Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research

Claire Anderson PhD, BPharm


Am J Pharm Educ. 2010;74(8):1-7. 

In This Article

Presentation of Qualitative Research Findings

The following extracts are examples of how qualitative data might be presented:

Data From an Interview. The following is an example of how to present and discuss a quote from an interview.

The researcher should select quotes that are poignant and/or most representative of the research findings. Including large portions of an interview in a research paper is not necessary and often tedious for the reader. The setting and speakers should be established in the text at the end of the quote.

The student describes how he had used deep learning in a dispensing module. He was able to draw on learning from a previous module, "I found that while using the e learning programme I was able to apply the knowledge and skills that I had gained in last year's diseases and goals of treatment module." (interviewee 22, male)

This is an excerpt from an article on curriculum reform that used interviews:[5]

The first question was, "Without the accreditation mandate, how much of this curriculum reform would have been attempted?" According to respondents, accreditation played a significant role in prompting the broad-based curricular change, and their comments revealed a nuanced view. Most indicated that the change would likely have occurred even without the mandate from the accreditation process: "It reflects where the profession wants to be … training a professional who wants to take on more responsibility." However, they also commented that "if it were not mandated, it could have been a very difficult road." Or it "would have happened, but much later." The change would more likely have been incremental, "evolutionary," or far more limited in its scope. "Accreditation tipped the balance" was the way one person phrased it. "Nobody got serious until the accrediting body said it would no longer accredit programs that did not change."

Data From Observations

The following example is some data taken from observation of pharmacist patient consultations using the Calgary Cambridge guide.[6,7] The data are first presented and a discussion follows:

Pharmacist: We will soon be starting a stop smoking clinic.
Patient: Is the interview over now?
Pharmacist: No this is part of it. (Laughs) You can't tell me to bog off (sic) yet. (pause) We will be starting a stop smoking service here,
Patient: Yes.
Pharmacist: with one-to-one and we will be able to help you or try to help you. If you want it.
In this example, the pharmacist has picked up from the patient's reaction to the stop smoking clinic that she is not receptive to advice about giving up smoking at this time; in fact she would rather end the consultation. The pharmacist draws on his prior relationship with the patient and makes use of a joke to lighten the tone. He feels his message is important enough to persevere but he presents the information in a succinct and non-pressurised way. His final comment of "If you want it" is important as this makes it clear that he is not putting any pressure on the patient to take up this offer. This extract shows that some patient cues were picked up, and appropriately dealt with, but this was not the case in all examples.

Data From Focus Groups

This excerpt from a study involving 11 focus groups illustrates how findings are presented using representative quotes from focus group participants.[8]

Those pharmacists who were initially familiar with CPD endorsed the model for their peers, and suggested it had made a meaningful difference in the way they viewed their own practice. In virtually all focus groups sessions, pharmacists familiar with and supportive of the CPD paradigm had worked in collaborative practice environments such as hospital pharmacy practice. For these pharmacists, the major advantage of CPD was the linking of workplace learning with continuous education. One pharmacist stated, "It's amazing how much I have to learn every day, when I work as a pharmacist. With [the learning portfolio] it helps to show how much learning we all do, every day. It's kind of satisfying to look it over and see how much you accomplish."
Within many of the learning portfolio-sharing sessions, debates emerged regarding the true value of traditional continuing education and its outcome in changing an individual's practice. While participants appreciated the opportunity for social and professional networking inherent in some forms of traditional CE, most eventually conceded that the academic value of most CE programming was limited by the lack of a systematic process for following-up and implementing new learning in the workplace. "Well it's nice to go to these [continuing education] events, but really, I don't know how useful they are. You go, you sit, you listen, but then, well I at least forget."

The following is an extract from a focus group (conducted by the author) with first-year pharmacy students about community placements. It illustrates how focus groups provide a chance for participants to discuss issues on which they might disagree.

Interviewer: So you are saying that you would prefer health related placements?
Student 1: Not exactly so long as I could be developing my communication skill.
Student 2: Yes but I still think the more health related the placement is the more I'll gain from it.
Student 3: I disagree because other people related skills are useful and you may learn those from taking part in a community project like building a garden.
Interviewer: So would you prefer a mixture of health and non health related community placements?


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