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The Use of Closing Questions in Qualitative Research

Results of a Web-Based Survey

Sowicz, Timothy Joseph; Sefcik, Justine S.; Teng, Helen L.; Irani, Elliane; Kelly, Terri-Ann; Bradway, Christine

doi: 10.1097/NNR.0000000000000380

Background Scarce and differing reasons for including closing questions in qualitative research exist, but how data generated from these questions are used remains uncertain.

Objectives The purpose of the study was to understand if and how researchers use closing questions in qualitative research, specifically the research questions were: (a) “Why do qualitative researchers include or exclude closing questions during interviews?” and (b) “How do qualitative researchers use data from closing questions?”

Methods A qualitative descriptive design using a single, asynchronous, web-based, investigator-designed survey containing 14 items was used to collect data. Convenience and snowball sampling were used to recruit participants. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and qualitative content analysis. Codes were developed from the qualitative data. Subcategories were derived from similar codes, and these subcategories were further scrutinized and were used to create broad categories.

Results The number of respondents per question ranged from 76 to 99; most identified nursing and sociology as their academic disciplines, lived in the United States, and were involved in qualitative research for 1–10 years. Data, the interview, the interviewee, and the interviewer were broad categories to emerge as reasons for including closing questions. Only one respondent reported a reason for excluding closing questions. The uses of closing question data were described in four broad categories: analysis, data, the interview guide, and inquiry.

Discussion Researchers frequently included closing questions in qualitative studies. The reasons for including these questions and how data are used vary, and support limited previously published literature. One unique reason, adding “new breath” to the interview, emerged. Study findings can aid qualitative researchers in deciding whether to include closing questions.

Timothy Joseph Sowicz, PhD, NP-C, is Assistant Professor, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing. At the time this research was completed, Timothy Sowicz was Postdoctoral Fellow, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, Pennsylvania.

Justine S. Sefcik, PhD, RN, is Postdoctoral Fellow, Gerontological Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia.

Helen L. Teng, PhD, RN, is Assistant Clinical Professor, College of Nursing and Health Professions, Drexel University, Philadelphia.

Christine Bradway, PhD, CRNP, FAAN, AGSF, is Professor, Gerontological Nursing, University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing, Philadelphia.

Elliane Irani, PhD, RN, is Postdoctoral Fellow, Case Western Reserve University Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, Cleveland, Ohio.

Terri-Ann Kelly, PhD, RN, is Assistant Professor, Rutgers School of Nursing–Camden, New Jersey.

Accepted for publication January 13, 2019.

Research reported in this publication was supported by the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System (Dr. Sowicz) and the National Institute of Nursing Research of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers T32NR015433 (Dr. Irani) and T32NR009356 (Dr. Sefcik). The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health or the Veterans Health Administration.

The authors thank the peer reviewers for their thoughtful critique of previous versions of our article.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to report.

Corresponding author: Timothy Joseph Sowicz, PhD, NP-C, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro School of Nursing, P.O. Box 26170, Greensboro, NC 27402-6170 (e-mail:

The VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System and The University of North Carolina at Greensboro institutional review boards deemed this study exempt.

Clinical Trial Registration: Not applicable.

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