Qualitative Research Proposal
Module 10: The qualitative research proposal
• Overview: generic structure of a research proposal
• Details: qualitative research proposals
• Preparation of a research proposal.
When you have completed this module, you should be able to:
1. Understand the components that constitute the generic process in qualitative research.
2. Plan a qualitative research study.
3. Write a qualitative research proposal.
This module is all about assisting you to understand the steps involved in the preparation of a qualitative research proposal, vis-à-visAssignment 3 in the Unit Information booklet.
Throughout the modules references have been made to the various components integral to the qualitative research process or method. The aim of this module is to draw these threads together and to provide guidelines on how to prepare a qualitative research proposal. Modules 7, 8 and 9 are especially pertinent to the development of a research proposal.
In Module 7, discussion centred on the identification of a researchable question, the role of the literature review in terms of the topic to be researched and the chosen theoretical framework, the selection of the participants and the associated ethical concerns, if one is intending to undertake fieldwork. If a conceptual study is to be undertaken, the focus is on the question, the topic literature and the theoretical framework literature. After these steps, a conceptual study would consist of a series of chapters germane to the question.
Module 8 concentrated on the qualitative research strategies of data collection, namely, the interview, observation and documents.
Module 9 directed attention to strategies and issues in data analysis. The issues relate to the trustworthiness of the data, triangulation as a method of validating data and the role of computers in analysing qualitative data.
The remainder of this module presents the structure of a generic research proposal. It provides further details about what is involved under the respective generic headings to complement those in Module 7. Finally, the readings provide informative mention on funding issues and what is involved in the ‘writing up’ phase of a qualitative proposal.
Overview: generic structure of a research proposal
1. Research question/context of research.
2. Literature review/conceptual framework.
3. Methodology/theoretical framework.
4. Describe and justify research site.
5. Detail and justify the sample selection approach, the characteristics of the sample and the process of gaining access to the sample.
6. Describe and justify data collection strategies.
7. Describe and justify data analysis strategies.
8. Address ethical issues.
Details: qualitative research proposals
This section teases out further details related to the content of research proposals relevant to your assignment.
Preparation of a research proposal
For Assignment 3 you are asked to identify a question relevant to your professional and practice interests and then prepare a research proposal.
The preparation of a proposal is to assist you to think about what it is you would like to know and do in order to conduct a research study. The generic structure of a research proposal presented below demonstrates the steps that the researcher needs to address. You are not expected to follow through with the proposal in this unit. If you are undertaking higher degree studies now, or if you decide to do so in the future, in an area of qualitative research then this exercise should be a valuable experience. There are several readings provided to guide your understanding.
Set out an introduction that explains what is being studied and explains the context of the study.
2. Literature review/conceptual framework
Undertake a literature review that justifies the study topic and provides some context to the study. Note, however, that the form that this review takes in qualitative research may vary dependent upon the theoretical perspective.
State the research question/purpose. You should also set down research aims. The aims tell the reader exactly what will happen in the research. For example:
The aims of this research are to:
Explore the perceptions of …
Critically analyse professional documents related to…
Generate analytical conclusions around the…
Argue the implications of…
In doing the above, consider the theoretical framework (methodology) that will be applied in the study. The question/purpose and aims and the theoretical framework must ‘match up’ to ensure the soundness of qualitative research investigations.
4. Theoretical framework
Develop an argument for chosen theoretical framework and explain and justify the assumptions that underpin the theory. This is important because the concepts in the framework will inform the analysis. Strongly justify the use of the theoretical ideas. It is important also that you use primary sources in this discussion. In other words, draw on the works of key theorists in the area.
5. Research site
Explain and provide a rationale for the site selection. The site may be a natural setting of the everyday world, a policy document, or a scientific study (as the object of study). Give sufficient detail about the site.
The number of participants will vary with the type of study (or methodology) chosen. Usually in phenomenological studies a small number is required because a considerable amount of rich data is gathered and any more participants makes the transcription process difficult in terms of time and money. However, in grounded theory, the ongoing data analysis dictates the number of participants. The point at which data collection ceases in grounded theory is often referred to as saturation. This is where ongoing data collection and analysis produces no new information. Note that the concept of saturation is contentious. Many researchers state but do not/cannot demonstrate saturation. It is also difficult to imagine complete saturation of any research topic.
Here is where you explain how the sample will be selected (theoretical, purposive, convenience etc). Describe the characteristics of the sample and explain why these sample features. Describe the process of recruiting participants. Demonstrate that the sample is appropriate to the research question/purpose/aims.
Take note of the sampling options outlined in a previous module and read about this issue. The most important point here is that the researcher must provide a supporting argument for the sample choice.
1. Data collection strategies
In respect to the data collection strategies in qualitative research refer to Module 8. In qualitative research it is well established that there are three data collection strategies:
Interviewing and tape recorder
Documents—for example, medical records, information brochures, diaries from participants or policy documents.
Describe and justify the data collection methods to be used in your assignment.
2. Data analysis
Explain and justify the process of analysis to be applied. Make sure it fits with the methodology. The analysis of data in phenomenological studies is more straightforward than in grounded theory research. In respect to the method of data analysis in a sociological based study, such as grounded theory, revisit the relevant module. Other forms of data analysis are applied in feminist and discourse analysis research. The key to this section is to justify choice of analysis.
3. Ethical issues
As noted earlier, to protect participants who have agreed to be in the study, it is very important that the researcher maintains anonymity. The researcher also ensures that participants are informed about the study, that they may withdraw from the study at any time, and that they are guaranteed privacy and anonymity.