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Evaluation of qualitative research studies
  1. Cynthia K Russell, RN, ARNP, PhD1,
  2. David M Gregory, RN, PhD2
  1. 1University of Tennessee Health Science Center Memphis, Tennessee, USA
  2. 2University of Manitoba Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

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Clinical scenario

You work on a palliative care unit where you have many opportunities to discuss end of life decisions with patients and family members. In a recent team meeting of your unit’s providers, the topic of “appropriate” treatment choices for patients at end of life comes up. Some providers believe that they should counsel patients and family members to “help them make better end of life decisions so that they will have a good death.” There is, however, no consensus about how this should be done.

Finding the evidence

You volunteer to see if any studies have been done on decision making at the end of life. You remember that your institution has an online subscription to Evidence-Based Nursing. You sign in and go to the search screen. In the field “word(s) anywhere in article” you type in “end of life” (in quotations because you are looking for articles that include all 3 words together) and “decision”. 4 matches are found. The first is an abstract entitled “Providers tried to help patients and families make end of life decisions”.1 You review the full text of the abstract, which describes a qualitative study by Norton and Bowers2 that seems to address the issues of interest. You get a copy of the full article from the library so that you can more fully assess the usefulness of this study for your team.

Many authors have proposed criteria for appraising qualitative research.3–,10 Some question the appraisal process because of a lack of consensus among qualitative researchers on quality criteria.6–8,10 Despite this controversy, and while recognising that criteria will continue to evolve, we provide a set of guidelines to help nurses identify methodologically sound qualitative research studies that can inform their practice. Our standard approach to appraising an article …

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