How do I…
ensure quality across the whole of my Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research study?
Do you want to…?
Stop fretting about how you will achieve a good level of quality for your study as a whole
Stop agonising over how to demonstrate this clearly and effectively in your write up
Stop stewing on how to structure your entire report
Stop wondering how to handle your reflexive musings effectively and how to incorporate them meaningfully into your write up
Obviously, my recommendation for nailing quality in your IPA research study is to attend my Advanced IPA Data Analysis workshop
If you would like supplemental input into this area so that you can be sure to produce the best quality IPA study possible, this aspect of your project is comprehensively covered in my Advanced IPA Data Analysis workshop
In this session, we take a deep dive into this area and meticulously explore practical ways to improve the quality of your analysis and IPA study as a whole
This workshop will leave you feeling well equipped to implement robust quality criteria and procedures in your research so that you can be sure to have optimised this aspect of your study to the best of your ability
We need to address quality explicitly in our IPA
The proliferation of qualitative research over the past three decades or so has led to an animated debate over issues of quality and how we demonstrate good quality in qualitative studies
Qualitative research is concerned with meaning in context, and this tends to involve the interpretation of data, requiring active engagement on the part of the researcher. As such, it acknowledges a subjective element in the research process
However, we still need to address issues of scientific rigour, value, and contribution to knowledge, just as we do with quantitative research
This, of course, is relevant for your IPA!
The dizzying and breathtaking variety of the qualitative paradigm
The beauty of the qualitative paradigm (in my humble opinion!) is the wonderfully wide diversity of methodologies and associated epistemologies
These give rise to an exciting array of broadly different and distinctive traditions and procedures across methods and methodologies – there really is something for everyone (or every research question!)
However, this breathtaking and stimulating diversity (yes, yes, this is where I start to show my inner geek) does complicate matters around demonstrating quality
Why? Because it gives rise to a bit of a snag: how do we define and demonstrate the value and quality (validity) of such a dizzying variety of qualitative research methods (qRMs) compared with quantitative methods?
Quality in quali is hotly debated
Indeed, the very idea of assessing quality in qRMs has been contested in the literature on both philosophical and methodological grounds. For example:
~ That a single set of formalised quality criteria is not possible due to the extensive range of epistemological and ontological frameworks underpinning qRMs
~ Criteria for evaluation MUST therefore be tailored to fit the particular methodology they are meant to evaluate
~ That qRMs are by their very nature flexible and therefore unsuitable for standardised assessment
~ AND that an over-emphasis on ‘checklist’ quality assessment will act as a methodological straitjacket, limiting researchers’ ability to innovate (otherwise known as ‘methodolatory’: the privileging of methodological concerns over other considerations).
Overall, therefore, there has been resistance to the notion of quality in qRMs being applied through prescriptive rules or standards
The consensus is that it is better to use guiding principles or criteria instead
Quality criteria for your IPA study
Adhering to quality criteria allows qualitative researchers to show that their studies are rigorous and reliable within the paradigm
There is a caveat, however, in that simply following guidelines or adhering to criteria does not necessarily guarantee good quality research
Guidelines are therefore not simply a set of rules to be followed blindly, they must be employed thoughtfully and tailored to the particular methodology employed
Develop your own critical eye for relevant quality criteria for your IPA study
For example, one marker of good quality is to spell out a clear epistemological position and to demonstrate how you have conducted your research in a manner consistent with that position, presenting your findings in a way that allows appropriate evaluation according to that position
There are several frameworks available within the qualitative paradigm and authors tend to approach evaluation from the particular standpoint of their own methodological practices and preferences
Most cover similar issues and reading around is recommended in order to help you develop your critical eye in this area
See the reference list linked at the bottom of this article for some suggestions
A quality framework specifically for Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA)
Smith et al. (2009) advocate Lucy Yardley’s quality framework for IPA and this is the one outlined in the first edition of ‘the book’ (pages 179-185)
Interestingly, allegiance has been passed to Levitt et al. (2018) and their journal article reporting standards in the second edition (Smith et al., 2022)
They also advocate independent audit as another approach to assessing and demonstrating quality in your IPA – scroll to the bottom of this page to access two articles from yours truly about auditing your IPA research study
I recommend that you read up on this particular framework and references are provided for you – just click here to access the list!
Get support with ensuring quality in your IPA thesis
If you are looking for expert input into achieving quality in your IPA study, then I would love to take you by the hand and guide you through the process of producing a high-quality write up for your study in my Advanced IPA Data Analysis workshop
This session is delivered in a small group setting where you can benefit from oodles of practical guidance and tips to help you maximise your quality processes throughout your study and write up
Let me help you produce a thesis to be proud of and one that honours all your hard work and effort!
This workshop has been fully updated to reflect the new IPA terminology for the analytic process
I found the content of this workshop highly relevant and it gave me what I felt was a grounded and open view of what to expect of the journey of writing up. I felt in safe hands with useful hints and tips to keep in mind for the practicalities of writing up. I feel far better prepared, better structured and aware of common mistakes/learning opportunities
Advanced IPA Data Analysis, June 2021
What else can I do?
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Discover articles exploring the principles of achieving quality for your Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research study, plus the answers to frequently asked questions in this area
If you have a topic area you would like me to cover, please join the mailing list and reply to your welcome email to make a request. Alternatively, use the contact page if you prefer
The dummies guide to auditing your Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research study EPISODE ONE
Auditing your Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research study in some way or another can be a robust, effective, and transparent way to enhance quality assurance. This article is one of two episodes that explore a range of auditing options and activities...
Auditing your Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research study: should I, or shouldn’t I? EPISODE TWO
Auditing your Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) research study to some degree can be a robust, valuable, and unambiguous way to enhance quality assurance. This article is the second of two episodes that explore a range of auditing options and activities...