Qualitative reports are written and presented in a very different way to quantitative reports. The differences in technique and style reflect the differing epistemology, research questions, methods and goals of qualitative research. The following guide is designed to help you put together your qualitative report. Please note that the structure of the report and what is expected in each section is the same, regardless of your chosen methodology.
Before you consider writing up your own report it is essential that you get to grips with your chosen form of analysis. It is important that you use the lecture materials as a starting place, engage in seminar and workshop activities and during class to ask any questions you may have about your chosen form of analysis. After attending lectures it is very important that you engage in further reading and read through at least one journal article which uses your chosen form of analysis.
The journal article does not have to directly relate to the research area in the module (gender, health or emotion) to be useful. When you read through the paper you are looking to see how the research is formulated, carried out and reported, especially in terms of analysis. Reading published qualitative research is extremely important because it gives you a guide on how to set out your analysis, the kinds of language used by researchers using qualitative methods and how qualitative research is set up and presented overall.
Structuring a Qualitative Report
If you write up the qualitative report in full you are aiming to produce a report that is set out like a journal article. You should observe the 3,000 word limit for the report. This word limit includes the extracts you present in your analysis but does not include the title, abstract and the reference section.
The title should clearly and concisely indicate the topic of study. Good titles usually include the analytic approach used in the report e.g. A thematic analysis of young mens understandings of fatherhood.
Your title should not be phrased as a research hypothesis. Qualitative methods DO NOT aim to test hypothesises. The words used in the title should be appropriate for the method of analysis. For example, IPA aims to explore peoples thoughts and feelings and so its OK to make reference to these in the title. However, within FDA and DP language is not seen as a reflection of cognition and this should be reflected in the wording of the title.
At the end of this section the reader should have a very clear idea about
1) The topic under investigation.
2) The type of data collection used. If interviews were used what kind of interview schedule was used? How many participants were included etc. If media data is used where did it come from? How many articles were selected?
3) The analytic method used. Please note that at this point you do not have to provide lots of detail concerning your chosen method, you just need to state the type of analysis you used.
4) General findings (the themes presented in the analysis).
5) The main conclusions drawn.
The introduction section should be approached in the same way as any other sort of psychological study. This section should provide
1) A review of the background literature. Give a clear overview of the current research in the area you are investigating. This research can be qualitative or quantitative but it must relate to the area of individual difference that the report focuses on. Make sure that you are selective and only present the most relevant and up to date research in the introduction so you have a clear and focused narrative or argument that runs throughout the whole report.
2) The identification of a particular gap in, or problem with, existing literature in your research area. You need to build a clear rationale for your own research. How does it build upon the existing research? Does it add to an under researched area? Does it add to existing research by working with a different participant group? Remember when evaluating research you do not just focus on all the negative aspects of existing research. It is important to give a balanced evaluation which acknowledges the contribution a piece of research has made whilst also exploring the limitations of the research.
3) Build a rationale for your research. Does your report use qualitative methods in an area which has been dominated by quantitative research? If this is the case what different insights/knowledge can be gained using a qualitative approach?
4) State your research question. The introduction should end with a statement of what you are going to address in your report. Your research question should follow on from the rationale for your research. Remember that the research question should not be stated as a research hypothesis this aligned with experimentally based research. Word your research question appropriately e.g. given the lack of qualitative research on fatherhood this report uses semi structured interviews to explore young mens experiences of being a father. The wording here must also be consistent with your chosen analytic approach. Guidance on this will be provided in workshops.
A qualitative methodology section is very different from a quantitative method section. Qualitative methodology sections do not have a number of different subheadings and they tend to be longer the quantitative method sections.
Broadly speaking you should have two paragraphs in this section.
The first paragraph gives information on where the data came from.
For interview studies
1) Participant(s) information such as how many people took part, did the participants belong to a certain group such as men, mature students etc? How old are the participants? Why focus on this group?
2) Where did the data come from? Did you use focus groups, semi structured interviews, text from a website or internet forum? Why did you use a certain type of data collection? For example what are the advantages of using semi structured interview schedule? What topics did the interview centre on?
3) What ethical considerations were made? Participants will have given informed consent, given the right to withdraw and will have been debriefed.
For media studies
1) Where did the media extract come from? Did they all come from a specific newspaper, magazine or forum? Why? Do they all relate to a specific time period? Why?
2) Why use this type of data? What are the advantages of using data from the media or forums?
3) What ethical considerations were made? Although this research does not require collecting data from human participants there are ethical considerations. Copy-right is relevant here- all newspaper articles provided as part of the dataset for the module are copy-right cleared.
The second paragraph gives information about the analytic method
In this paragraph you need to clearly state what type of analysis you are going to use in the report. You will need to make reference to the key researchers in this area and the aims and scope of the analysis. So if for example you were conducting an IPA analysis you would need to make reference to the work and research of Jonathan Smith to demonstrate your knowledge of the method. When discussing your analytic method you need to make sure that you give a clear account of the epistemology that underpins the approach you are using and the aims and scope of the analysis. Finally, you need to give an overview of the analytic procedure.
The traditional Results section found in quantitative reports is replaced with an Analysis section in qualitative studies. It will be the longest section of your report.
The analysis section must conform to the conventions of your chosen analytic technique. The learning materials, workshop activities and published research should help here. If you are in doubt ask your workshop leader.
Broadly speaking the analysis should focus on themes that run throughout the data set. You will not be able to present all the themes identified in the data set in the analysis so you need to focus your attention on a small number of interlinked themes. Remember that you need a clear narrative running through the report so the themes have to fit together around one central issue and the research question addressed in the report. If you select themes which are not related then there will be no flow to your analysis and you will end up with an unfocused analysis.
Selecting extracts for analysis
When you have selected which themes you are going to work with you need to think about which extracts relating to each theme you are going to use in your analysis. In order to do this you need to collect all the extracts relating to each theme together. You may want to do this by highlighting relevant extracts on a print out or electronically cutting and pasting them onto one document. When you have all your extracts grouped together select the extracts which best represent each theme for analysis.
Working analytically with extracts
Each theme must be well evidence with extracts (quotes) taken from your data set. You must work closely with these extracts following the analytic method you have chosen to interpret what has been said. Where relevant links can be made between the analysis and the literature covered in the introduction. Guidance on how best to do this for each methodology will be given in class.
In qualitative reports most work goes into the analysis section where the themes are fully explored. This means that the discussion section is usually much shorter than quantitative reports. The aim of this section is to draw together your main analytic points and indicate how you have contributed to the research area you have focused on.
The discussion starts with a summary of the main findings of your analysis. This usually involves summarising the themes, exploring how they link together and examining the new insights gained in your analysis. You should then move on to consider the implications your findings have for psychological theory and practice. This section usually concludes with an evaluation of the method you used and suggestions for future research. Suggestions for future research directions should be thoughtful and firmly grounded in your own findings.
You need to make sure that you follow APA referencing guidelines throughout the report.
The following link provides useful information about APA referencing style.
Content of Coursework
required to write up a qualitative research study using one of the methodologies and associated topic areas below. These are methodologies and associated areas that you will cover in the module:
Methodology and associated topic areas:
1. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis: Health
2. Discursive Psychology: Emotion
3. Foucauldian Discourse Analysis: Gender
The work for the qualitative report will entail:
1. Selecting one qualitative methodology and associated area of individual differences from those introduced in the module.
2. Conducting an initial search of the literature in the chosen area of individual differences to inform the development of a research question/aim.
3. Analysing the data provided using the selected methodology.
4. Writing a report consisting of the following:
a. Informative title
b. Structured abstract
c. Focused introduction outlining research in the area of individual differences you have chosen to focus on and a clear rationale for the study informed by previous research. A clearly stated and appropriately worded research question.
d. Methods section outlining your design, participants/data set, procedure, ethical considerations and data analysis (including philosophical underpinning)
e. Analysis section to include all data analysis including links back to the literature
f. Brief conclusion summarising the analysis and discussing the literature from the introduction in the light of the analysis
g. Reference list (not included in the word count): Give full details for all references you mention in your text. Make sure you check the Guidelines on Referencing in the student course handbook (based on APA guidelines), available on the Current Students homepage.