit yourself to that Should not only be descriptive: position yourself in relation to earlier research. What has been missed or misinterpreted by earlier writers? Why do you want to build on someone else’s work? The literature review should lead to your theoretical and methodological position and choice of data. So choose the literature that has theoretical relevance

12 Presentation of methods and data
Justify the choice of methods, explaining why alternatives were not chosen If several methods, explain how they complement each other Describe the content of the method: readers will probably not know it Show that the method has been used systematically, on the whole data set. Use your central concepts consistently Argue for the size of your sample and be precise in describing it. Position it, but do so economically. Why this data set and not alternatives? What criteria did you use for picking the sample? What were the variations within the sample? If you use only a part of your total data, describe the rest of the data briefly How was the data produced and collected? How was the study introduced to the participants? Describe the analysis step by step. Consider giving a detailed description of one observation/item to show how it was done. Show how you argued for saturation, handled diversity and contradictons Describe how you handled your data (transcription, coding, grouping etc.)

13 Results Make it easy for the reader: link the presentation to the research question, following the logics of your theory and methods, with consistent concepts Present your data systematically: quotations, field notes and other documentation should be easy to identify Give enough, but not too much, raw data. Avoid very short quotations. Use appendices Do not present new kinds of data which were not introduced in the methods section. Be open about contradictions

14 Discussion Start by repeating the research question and stating the main results in one sentence. How do your findings relate to earlier research (including quantitative studies)? Do your findings change the picture and understanding of anything? How can the results be generalised to other situations? What are the limitations of your study? Did problems with sample and data collection limit your ability to answer the research question? What data or methods could possibly have complemented it? What questions do you recommend for further research?

15 Some general advices Save your best data for scientific articles
Choose the right journal: 30 addiction journals publish qualitative research Suggest suitable referees

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