Publishing Qualitative Research from Undergrad Honours Thesis–Sample Size and Journal Question

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  • #2186
    Daphne Ling
    Participant

    Hi everyone,

    I hope you are well.

    I did my undergrad honours thesis last year using qualitative methodology (a combination of a grounding framework and a narrative approach). I interviewed 25 people in total, with each interview lasting between 30-40 minutes long. Each interview was, of course, transcribed in its entirety.

    In my opinion, we did reach data saturation. I think my advisor would concur because she cautioned early on I wasn’t allowed to stop collecting data until we reached saturation. The data has since been independently re-coded by a graduate student, and she found 5 overlapping themes with my original coding. It is probably worthwhile to mention that in my original coding, I came up with 6 themes.

    Another point probably worthy to mention is I attended 5 sessions of the community program I did my honours thesis on so I brought with me my own biases. The student who re-coded my data independently, did not attend any sessions, as far as I am aware.

    Does anybody have any advice to offer about where this might be heading? Would we run into reviewers kicking up a fuss about sample size (I read in one of the discussion pages here about how reviewers always seem to kick up a fuss about sample size even in qualitative research where it’s so subjective)?

    I mentioned my sample size in passing to a qualitative researcher I was having lunch with, and she was surprised at the number of people I had and the length of my interviews considering it was an honours thesis. I doubt that makes any impact on the ability to publish, though, right?

    Also, because of the lack of preceding papers published on this topic (we only know of ONE so far, and that was by my advisor), how high of a journal can we aim for? Should we aim for the same journal it was published in (sadly, it doesn’t have the highest impact factor) or should we go higher?

    I appreciate any pointers anyone out there might have!

    Thanks for your time,

    Daphne

    #2190
    Daphne Ling
    Participant

    p.s., I forgot to mention I am working on this with my former advisor and am not trying to self-publish. Thought an extra pair of eyes/ears won’t hurt because others might have ideas we didn’t think about. 🙂

    #2189
    Dr Mike Lambert
    Participant

    Daphne, I supervise undergraduate Honours research projects in the UK and yes, your data collection is more extensive than most I come across here.

     

    If you are thinking of publication, be prepared to re-work your text quite considerably – it will most probably not be published as it stands.  A useful book is Becker & Denicolo: Publishing Journal Articles http://www.sagepub.com/books/Book236083

     

    I would say aim high for publication, but be prepared for rejection (it may not be rejected).  In this case, don’t be discouraged – use feedback to improve your text for resubmission, perhaps elsewhere.

     

    I would also suggest that your sample size is less important than the ‘persuasiveness’ of your findings.  Do they seem reasonable?  Is your reader convinced (or nearly convinced) by them?  Do they usefully inform understanding of the issue you investigated?

     

    I hope you got a good grade for that thesis.  Good luck!

     

    Mike  

    http://bit.ly/O0XcA7

    #2188
    Daphne Ling
    Participant

    Hi Dr. Lambert (Mike),

    Thank you for your reply and for your suggestions and advice. I will look into the book you suggested.

    I believe we are going to rework almost the entire text. It’s quite not possible to let it go as it is as my final piece was slightly more than a 100 pages double-spaced (again, I was told this was quite extensive for an undergrad piece of work).

    I’m encouraged to hear that the persuasiveness is possibly more important than the sample size as that we have some control over; the sample size is done with and trying to recollect data would be opening a whole new can of worms as the lens that I would approach it with after such a period of time would definitely cloud how I interpret it and also introduce a bunch of other issues.

    And yes, I did get a grade I was happy with for that thesis (an A+), plus was one of three students to get the (departmental) Canadian Psychological Association award 🙂 I did doubt my grade after a few months, though, I must say! But it was definitely by far the most solid and focused education I got in my undergrad career, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world…

    Cheers,

    Daphne

    #2187

    Hi Daphne

     

    Two papers which might help you are:

    O’Reilly, M and Parker, N. (2012). Unsatisfactory Saturation’: A critical exploration of the notion of saturated sample sizes in qualitative research. Qualitative Research DOI: 10.1177/1468794112446106

    Baker, S., and Edwards, R. (2012: Eds). How many qualitative interviews is enough?: Expert voices and early career reflections on sampling and cases in qualitative research. National Centre for Research Methods: ESRC

     

    They both discuss these issues at length

     

    Best wishes

    Michelle

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