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Underdeveloped Themes in Qualitative Research: Relationship With Interviews and Analysis

Connelly, Lynne M. PhD, RN; Peltzer, Jill N. PhD, APRN-CNS

doi: 10.1097/NUR.0000000000000173
Feature Article

Purpose: In this methodological article, the authors address the problem of underdeveloped themes in qualitative studies they have reviewed. Various possible reasons for underdeveloped themes are examined, and suggestions offered.

Organizing Construct: Each problem area is explored, and literature support is provided. The suggestions that are offered are supported by the literature as well.

Findings: The problem with underdeveloped themes in certain articles is related to 3 interconnected issues: (a) lack of clear relationship to the underlying research method, (b) an apparent lack of depth in interviewing techniques, and (c) lack of depth in the analysis. Underdeveloped themes in a qualitative study can lead to a lack of substantive findings that have meaningful implications for practice, research, and the nursing profession, as well as the rejection of articles for publication. Fully developed themes require knowledge about the paradigm of qualitative research, the methodology that is proposed, the effective techniques of interviewing that can produce rich data with examples and experiences, and analysis that goes beyond superficial reporting of what the participants have said. Analytic problem areas include premature closure, anxiety about how to analyze, and confusion about categories and themes.

Conclusions: Effective qualitative research takes time and effort and is not as easy as is sometimes presumed. The usefulness of findings depends on researchers improving their research skills and practices.

Implications for Practice: Increasingly researchers are using qualitative research to explore clinically important issues. As consumers of research or members of a research team, clinical nurse specialists need to understand the nature of this research that can provide in-depth insight and meaning.

Author Affiliations: Director of Nursing (Dr Connelly), Benedictine College, Atchison, Kansas; Assistant Professor (Dr Peltzer), School of Nursing, University of Kansas.

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Correspondence: Lynne M. Connelly, PhD, RN, Benedictine College, 1020 N 2nd St, Atchison, KS 66002 (lconnelly@benedictine.edu).

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