A Worksheet for Assessing Qualitative Articles

Created by William Miller and Benjamin Crabtree for The Journal of Family Practice.  This worksheet is printed in:

Frankel, RM. (1999). "Standards of Qualitative Research." In BF Crabtree and WL Miller (Eds.) Doing Qualitative Research (2nd edition) p. 341. Thousand Oaks: sage Publications.

Consider reading Frankel's chapter.  He presents a useful overview of the criteria of good qualitative work and articulates his view of what makes for great qualitative research.

1. Determine relevance - is this manuscript worth taking the time to read?  If the answer to any of the following questions is no, it may be better to read other manuscripts first. 

Based on the abstract:

  • Did the authors study an outcome that patients would care about? (Be careful to avoid results that require extrapolation to an outcome that truly matters to patients.) Yes (go on). No (stop)
  • Is the problem common to your practice, and is the intervention feasible? Yes (go no). No (stop).
  • Will this information, if true, require you to change your current practice? Yes (go on). No (stop).

2. Determine Validity: If the answer to all three questions above is yes, then continued assessment is mandatory.  Study design flaws are common; fatal flaws are arresting.

  • Was the appropriate method used to answer the question?  Yes. No (stop). Interviews should be used to study perception.  Observational methods are required to evaluate behavior.
  • Was appropriate and adequate sampling used to answer the question? Yes.  No (stop).  Participants, events and so on are selected to maximize appropriate information, the richest information relevant to the research question.  Random sampling is rarely used.  Assurance that enough people were studied to provide sufficient information should be found in the description.  Negative or disconfirming evidence should be sought.
  • Was an interative process of collecting and analyzing data used and data saturation achieved? Yes. No (Stop). In qualitative research, the investigative team learns about the topic as the research progresses.  The study design should consist of data collection and analysis, followed by more data collection and analysis, in an iterative fashion, until no new information is obtained.
  • Was a thorough analysis presented?  Yes. (Go on.)  No (Stop). A good qualitative study not only presents the findings but provides a thorough analysis of the data.  Beward of studies that simply present superficial descriptions without interpretation.  Something new should be learned.
  • Are the background, training, and preconceptions of the investigators described? Yes. (Go on.) No (Stop). Because the investigators are being relied on for analysis of the data, we must know their training and biases.  Knowing these characteristics, we can use them to evaluate their conclusions.  Are the researchers' original preconceptions are changed or are they surprised by the study results as they emerge?