Results 1: Content analysis (qual + quant) of 133 guidelines of the health sciences
An investigation using the keywords “health, qualitative research, assessment, appraising, quality criteria, peer review process, guidelines, evaluation and standards” was conducted in the MEDLINE, PsychInfo, CINAHL, PeruniL, ScienceDirect and Web of Sciences databases. This literature helped us to examine 133 guidelines (checklists or guidelines), with the following inclusion criteria:
- published between 1993 and 2011
- guidelines published for health scientists (medicine, nursing, health psychology, sociology of health, anthropology, public health, etc.)
- guidelines that were sufficiently developed and commented
- written work published by journals, health institutes or organizations, whose scientific quality has been validated
The content analysis of our corpus highlighted:
- Wide diversity in terms of content and focus (generic/specific, adapted to qualitative research or not; methodological aspects; theories; qualities of the researcher, etc.)
- Criteria imprecise and difficult to compare, or apply
- Guidelines emphasizing the systematic and detailed description of the research plan, the context (Chappel & Rogers, 1998; Rogers, Popay, Williams & Latham, 1997, 1998).
- Guidelines stressing the joint contribution of methods (Chappel & Rogers, 1998; Seale & Silverman, 1994, 1997).
- Guidelines emphasizing the construction of the research and the place of the researcher in the context (Chappel & Rogers, 1998; Hoddinott & Pill, 1997)
Results 2: Content analysis for the identification of the paradigmatic references as defined by the authors
- Wide variety of terms used by the authors to describe their work and their design of the criteria
- The definitions of “large” categories does not refer to the same content according to each author
- Confusion between the epistemological, theoretical and methodological levels
- Philosophical foundations and theoretical backgrounds seem confused
As a result, a table of a continuum of paradigms was created, highlighting the complexity of the epistemological and paradigmatic differences present in the analysed guidelines
We can postulate that the confusion between the different terms and levels is linked to :
- The different positions of authors on the different paradigms
- A diverse knowledge of philosophical notions used to paradigms, methods, theories, etc.
- A diverse knowledge of the notions according to the disciplinary background of each group
- A lack of interest in the “coherence/congruence” between research question, paradigm, data collection method,methodological tools for this collection, data analysis theory
- Relative lack of formal link between “methods and criteria for the validity of the methods” and “analytical theories”. As if the methods could alone resolve the issue of how to interpret the data.
- Relative lack of link between the methodological tools of data collection and the underlying theories to the analysis of these data