Report Writing for Qualitative & Quantitative Research and Research Dissemination

Afza.Malik GDA

Report Writing and Research Dissemination

Report Writing for Qualitative & Quantitative Research and  Research Dissemination

Report Writing for Qualitative & Quantitative Research and  Research Dissemination discussed components of report writing and their aspects in both Qualitative and Quantitative. 

    A research never complete until the findings have been shared with others in a research report. Reporting research results contributes to the base of evidence for nursing practice, and is a professional responsibility

Research Dissemination or Reporting Research Results 

    Communication outlet research results can be presented in various venues and types of publication. These include student related outlets (term papers, theses, and dissertations) and professional ones (journal articles, books, reports to funders, conference presentations). Researchers who want to communicate their findings to other researchers or clinicians can opt to present research findings orally or in writing . 

    Oral presentations (typically at professional conferences) can be a formal talk in front of an audience. Most conferences also give researchers the option of presenting findings in poster sessions in which results are summarized on a poster.

    Benefits of Oral presentation : Major advantages of oral presentations are that they typically can be done soon after study completion, and offer opportunities for dialogue among people interested in the same topic.

Written reports can take the form of research journal articles published in traditional professional journals, or in a variety of new outlets on the Internet.

    Benefits of written reports: Written journal articles have the major advantage of being available to a worldwide audience of readers—an important consideration in thinking about how a study can contribute to evidence-based nursing practice. Research reports for different outlets vary in a number of ways, as we discuss in a subsequent section

    Role of Audience: Knowing the Audience Good research communication depends on providing information that can be understood by consumers. Therefore, before researchers develop a dissemination strategy, they should consider the audience they are hoping to reach. Here are some questions to consider:

1. Will the audience include nurses only, or will it include professionals from other disciplines (eg, physicians, sociologists, anthropologists)?

2. Will the audience be primarily researchers, or will it include other professionals (clinicians, health care administrators, health care policy makers)?

3. Are clients (lay people) a possible audience for the report?

4. Will the audience include people whose native language is not English?

5. Will reviewers, editors, and readers be experts in the field?

    These questions underscore an important point, namely, that researchers usually have to write with multiple audiences in mind. This, is turn, means writing clearly and avoiding technical jargon to the extent possible. It is also means that researchers sometimes must develop a multiprong dissemination strategy for example, publishing a report aimed at other nurse researchers in a journal such Nursing Research, and then publishing a short summary of it for clinicians or clients in a hospital newsletter.

     Although writing for a broad audience may be an important goal, it is also important to keep in mind the needs of the main intended audience. If consumers of a report are mostly clinical nurses (as might be the case at some professional conferences and in specialty journals), it is important to emphasize what the findings mean for the practice of nursing. 

    If the audience is health care administrators or policy makers , explicit information should be included about how the research can be used to improve such outcomes as cost, efficiency, accessibility, and so on. Other researchers, if they are the primary targets, need more explicit information about the methods used, study limitations, and implications for future research.

Developing a plan

Before beginning to prepare research reports, researchers should develop a plan. Part of that plan involves decisions about the communication outlet and the audience for the report. Beyond that, researchers also have to coordinate the actual tasks of preparing a manuscript (ie, an unpublished paper or document).

Deciding on Authorship When a study has been completed by a team or by several colleagues, one critical part of the plan involves division of labor and authorship. 

Authorship can be a tricky business . The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE, 1997) advises that authorship credit should be given only to those who have made a substantial contribution to (1) the conception and design of the study, or to data analysis and interpretation; (2) drafting or revising the manuscript; and (3) approving the final version of the manuscript. 

    The lead author, who is usually the first named author, is the person who has overall responsibility for the report and, usually, for the study. The lead author and co-authors should plan in advance for the roles and responsibilities of each team member in producing the manuscript . To avoid the possibility of subsequent conflicts, they should also plan on the order of authors' names in advance. 

    Ethically, it is most appropriate to order names in the order of authors' contribution to the work, not according to status. When contributions of co-authors are comparable, names are usually listed alphabetically. Issues arising when there are multiple authors are discussed by Erlen, Siminoff , Sereika , and Sutton (1997).

Deciding on content

    Many studies collect far more data than can be reported on in a single journal article, poster, or conference presentation, and thus lend themselves to multiple publications. In such a situation, an early decision involves what aspects of a study to write about in a given paper. If there are multiple and complex research questions or hypotheses, perhaps several papers will be required to communicate important results adequately. 

    Researchers who collect both qualitative and quantitative data often report on each separately. Sometimes there are substantive, theoretical, and methodologic findings, each of which is intended for different audiences and merit separate papers. It is, however, not appropriate to write several papers when one would suffice. Each paper from a study should independently make a contribution to knowledge. 

    Those who make editorial decisions about manuscripts, as well as readers, expect original work, so unnecessary duplication or overlap should be avoided. It is also considered unethical to submit essentially the same or similar paper to two journals (or two conferences) simultaneously. Oermann (2002) offers excellent guidelines regarding duplicate and redundant publications.

Assembly Materials

    The planning process also involves assembling materials needed to begin a draft. One essential ingredient is information about manuscript requirements. Traditional journals, on-line journals, and conferences issue guidelines for authors, and these guidelines should be clearly understood before writing begins. We offer information about acquiring these guidelines and what types of information they contain later in this chapter. 

    Other materials also need to be pulled together and organized for easy retrieval. This includes notes about the relevant literature and references; instruments used in the study; descriptions of the study sample; output of computer analysis; relevant analytical memos or reflective notes; figures or photographs that illustrate some aspect of the study; and permissions to use copyrighted materials.

If the study needed approvals or obtained funding , the proposals or grant applications that were prepared for those purposes should be on hand. Other important tools are style manuals that provide information about both grammar and language use (eg, Turabian, 1996; University of Chicago Press, 1993; Strunk, White, & Angell, 2000), as well as more specific information about writing professional and scientific papers (eg, American Psychological Association, 2001; American Medical Association, 1997; ICMJE, 1997). Finally, there should be an outline and timeline.

Preparing to Outline

    Written outlines are extremely useful as an organizing tool. Outlines provide guidance for the content to be covered in a manuscript, and suggest ways in which smooth transitions between sections can be made.

    Research reports usually follow a fixed flow of content , as we subsequently discuss, but an outline with major headings and subheadings helps researchers to get an overview of the task ahead. A written outline is essential if there are multiple co-authors who each have responsibility for different sections of the manuscript. The overall outline and individual assignments should be developed collaboratively. 

    One final advantage of having an outline is that it can be incorporated into a timeline that sets goals or deadlines for completing the manuscript. Having a timeline cannot ensure that a manuscript will be completed in a timely fashion. Without a timeline, the dissemination phase can drag on for months or, worse yet, never reach completion. Authors can use the outline to establish goals for small and relatively manageable tasks.

Writing Effectively

    Some researchers are talented writers who do not agonize during this last phase of a study. Many people, however, have a hard time putting their ideas down on paper. It is clearly beyond the scope of this book to teach good writing skills, but we can offer a few suggestions. One suggestion, quite simply, is: do it. Get in the habit of writing, even if it is only 10 to 15 minutes a day. “Writer's block” is probably responsible for thousands of unfinished (or never-started) manuscripts each year. 

    So, just begin somewhere, and keep at it regularly. A research report does not have to be written in a linear fashion, from the beginning to the end. Writing can start in the middle (eg, by describing something you know well, like who the study participants were, or what hypotheses were addressed). The important thing is to get started. Writing is a bit like learning to swim or to play the piano: it gets easier with practice. 

    Writing well is, of course, important, and there are resources that offer suggestions on how to write compelling sentences, select good words, and organize your ideas effectively (eg, Iles, 1997; Browner, 1999). It is equally important, however, to not get bogged down at the beginning. Writing a first draft is harder than editing and revising. 

    It is usually better to write a draft in its entirety, and then go back later to rewrite awkward sentences, correct spelling and grammatical errors, reorganize sentences or paragraphs, insert more compelling or precise words, smooth the transitions, and generally polish it up.

Content Of Research Reports

    As noted, research reports may vary in terms of audience, purpose, and length. Theses or dissertations not only communicate research results, but document students' ability to perform scholarly empirical work; they therefore tend to be long. Journal articles, by contrast, are short because they compete with other reports for limited journal space, and are read by busy professionals.

    Quantitative reports typically follow a conventional format referred to as the IMRAD format . This format involves organizing study material into four sections—the Introduction, Method, Results, and Discussion. These sections, respectively, address the following questions:

• Why was the study done? (i)

• How was the study done? (M)

• What was learned? (r)

• What does it mean? (D)

    The Introduction Acquaints readers with the research problem, its significance, and the context in which it was developed. The introduction sets the stage for the study by describing the existing literature, the study's conceptual framework, the problem, research questions, or hypotheses, any underlying assumptions, and the rationale for doing the study. Although the introduction covers various aspects of the study background, it should be concise. 

    Readers are more interested in learning about new findings than about the researcher's breadth of knowledge of prior research or theory. A common critique of research manuscripts by reviewers and editors is that the introduction is too long. Introductions are often written in a funnel-shaped structure, beginning broadly to establish a framework for understanding the study, and then narrowing to the specifics of what researchers sought to learn. 

    The end point of the introduction should be a concise delineation of the research questions or the study hypotheses, which provides a good transition to the method section. Some researchers postpone stating the problem until late in the introduction, but readers profit from learning the general problem immediately. An up-front, clearly stated problem statement is of immense value in communicating the study's context. 

    Researchers should explain why the problem is important, in terms of either practical or theoretical significance. The introduction typically includes a summary of related research to provide a pertinent context. The literature review should be a brief summary rather than an exhaustive review (except for theses or dissertations). The literature review should make clear what is already known, and also gaps or deficiencies in that knowledge. 

    The review thus helps to clarify the contribution that the new study is making to evidence on a topic. The introduction also should describe the study's theoretical or conceptual framework, if relevant. The theoretical framework should be sufficiently explained so that readers who are unfamiliar with it can nevertheless understand its main thrust and its link to the research problem. 

    The introduction should include definitions of the concepts under investigation. Complete operational definitions are often reserved for the method section, but conceptual definitions belong early in the report. Introductory materials may not be explicitly grouped under a heading labeled Introduction; many journal articles begin without any heading. Some introductory sections, on the other hand, include subheadings such as Literature Review, Conceptual Framework, or Hypotheses. 

    In general, all the material before the method section is considered to be the introduction. The various background strands need to be convincingly and cogently interwoven to persuade readers that, in fact, the new study holds promise for adding to evidence for nursing.

The Method Section

    To evaluate the quality of evidence a study offers, readers need to understand exactly what researchers did to address the research problem. The method section ideally provides a sufficiently detailed description of the research methods that another researcher could replicate the study. In theses, this goal should almost always be satisfied. In journal articles and conference presentations, the method section may need to be condensed (eg, inclusion of a complete interview schedule is rarely possible). 

    The degree of detail should, however, permit readers to evaluate the methods and draw conclusions about the validity of the findings. The method section is often subdivided into several parts, which helps readers to locate vital information.

    As an example, the method section might contain the following subsections in an experimental study:

Research Design

Samples and Settings
Data Collection
Instrument Procedures

Data Analysis

    The method section usually begins with the description of the research design and its rationale. The design is often given more detailed coverage in experimental projects than in non-experimental ones. In experimental and quasi-experimental studies, researchers should indicate what specific design was adopted, what variables were manipulated, how subjects were assigned to groups, and whether “blinding” or “double blinding” was used. 

    Reports for longitudinal studies or studies with multiple points of data collection should indicate the number of times data were collected, and the amount of time elapsed between those points. In all types of quantitative studies, it is important to identify steps taken to control the research situation in general and extraneous variables in particular. Readers also need to know about study participants. 

    This section (which may be labeled Research Sample, Subjects, or Study Participants) normally includes a discussion of the population or community from which the sample was drawn, and a list of inclusion or exclusion criteria, to clarify the group to whom results can be generalized. The method of sample selection and its rationale, recruitment techniques, and sample size should be indicated so readers can understand the strengths and limitations of the sampling plan and determine how representative subjects are of the target population. 

    If a power analysis was undertaken to determine sample size needs, this should be clearly stated. There should also be information about response rates and, if possible, about response bias (or attrition bias, if this is relevant). Finally, the ethod section should describe basic characteristics of study participants (eg, age, gender, medical condition). A description of the method used to collect the data is a critical component of the method section. 

    This information might be included in a subsection labeled Instruments, Measures, or Data Collection. In rare cases, this description may be accomplished in three or four sentences, such as when a standard physiologic measure has been used. More often, a detailed explanation of the study instruments or procedures, and a rationale for their use, are required to communicate how data were gathered. 

    When it is not feasible to include actual instruments, their form and content should be described in as much detail as possible. If instruments were constructed specifically for the project, the report should describe their development, methods used for pretesting, revisions made as a result of pretesting, scoring procedures, and guidelines for interpretation. If special equipment was used (eg, to gather biophysiologic or observational data), it should be described, including information about the manufacturer. 

    The report should also indicate who collected the data (eg, the authors, research assistants, graduate students, nurses) and what type of training they received. The report must also convince readers that the data collection methods were sound. Any information relating to the quality of the data or the analysis, and the procedures used to evaluate that quality, should be described. 

    For psychosocial instruments, results from psychometric assessments should be provided. The method section (sometimes in a separate Procedures subsection) also provides information about steps used to collect the data and to protect human (or animal) subjects. 

    In an interview study, where were interviews conducted, who conducted them, and how long did the average interview last? In an observational study, what was the role of the observer in relation to subjects? When questionnaires are used, how were they delivered to respondents, and were follow-up procedures used to increase responses? Any unforeseen events occurring during data collection that could affect the findings should be described and assessed. 

    It is also useful to indicate when data were collected because changes in economic, social, or medical trends may need to be taken into account in interpreting the results. In experimental studies, the procedures subsection may include detailed information about the actual intervention (ie, about the main independent variable). 

    What exactly did the intervention detail? How and by whom was the treatment administered? What type of special training was required by those administering the treatment? What was done with subjects in the control group? How much time elapsed between the intervention and the measurement of the dependent variable? Analytic procedures are described either in the method or results section. It is usually sufficient to identify the statistical procedures used; computational formulas or references for commonly used statistics such as analysis of variance are not necessary. 

    For unusual procedures, or unusual applications of a common procedure, a technical reference justifying the approach should be noted. If a statistical procedure was used to control extraneous variables, the specific variables controlled should be mentioned. The level of significance is typically set at .05 for two-tailed tests, which may or may not be explicitly stated; however, if a different significance level or one-tailed tests were used, this must be specified.

The Results Section

    Readers scrutinize the method section to know if the study was done with rigor, but it is the results section that is at the heart of the report. In a quantitative study, the results of the statistical analyzes are summarized in a factual manner. If both descriptive and inferential statistics have been used, descriptive statistics ordinarily come first, to provide an overview of study variables. 

    If key research questions involve comparing groups with regard to dependent variables (eg, in an experimental or case–control study), the early part of the results section usually provides information about the groups' comparability with regard to extraneous variables, so readers can evaluate selection bias. 

    Research results are then usually ordered in terms of their overall importance. If, however, research questions or hypotheses have been numbered in the introduction, the analyzes addressing them should be ordered in the same sequence. The researcher must be careful to report all results as accurately and completely as possible, regardless of whether the hypotheses were supported. 

    Three pieces of information are normally included when reporting the results of statistical tests: the value of the calculated statistic, degrees of freedom, and significance level. For instance, it might be stated, “A chi-square test revealed that patients who were exposed to the experimental intervention were significantly less likely to develop decubitus ulcers than patients in the control group. ” For some journals and conferences, especially ones with a medical audience, it has become standard to report confidence intervals as well as significance levels. 

    If effect sizes have been computed, they should also be reported in the results section When results from several statistical analyzes are reported, it is useful to summarize them in a table. Good tables, with precise headings and titles, are an important way to economize on space and to avoid dull, repetitive statements. When tables are used to present statistical information, the text should refer to the table by number . Figures are especially helpful for displaying information on some phenomenon over time, or for portraying conceptual or empirical models. 

    Oermann (2001) and Browner (1998) offer guidelines on constructing figures and tables. The write-up of statistical results is often a difficult task for beginning researchers because they are unsure about what to say and how to say it. Although we discuss style in a later section, it is difficult to avoid the mention of style here. B

    y now, it should be clear that research evidence does not constitute proof of anything, but the point bears repeating. The report should never claim that the data proved, verified, confirmed, or demonstrated that hypotheses were correct or incorrect. Hypotheses are supported or unsupported, accepted or rejected.

The Discussion Section

    A report of the findings is never sufficient to convey their significance. The meaning that researchers give to the results plays a rightful and important role in the report. The discussion section is devoted to a thoughtful (and, it is hoped, insightful) analysis of the findings, leading to a discussion of their clinical and theoretical utility. 

    A typical discussion section addresses the following questions: What were the main findings? What do the findings mean? What evidence is there that the results and the interpretations are valid? What limitations might threaten validity? How do you compare the results with prior knowledge on the topic? 

    What can be concluded about the findings vis- àvis their use in nursing practice, in nursing theory, and in future nursing research Typically, the discussion section begins with a summary of the main findings, tied back to the introduction where the hypotheses, aims, or research questions were stated. The summary should be very brief, however, because the focus of the discussion is on making sense of (and not merely repeating) the results. 

    Interpretation of results is a global process, encompassing knowledge of the results, methods, sample characteristics, related research findings, clinical dimensions, and theoretical issues. Researchers should justify their interpretations, explicitly stating why alternative explanations have been ruled out. Unsupported conclusions are among the most common problems in discussion sections (Byrne, 1998). If the findings conflict with those of earlier studies, tentative explanations should be offered. 

    A discussion of the generalizability of study findings should also be included. Although readers should be told enough weaknesses about the study's methods to identify its majores, report writers should point out limitations themselves. Researchers are in the best position to detect and assess the impact of sampling deficiencies, design constraints, data quality problems, and so forth, and it is a professional responsibility to alert readers to these difficulties. 

    Moreover, if writers show their awareness of the study's limitations, readers will know that these limitations were considered in the interpretation. The implications derived from a study are often speculative and, therefore, should be couched in tentative terms. 

    For instance, the kind of language appropriate for a discussion of the interpretation is illustrated by the following sentence: “The results suggest that it may be possible to improve nurse–physician interaction by modifying the medical student's stereotype of the nurse as the physician's 'handmaiden .'” 

    The interpretation is, in essence, a hypothesis that can presumably be tested in another research project. The discussion section, therefore, should include recommendations for studies that would help to test this hypothesis as well as suggestions for other studies to answer questions raised by the findings.

Other Aspects of the Report

    The materials covered in the four major IMRAD sections are found in some form in virtually all quantitative research reports, although the organization might differ slightly. In addition to these major divisions, other aspects of the report deserve mention. Title. Every research report should have a title indicating the nature of the study to prospective readers. The phrases “Research Report” or “Report of a Nursing Research Study” are inadequate. 

    Insofar as possible, the dependent and independent variables (or central phenomenon under study) should be named in the title. It is also desirable to indicate the study population. However, the title should be brief (no more than about 15 words), so writers must balance clarity with brevity. 

    The length of titles can often be reduced by omitting unnecessary terms such as “A Study of . . . , ” “Report of . . .” or “An Investigation To Examine the Effects of . . .,” and so forth. The title should communicate concisely what was studied—and stimulate interest in the research.


Research reports usually include an abstract or, less often, a summary. Abstracts, it may be recalled, are brief descriptions of the problem, methods, and findings of the study, written so readers can decide whether to read the entire report. Abstracts for journals can either be in a traditional (unstructured) paragraph of 100 to 200 words, or in a structured form with subheadings.  Sometimes, a report concludes with a brief summary, and the summary may substitute for the abstract.

Key Words.

    It is often necessary to include key words that will be used in indexes to help others locate your study. Usually 5 to 10 key words suffice; indexing services may add other key words. Ideally, the key words identified conform to subject headings used in CINAHL or Index Medicus . Nouns, methodologic, and theoretical terms can be used as key words.


Each report concludes with a list of references cited in the text, using a reference style required by those reviewing the manuscript or report. References can be cumbersome to prepare, although there are some software programs to facilitate the preparation of reference lists (eg, EndNote, ProCite , Reference Manager, Format Ease).


People who helped with the research but whose contribution does not qualify them for authorship are sometimes acknowledged at the end of the report. This might include statistical consultants, data collectors, and reviewers of the manuscript. The acknowledgments should also give credit to organizations that made the project possible, such as funding agencies or organizations that helped with subject recruitment.

Qualitative Research Reports

    Qualitative research reports often follow the IMRAD format, or something akin to it. They can, however, be structured in a less standard fashion, offering more room for creativity—but also more challenges in determining how best to proceed. 

    As Sandelowski (1998) has noted, there is no single style for reporting qualitative findings Even in this example, however, we can see that the author began by discussing the problem and its context, then described aspects of the study's methods, presented results, and discussed their implications. Thus, we present some issues of particular relevance for writing qualitative reports within the IMRAD structure.


    Qualitative reports usually begin with a statement of the problem, in a similar fashion to quantitative reports, but the focus is more squarely on the phenomenon under study. The way in which the problem is expressed and the types of questions the researchers sought to answer are usually tied to the research tradition underlying the study (eg, grounded theory, ethnography), which is usually explicitly stated in the introduction. 

    Prior research relating to the phenomenon under study may be summarized in the introduction, but sometimes this information is included in the discussion. In many qualitative studies, but especially in ethnographic ones, it is critical to explain the cultural context of the study. 

    In studies with an ideologic orientation (eg, in critical theory or feminist research), it is also important to describe the sociopolitical context. In other qualitative studies using phenomenological or grounded theory designs, the philosophy of phenomenology or symbolic interaction, respectively, may be discussed. As another aspect of explaining the study's background, qualitative researchers sometimes provide information about their personal experiences or qualifications relevant to the conduct of the research. 

    If a researcher who is studying decisions about long-term care placements is caring for two elderly parents and participates in a caregiver support group, this is relevant for readers' understanding of the study. In descriptive phenomenological studies, researchers may discuss their personal experiences in relation to the phenomenon being studied in order to share with the readers what they bracketed. The concluding paragraph of the introduction usually offers a succinct summary of the purpose of the study or the research questions.


    Although the research tradition of the study is often noted in the introduction, the method section usually elaborates on specific methods used in conjunction with that tradition. Design features such as whether the study was longitudinal should also be noted. The method section should provide a solid description of the research setting, so that readers can assess the transferability of findings. Study participants and methods by which they were selected should also be described. 

    Even when samples are small, it may be useful to provide a table summarizing participants' main characteristics. If researchers have a personal connection to participants or to groups with which they are affiliated, this connection should be noted. At times, to disguise a group or institution, it may be necessary to omit potentially identifying information. Demographic characteristics of study participants that are not central to the story line may be changed to protect participants' confidentiality (Lipson, 1997). 

    Qualitative reports usually cannot provide specific information about data collection, inasmuch as formal instruments are not used, and questions and observations evolve in the field. Some researchers do, however, provide a sample of questions, especially if a topic guide was used. 

    The desc data collection methods should include how data were collected (eg, interview or observation), how long data collection sessions lasted, who collected the data, how data collectors were trained, and methods used to record the data. Information about data quality is particularly important in qualitative studies because the analysis depends so heavily on researchers' interpretation of the data. 

    The more information included in the report about steps researchers took to ensure the trustworthiness of the data, the more confident readers can be that the findings are valid quantitative reports typically have brief descriptions of data analysis techniques because standard statistical procedures are widely used and understood. By contrast, analytical procedures described in some detail in qualitative reports because readers need to understand how researchers organized, synthesized, and made sense of their data. If a computer program was used to manage and analyze data, the specific program should be mentioned.


    In qualitative results sections, researchers summarize their thematic analysis and, in the case of grounded theory studies, the theory that emerged. This section can be organized in a number of ways. For example, if a process is being described, results may be presented chronologically, corresponding to the unfolding of the process. Key themes are often used as subheadings, organized in order of salience to participants or to a theory.

    Metaphors are sometimes used to illuminate qualitative findings. Richardson (1994) referred to the metaphor as a literary device that is the spine or backbone of qualitative writing. She warned, however, that researchers must follow through on the details of the metaphors they have chosen.

    Sandelowski (1998) emphasizes the importance of developing a story line before beginning to write the findings. Because of the richness of qualitative data, researchers have to decide which story, or how much of it, they want to tell. They must also make a decision about how best to balance description and interpretation. The results section in a qualitative paper, unlike that in a quantitative one, intertwines data and interpretations of those data. 

    It is important, however, that sufficient emphasis be given to the voices, actions, and experiences of participants themselves so that readers can gain an appreciation of their lives and their worlds. Most often, this occurs through the inclusion of direct quotes to illustrate important points. 

    Because of space constraints in journals, quotes cannot be extensive, and great care must be exercised in selecting the best possible exemplars. Of course, quotes must be presented in a way that maintains participants' confidentiality (ie, without divulging their names and identifying information). Using quotes is not only a skill but a complex process. When inserting quotes in the results section, researchers must pay attention to how the quote is introduced and how it is put in context. 

    Quotes should not be used haphazardly or just inserted one right after the other in a string. Figures, diagrams, and word tables that organize concepts are often extremely useful in qualitative studies in summarizing an overall conceptualization of the phenomena under study. Grounded theory studies are especially likely to benefit from a schematic presentation of the basic social process. Ethnographic and ethnoscience studies often present taxonomies in tabular form.


In qualitative studies, the findings and the interpretation are typically presented together in the results section because the task of integrating qualitative materials is necessarily interpretive. The discussion section of a qualitative report, therefore, is not so much designed to give meaning to the results, but to summarize them, link them to other research, and suggest their implications for theory, practice, or future research. 

    In some cases, researchers offer explicit recommendations about how their research can be corroborated (or how hypotheses can be tested) through quantitative studies. Sandelowski (1998) alerts qualitative researchers that they must pay attention not only to the content of the information mation in their reports but to their form. 

    Poor form can seriously impede the readers' understanding of the results and discussion sections. Van Manen (1997) warns qualitative researchers that they are not just writers who write up their research reports, but authors who write “from the midst of life experience where meanings resonate and reverberate with reflective being”.

Other Aspects of a Qualitative Report

    Qualitative reports, like quantitative ones, include abstracts, key words, references, and acknowledgments. Abstracts for journals that feature qualitative reports (eg, Western Journal of Nursing Research and Qualitative Health Research) tend to be the traditional single-paragraph type    that is, not structured abstracts. The abstract frequently indicates the research tradition underlying the study. 

    The titles of qualitative reports usually state the central phenomenon under scrutiny. Phenomenological studies often have titles that include such words as “the lived experience of . . . ” or “the meaning of. . . . ” Grounded theory studies often indicate something about the findings in the title—for example, noting the core category or basic social process. Ethnographic titles usually indicate the culture being studied. Two-part titles are not uncommon, with substance and method, research tradition and findings, or theme and meaning, separated by a colon.

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