publishing qualitative research issues and suggestions albert boonstra june 28th 2012 n.
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Publishing qualitative research issues and suggestions Albert Boonstra June 28th 2012. My perspective Most of my own research is qualitative. I study IS implementation processes in their context. Conducting qualitative research is difficult, but also challenging and relevant.

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My perspective

Most of my own research is qualitative. I study IS implementation processes in their context.Conducting qualitative research is difficult, but also challenging and relevant.

Associate editor of ISJ, a journal specialized in qualitative research (v. good category).

The ISJ encourages submissions that reflect the wide and interdisciplinary nature of the subject and articles that integrate technological disciplines with social, contextual and management issues, based on research using any appropriate research method. The ISJ has particularly built its reputation by publishing qualitative research and it continues to welcome such papers


Contents (20 minutes)

Qualitative research

Five common problems

Five comments from reviewers

Five suggestions for qualitative researchers

Some concerns and ideas


Qualitative research

Aims at understanding real life situations

Suitable for the business and management domain,

where academic research is often criticized for its lack of relevance

Results do often catch attention because it describes and analyses a rich story


What is qualitative research? (1)

Seeking understanding by talking to people, focus on text. Engaged with people in real organizations

Based on the notion that knowledge is context dependent

Data are approached by questions such as:

-what is happening

-why is it happening

-how has it come to happen, and

-when did it happen


What is qualitative research? (2)

Includes a broad category of partially overlapping research types, including action research, case study research, ethnography, grounded theory

Qualitative research can be exploratory, explanatory, developing, validating or falsifying theories


Five common problems of qualitative research papers

TheoryStudy is notinformedbytheory, theoreticalcontribution is limited or the qualitative data are not well connectedwiththeory.

Method Strengths of qualitative research method are notutilized.

Research questions do notjustify a qualitative approach.

Research methodsection is notpreciseand vague.

WritingstyleWriting, especially the resultssection is messy, wordy, notorganizedaround research questionsand hard tocomprehend.


Five comments from reviewers


‘..The model is quite narrow, it is hard to build a bridge to the case study..

A mismatch between a clean model suitable for using quantitative methods, and the case study, which has a lot of potential richness..’ (MISQ)

Link between model and data. Variable model combined with qualitative approach


Five comments from reviewers


‘..The research method of this research seems to be content analysis, whereas typical case-studies tend to examine the context, process and relationships. In fact, most of the data analysis involves classifying narratives into the framework.. ‘ (JSIS)

Limited use of the strengths of a qualitative approach


Five comments from reviewers


‘..In fact, case study is just the right technique. It would be good to elaborate the time taken for the interviews, the type of questions asked, more details on the interviewees etc ..’ (ISJ)

More elaborated method section


Five comments from reviewers


‘..This criticism regards the description of the data. While the paper does provide some quantitative information about the dataset, more information about the "thickness" of the data (Geertz, 1973) is required..’ (EJIS)

Rich description of data


Five comments from reviewers


‘..In terms of discussion, I gather that the qualitative data is interpreted to provide strength to the argument developed. However, I am not able to find the argument arising from the data leading to the four groups presented later..’ (ISJ)

Weak link between data and contribution


Five suggestions

    • Qualitative research is time-consuming and involves a high degree of skills and expertise.
  • Undertake qualitative research as part of a team.
  • Discuss early versions of your work with people who are able
  • to provide constructive and developmental feedback.

Five suggestions


Select a candidate journal at the start of the research project (plus a fall back option).

Study a few very good related qualitative research papers.

Think about candidate research questions and theoretical contribution right from the start.


Five suggestions


Start writing, right from the start. Writing is thinking.

Develop your writing style. Be to the point, well structured, focused.

Tell a story to the reader, that develops from a motivation and a question to a conclusion in a logical way.

Remove unnecessary parts, which distract the reader from main line (baby-killing).


Five suggestions


Research method section is important and not straightforward. Tell the readers what you did, but also why. Be as transparent as possible.


Five suggestions


Present the data analysis/results in a structured fashion, close to the research questions. Reviewers dislike the messy presentation of results of many qualitative research papers.



Lack of adequate courses on qualitative research

Negative bias to qualitative research

Decreasing number of leaders of qualitative approaches


Ideas for our group

In our group we should embrace methodological pluralism

Collaboration of quantitative and qualitative researchers to produce mixed method papers

Qualitative researchers should collaborate and help each other to improve quality


Some resources

DubéandParé (2003) Rigor in IS positivist case research. MISQ

Hennink, Hutter, Bailey, (2011) Qualitative Research Methods, Sage.

Excellenctchapteraboutwritingqualitative research.

MilesandHuberman, (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis, Sage.

Excellent sources

Wolcott, (2001) Writing up qualitative research, Sage.

Focus on writingandpublishingqualitative research.

Flyvbjerg (2006), Five misunderstandingsaboutcase-study research, QualitativeInquiry, 12(2): 219-245.