Common Pitfalls in Qualitative Research

The table below identifies some of the more common problems associated with doing qualitative research. 

Method for identifying common problems in doing qualitative research

Common pitfalls were identified by reviewing manuscripts that were submitted to a primary care research journal.  Manuscripts and reviewers' and editors' comments were read and notes were recorded identifying the major reasons for rejecting the manuscript. 

Articles were purposefully selected for variation in methods used.  The process of reviewing articles continued until no new reasons for a rejection were identified. 

Approximately 40 rejected manuscripts were evaluated in this manner until saturation was reached.  Our notes regarding the reasons for rejection were reviewed and synthesized into a list of common pitfalls. 

At this stage, reviewers' comments were examined again, this time with the aim of identifying excerpts that described the pitfall identified.  These were used to create the table below.

Format of the table

The first column of the table identifies the common problem.  The second column contains links to excerpts from Reviewers' comments about the identified problem.  The third column of the table provides links to information on this website that contains information relevant to the common problem (and avoiding it!)

Common Pitfall

Examples from Reviewers' Comments

Link to relevant topic on qualres

Lacks focus

Guidelines for Conducting, Analyzing and Reporting Qualitative Data

Too jargony


Guidelines for Conducting, Analyzing and Reporting Qualitative Data

Sample insufficient 



Analysis lacks depth


Methods lack adequate description



  • Malterud's article in The Lancet is very useful 


Data Quality Concerns