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Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research: A Synthesis of Recommendations

O’Brien, Bridget C. PhD; Harris, Ilene B. PhD; Beckman, Thomas J. MD; Reed, Darcy A. MD, MPH; Cook, David A. MD, MHPE

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000000388
Research Reports

Purpose: Standards for reporting exist for many types of quantitative research, but currently none exist for the broad spectrum of qualitative research. The purpose of the present study was to formulate and define standards for reporting qualitative research while preserving the requisite flexibility to accommodate various paradigms, approaches, and methods.

Method: The authors identified guidelines, reporting standards, and critical appraisal criteria for qualitative research by searching PubMed, Web of Science, and Google through July 2013; reviewing the reference lists of retrieved sources; and contacting experts. Specifically, two authors reviewed a sample of sources to generate an initial set of items that were potentially important in reporting qualitative research. Through an iterative process of reviewing sources, modifying the set of items, and coding all sources for items, the authors prepared a near-final list of items and descriptions and sent this list to five external reviewers for feedback. The final items and descriptions included in the reporting standards reflect this feedback.

Results: The Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR) consists of 21 items. The authors define and explain key elements of each item and provide examples from recently published articles to illustrate ways in which the standards can be met.

Conclusions: The SRQR aims to improve the transparency of all aspects of qualitative research by providing clear standards for reporting qualitative research. These standards will assist authors during manuscript preparation, editors and reviewers in evaluating a manuscript for potential publication, and readers when critically appraising, applying, and synthesizing study findings.

Dr. O’Brien is assistant professor, Department of Medicine and Office of Research and Development in Medical Education, University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, San Francisco, California.

Dr. Harris is professor and head, Department of Medical Education, University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Beckman is professor of medicine and medical education, Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr. Reed is associate professor of medicine and medical education, Department of Medicine, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr. Cook is associate director, Mayo Clinic Online Learning, research chair, Mayo Multidisciplinary Simulation Center, and professor of medicine and medical education, Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, Rochester, Minnesota.

Funding/Support: This study was funded in part by a research review grant from the Society for Directors of Research in Medical Education.

Other disclosures: None reported.

Ethical approval: Reported as not applicable.

Disclaimer: The funding agency had no role in the study design, analysis, interpretation, writing of the manuscript, or decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

Supplemental digital content for this article is available at

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. O’Brien, Office of Research and Development in Medical Education, UCSF School of Medicine, Box 3202, 1855 Folsom St., Suite 200, San Francisco, CA 94143-3202; e-mail:

© 2014 by the Association of American Medical Colleges