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Editor’s note: Introduction to guidelines on reporting qualitative research

Last year we developed statistical guide- lines for JAN papers. Reviewers were consulted, drafts produced and further refined after more rounds of consulta- tion. The agreed guidelines are now on the JAN website and are used by reviewers and editors when assessing papers with statistical content, and we hope that authors also consult them. Next we turned our attention to papers based on qualitative research and went through the same drafting, consultation and redrafting process to produce similar guidelines. Reviewers with particular expertise in qualitative research and the editorial team participated in this, and the guidelines are now available at http:// www.journalofadvancednursing. com. We will use the guidelines when considering qualitative research reports, and we ask authors to consult them when writing their papers for submission to JAN. What made us decide that we needed these guidelines for statistical and qualit- ative research articles? JAN is the highest ranking international nursing journal lis- ted in the Institute for Scientific Informa- tion Citation Reports: in 2002 it was ranked 10th of the 42 nursing journals on the list, and had an impact factor of 0Æ797. The Impact Factor for a given year is defined as the total number of citations received in that year to articles published in the previous two years, divided by the total number of citable items published by the journal in those two years. To improve the quality of JAN further, we try to ensure that papers published are as rigor- ous as possible. We know that authors want this, because it adds to the prestige of having an article accepted for JAN. Readers want it too, so that they can rely on what they read in JAN as they look for sound research that they can incorporate into their own practice, research or teach- ing. Supporting new authors is also one of JAN’s aims, and we think that giving guidance will help new contributors to design their research, carry it out and


write it up using standards that are considered to be trustworthy. JAN was founded in 1976, when nursing education and research were on the way to becoming well-established in universities in the United States of America. However, in other countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia, Hong Kong and the Scandinavian coun- tries, the move into higher education has been more recent. For some of us it may still be necessary to convince colleagues in other disciplines that nursing research and education have a rightful place in the university and that our standards of scholarship are high enough to justify this status. Increasingly, too, the trend is towards multidisciplinary research and this will expose our work to scrutiny beyond our own discipline. Research methodologies and methods are shared among all disciplines, whose members adapt them accordingly. Prac- tice-orientated subjects such as nursing may use different combinations and applications than others whose interface with humans as the focus of their work is less direct, such as physics or modern languages. However, the funda- mental epistemologies and methodolo- gies underpinning research are the same whatever the field of application, and the research approach chosen for a project has implications for the methods used to carry it out. For example, groun- ded theory involves concurrent data col- lection and analysis, and first and second level coding. Theoretical sampling may be used to develop the analysis, and saturation may be achieved. A core category to which the other categories are related should be identified, and some studies may allow a grounded theory to be developed. If all the data in a study are collected and then the analysis is done, then this cannot be considered as groun- ded theory. If a number of discrete themes with no interlinkages are repor- ted, this is not grounded theory; it is

probably more appropriately termed thematic or content analysis. Phenomenology also has certain essen- tial features with which some methods are not compatible. Firstly, it is necessary to distinguish between the different schools of phenomenology, such as Husserlian, Heideggerian, Gadamerian or Ricoeurian, and then to ensure that implementing the chosen approach is consistent with its principles. In all forms, however, data collection is relat- ively unstructured. Interviews begin with a broad opening question which invites participants to talk about the topic from their own point of view. Follow-up questions to encourage them to expand on a particular point should take a similar open approach of the kind, ‘Could you say a little more about that?’ or ‘How did you feel about that?’. An interview guide, or list of possible areas of interest, may be drawn up in advance, but a structured or semi-structured inter- view schedule of questions to be asked of all participants is incompatible with a phenomenological approach. All reports of qualitative research should discuss the findings in relation to the literature and should include consideration of the rigour of the work, using criteria appropriate to qualitative research. Nothing is ever the last word on a topic, and we hope to receive feedback on the content and application of these guidelines. There may also be other topics within qualitative research, or other areas, where it would be useful to draw up similar guidelines. We hope that readers who identify such oppor- tunities will tell us about them and perhaps be involved in developing them to help us take JAN forward in the direction in which authors, readers and reviewers would like it to progress.

Christine Webb

Executive Editor

2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Editor’s note


ALL qualitative research reports


findings discussed in relation to the literature consideration of rigour, using criteria appropriate for qual- itative research

Grounded theory


concurrent data collection and analysis theoretical sampling used as part of analysis identification of a core category grounded in the data (a study may not reach the final stage of fully developing an explan- atory theory, but may usefully inform nursing by description and exploration) first and second level coding (e.g. open, axial and selective coding) theoretical saturation

Not compatible with

all data being collected and then analysed afterwards – this would be thematic analysis, content analysis or similar identification of discrete themes with no linking core cate- gory



statement of which form is being used (Husserl, Heidegger, Gadamer, Ricoeur, etc.) if Husserlian, discussion of bracketing and how this was done focus on the meaning of experience (if Husserlian) or the interpretation of meaning (if hermeneutic) unstructured data collection, e.g. interview starting with a very open question, followed up by general probes (Could you say more about that? How did that make you feel? etc) use of appropriate and systematic data analysis method, e.g. Colaizzi, van Manen or an appropriate adaptation of an established, credible process transparency about the research process, e.g. use of journal data, how the author’s horizon of understanding and pre- understanding operated attention is paid to representation (use of participant voice/s in the text) identification of the essence of the phenomenon, not just ‘themes’ or ‘categories’

Not compatible with

structured methods of data collection, e.g. semi-structured interviews group methods of data collection, e.g. focus groups, group interviews ‘member checking’, attempt to ‘validate’ the interpretation with participants

Focus groups


discussion of the influence of interaction between partici- pants on the data collected

Not compatible with

group (rather than individual) interviews done for conveni- ence only, with no focus on interaction.



relevance of individual biography objective experiences individual/s theorize about their life/lives narrative segments included as data patterns of meaning identified for events, process, themes



describes and interprets a culture or social group includes observations, interviews, artefacts carried out over an extended period of time description, analysis of cultural themes, interpretation – questions raised and lessons learned narrative includes description of cultural behaviour of an individual or group

Case study


in-depth analysis of single or multiple case/s multiple sources of data, e.g. documentation interviews, observation, environmental detail description, themes, assertions description of case and context development of issues, selected issues and assertions consideration of rigour, using criteria appropriate for qual- itative research findings discussed in relation to the literature


Annells M. (2002) Grounded theory (Schneider Z., Elliott D., LoBiondo-woods G. & Haber J., eds). Nursing Research:

Methods, Critical Appraisal and Utilisation, 2nd edn. Mosby, Sydney, pp. 163–178. Creswell J.W. (1998) Qualitative Inquiry and Research design. Choosing Among Five Traditions. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, CA. Giorgi A. (1988) Validity and reliability from a phenomenological perspective. In Recent Trends in Theoretical Psychology (Baker W.J., Mos L.P., Rappard H.V. & Stam H.J., eds). Springer- Verlag, New York, pp. 167–176. Giorgi A. (1997) The theory, practice and evaluation of the phe- nomenological methodas a qualitative research procedure. Journal of Phenomenological Psychology 28, 235–260. Stevens P.E. (1996) Focus groups. Collecting aggregate-level data to understand community health phenomena. Public Health Nur- sing 12, 170–176. Strauss A. & Corbin J. (1998) Basics of Qualitative Research Techniques and Procedures of Developing Grounded Theory. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA. Webb C. & Kevern J. (2001) Focus groups as a research method: a critique of some aspects of their use in nursing research. Journal of Advanced Nursing 33, 798–805.

2003 Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Journal of Advanced Nursing, 42(6), 544–545