Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
From Qualitative Research to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types
There is a world view and art to writing qualitative research that can be misconstrued, particularly by those inexperienced with qualitative research methods. The chapter identifies common “missteps” in writing the qualitative research report. Chapter 8 walks the reader through each important writing task associated with qualitative research, from the title and abstract to each section of the manuscript. The chapter also includes guidelines and checklists that writers can use to assess each component of a manuscript and generate publishable qualitative research articles.
A group of doctoral students is enrolled in the first of three research courses that focus on qualitative methods. One student comments, “When I read some examples of published qualitative studies, I noticed some things. The people were referred to as participants rather than subjects. I also saw examples of the participants’ verbatim comments in several places in these articles.” These two observations help to explain how the qualitative researcher/author’s style departs from that of the quantitative researcher/author’s approach. Quantitative research has its origins in agricultural experiments. For example, a few acres of land are divided into plots and a single variable is manipulated to see which conditions (e.g., different seeds, plants, or fertilizers) result in the best crop yield. The conditions here are relatively easy to control and one can say with some confidence what caused the observed effects. Qualitative research, on the other hand, has its roots in sociological study of human beings. The researcher (literally) lives with the population under study, makes no attempt to manipulate variables, and takes copious observational notes that include the actual words of individuals under study. Qualitative study is naturalistic and the researcher generally is more of a participant/observer. Then, because the focus is on human beings rather than plants, there is much more unpredictability. A statement that captures the crux of qualitative research is widely attributed to Albert E. Einstein, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”
Scholars seeking to write and publish qualitative research rely far less on numbers to respond to questions and rely instead on words and images. They are all about capturing the lived experience of their participants. As a result, writing qualitative research typically requires some mastery of narrative discourse because the story is told through words. Rather than striving for generalizability across situations and dismissing the “outliers”, qualitative researchers revel in the particular and are fascinated by the unusual. Rather than asserting that the data speak for themselves and using statistical analysis to guide interpretation, writers of qualitative research invite multiple perspectives on the data they present, acknowledging that their point of view is but one of many possible interpretations. This does not mean, however, that “anything goes”. Qualitative researchers look for patterns, supported by their data, just as quantitative researchers use statistical formulas to bolster their arguments. One type of research is not “easier” than the other; rather, both rely on rigor of different types and both are used to answer specific research questions.
A good example that is applicable in many fields is attrition amongst college students pursuing a degree and/or certification or who are novices in a profession. Quantitative researchers would tend to get a little bit of data from a large number of people; for instance, a national survey of attrition among nurses during their first 5 years of employment. Conversely, qualitative researchers’ claims to authority would tend to rest on depth than breadth; they might conduct interviews with a small number of professionals who left the profession in hopes of understanding the influences on a decision to exit the profession. The nature of the research questions determines whether qualitative or quantitative approaches are the best fit.
Numerous academic disciplines, especially the social sciences—use qualitative research as a mode of inquiry. Since qualitative researchers use different methodologies and writing styles, it is difficult to describe how to write a research study. Qualitative research is composed of many approaches that are used for data collection, analysis and writing the report. What makes a good qualitative research report? There is no “one
The National Science Foundation offers and helpful overview of the most commonly used qualitative data collection methods posted at: http://www.nsf.gov/pubs/1997/nsf97153/.
size fits all” answer because qualitative research is not a single practice; it involves a wide range of philosophies, research purposes, intended audiences, methodologies, data sources, and reporting styles (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011). This chapter guides you through the process of writing a qualitative research report. Its goal is to motivate both novice and experienced researchers to systematically write a qualitative research report that is of publishable quality.
To get a sense of the different “world view” of qualitative and quantitative research, watch as two avatars debate the strengths of each paradigm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddx9PshVWXI.