Evidenced Based Guidelines
The application of guidelines relating to critical appraisal during the assessment of the rigor and relevance of research is becoming a vital technique among the disciplines that encourage evidence-based practices. This scenario is attributable to the fact that the basic precepts of evidence-based performances evolved from medical fields. Specifically, the research methods being applied results into careful measurements, scenarios which drive the performance into guidelines of critical appraisal, clinical trials, case-controlled studies, and cohort studies (Yin, 1984). Due to the increasing interest in interpretative research, stakeholders in the fields of nursing, social work, education, human resource management, and information systems have been incorporating the practice of evidence-based reasoning in their work. In the recent times, editors, reviewers, and researchers have been concerned about the current assessment of conduct and quality of interpretative field research. They have been advocating for enhancement in the guidelines with regard to the provision of comprehensive and accessible checklists of the questions that facilitate the evaluation of quality in a particular research. They argue that the enhancement would reduce the task of evaluation while improving reliability in the research findings (Trinder, 2000).
According to studies conducted by Mays and Pope (1996) and Yin (1984), case studies can only be legitimized through the design a consistent positivist criterion. They argue that the main aims of case studies is to enhance understanding and interpretation of phenomena with regard to the subjective meanings that people attach to them Trinder (2000). Greenhalgh (1997) concurs that the appropriate methodology for conducting qualitative research has evolved from the interpretative practices that are associated with case studies.
There is a need for an established protocol to facilitate the presentation and conduct of research. This would aid the enhancement of research findings as well as their presentation. In most instances, there are inadequate guidelines to the synthesis of information by both reviewers and researchers. In this regard, this study presents a set of appraisal guidelines that facilitate the assessment of case study researches.
The Research Outline
This research is comprised of five stages. The initial stage regards the consultation that aims at ensuring that useful suggestions concerning the quality of research are extracted. Secondly, the study adopts a conceptual framework that facilitates the organization of suggestions. The framework is then instantiated in a manner that is in line with the guidelines. These guidelines have been extracted from the researchers’ experience as well as the literature that has been reviewed. Consequently, the appraisal guidelines are extrapolated before a comprehensive comparison with those identified in the work of Green and Thorogood (2004) is done. Eventually, disparities are noted, and this exercise facilitates the formulation and trial of appraisal guidelines.
Review of Literature
Sets of guidelines have been laid down in a manner that enhances the quality of interpretative research. Although it has been noted that most of these guidelines focus on specific challenges, they have facilitated remarkable improvements in the conduct of case studies. It has been established that the main challenges that face investigators in contemporary times are those that are associated with the selection of research studies. As such, it has proved difficult to scope research projects for case studies. This scenario reduces the effectiveness of participation in case studies by the interest groups (Mays & Pope, 1996).
Practical Guidelines for Undertaking Case Study Research
According to Greenhalgh (1997), there are nine areas of concern during the evaluation of papers that give a general description of qualitative research. Greenhalgh base these guidelines on her research, as well as those conducted by Holloway (2005); Green (2004); and Trinder (2000). Conceptual Framework
The process of organizing guidelines necessitates the utilization of frameworks during the classification of processes used in case study researches. According to Thorogood (2004), research guidelines are classified into five elements. These elements are dependent on the researcher’s manner of thinking, working, controlling, supporting, and communicating the findings. The manner of thinking relates to the viewpoints and assumptions that the researcher makes in relation to the context of the study being undertaken. The manner of working defines and requests for tasks as well as subtasks that are performed during the research activity. The manner of controlling defines how the study is managed before the detailing of the manner in which tools are used in support of research exercises. Eventually, the investigator utilizes the guidelines that formulate communication during the presentation of his/her findings. As such, research frameworks cover aspects of research approach as well as those of research methods. They systematize observations; describe the methods for collecting pieces of evidence, and indicate the techniques and tools that facilitate data collection (Holloway, 2005).
Manner of Thinking
The guidelines for critical appraisal present researchers with chances of providing explanations to the findings of case studies. Moreover, the guidelines facilitate the justification for the process of selecting a particular approach. This involves the definition of strengths as well as the weaknesses that are established in case studies. In the end, the guidelines help in the determination of the impact of the chosen approach.
According to Green & Thorogood (2004), it is necessary for the researcher to reflect on a philosophical stance so as to enable him/her to state it clearly during the conceptualization of their work. This is because of the manner in which it affects the process of undertaking the research work. Discussions regarding positivism has been widespread, a situation that has inspired the composition of a couple of papers and research studies in the field. Contributors in this area include Holloway (2005); Mays &Pope (1996); and Trinder (2000). As it is difficult to conduct researches of this kind in an objective manner, researchers are encouraged to describe the basis of their reasoning in details so as to facilitate the interpretation of research results. This is because suspicion calls for sensitivity to systematic distortions and biases in the participant’s responses.
Manner of Controlling
In this section, assessors are required to define their measures of quality control. According to Holloway (2005), there is a necessity to have the data analyzed by multiple researchers so as to ensure that the original researcher attaches the conventional meaning to the items being evaluated. This procedure is referred to as triangulation, a concept that facilitates the reduction of biases through a provision of multiple illustrations of evidence from a couple of sources. According to Yin (1984), pieces of evidence that are utilized in case studies need to be sourced from, at least, six origins. The sources may come from documentation, interviews, archival records, direct observations, physical artifacts, and participant-observation. The researcher should then determine the procedure of drawing conclusions. There should be a justification of results through the appropriate application of theory. In essence, the researcher should enhance the credibility of the results.
The Manner of Working
It is necessary for the researcher to come up with a well structured question. The question should describe an issue that is made explicit in the approach that has been taken. There should be a creation of an initial conceptual framework. The creation should be superseded by the formulation of case study questions. Consequently, a pilot study should be undertaken, a situation that facilitates the determination of selection criteria. Before revisiting the purpose of the study, the questions should be refined in a manner that enables the researcher to base them on the findings from the initial study (Greenhalgh, 1997).
Way of Supporting
At this juncture, the researcher is required to select the methodology for gathering data. The researcher should ensure that sufficient details are provided in the description of the data being gathered. According to Holloway (2005), interviews need to be considered as the primary sources of data in any interpretive case study. Interviewing is favored because it facilitates the assessment of interpretations of the participants regarding the events and actions that take place during the study. However, Greenhalgh (1997) argues that factual data is obtainable through the examination of annual reports. He also proposes issuing of structured questions to the participants. According to him, organizational bulletins and internal magazines can supplement data that have been gained from a host of other sources. During the preparation of data collection procedures, it is imperative to gather adequate background information regarding the case study. Positions and names of the participants must be obtained prior the scheduled interview. The interview should facilitate the acquisition of the pieces of data that cannot be obtained through any other way.
Way of Communicating
The best way to communication would be through the strategizing for the acquisition of the final report. As the research work progresses, assessors need to allow time for the composition of the eventual report. According to Yin (1984), this is important as there are no universally accepted outlines for case study formatting. Additionally, some aspects relate to the qualitative research in particular, and as such, they require careful consideration. Demonstrating the evidence chain enhances reliability in the information of interest. There are circular linkages between research questions, data collection strategies, interim analysis, and methodologies. This, therefore, necessitates the composition of the report as the research work progresses. Additionally, the researchers need to determine the portability of the research findings. They need to determine if the findings can be transferred to types of settings. It is also necessary to settle on the methods of presentation that acceptable to practitioner and academic communities.
Critical Appraisal Guidelines
The guidelines presented in the previous section supports the proposals of Blomfield and Hardy (2000). The discussion indicates that there is a possibility of extrapolating a checklist. The study by Mays and Pope (1996) helps in refining and comparing the initial checklists that are created by latter researchers. Comparing the current research guidelines with the work of McKay and Marshall indicates that there exist a number of similarities, and these similarities influence the eventual presentation of the findings.
This study has explicated critical appraisal guidelines in a manner that facilitate a comprehensive assessment of case studies. These guidelines have been developed through the identification of best practices during interpretative aspects of case study researches. The guidelines facilitate their combination with the findings of Mays and Pope (1996) in a way that assists the researchers and readers of the case study papers to understand their results. The guidelines presented in this paper are constructed with a view of addressing in-depth case studies in a clear and elaborative manner. Comparison of these guidelines with those of Mays and Pope (1996) leads to the realization that interpretative researches have chances of presenting useful results. As such, the guidelines present a template that can be applicable in several forms of interpretative research, especially the medical research. It is, therefore, necessary to recognize the importance of setting guidelines during the process of critical appraisal.