Planning, implementing and reporting: increasing transparency, replicability and credibility in qualitative political science research

Abstract

Qualitative political science research can significantly increase its credibility if researchers take robust steps toward replicability and enhanced transparency. Making explicit decisions on planning and implementing research, together with commitment to comprehensive reporting, improves transparency. Three instruments serve to this objective: in the planning stage, research protocols map prospective actions in the implementation of research. In the implementing stage, research notebooks permit recording all decisions, deviations and events affecting research. Practical and ethical considerations may prevent the full disclosure of these research notebooks, and, hence, carefully drafted research implementation records provide, in the publication stage, a useful instrument to convey this information. Increased transparency (as created by the use of these three instruments) will lead to better options for replicability, and this, in turn, will increase the validity of qualitative research and dispel some of the concerns about its methodological soundness.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Data Access and Research Transparency (DA-RT): A Joint Statement by Political Science Journal Editors, Political Science Research and Methods Volume 3, Issue 3 September 2015 p. 421 https://doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.44.

  2. 2.

    ECPR Statement on Data Access and Research Transparency, available at https://ecpr.eu/ContentPage.aspx?ID=450.

  3. 3.

    In the qualitative tradition, analytic transparency typically means making verbally explicit the logical steps or interpretive processes linking observations to conclusions or understandings (Bleich and Pekkanen; 2015a).

  4. 4.

    See, inter alia, WHO Recommended format for a “research protocol” at https://www.who.int/ethics/review-committee/format-research-protocol/en/.; Council for International Organizations of Medical Sciences (CIOMS) International Ethical Guidelines for Biomedical Research Involving Human Subjects at https://www.fhi360.org/sites/all/libraries/webpages/fhi-retc2/Resources/CIOMS02.pdf.

  5. 5.

    See, in general, the resources at the Brown University Library for Biomedical and Life Sciences at https://libguides.brown.edu/biology/protocols.

  6. 6.

    See, at large, the section on methods and protocols of the Library of the University of California – San Diego at https://ucsd.libguides.com/chemistry/protocols..

  7. 7.

    See also the model of Protocol of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy at https://www.internationalconsortium.org/guidelines-and-research-protocols/.

  8. 8.

    A pre-analysis plan is a step-by-step plan setting out how a researcher will analyze data that are written in advance of them seeing these data (and ideally before collecting it in cases where the researcher is collecting the data). David Mackenzie, A pre-analysis plan checklist, 28 October 2012 at https://blogs.worldbank.org/impactevaluations/a-pre-analysis-plan-checklist.

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Acknowledgements

I would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Giovanni Agostinis, Roberta Perna and Felipe González de León provided generous observations on the draft. This paper originated in a conversation with Monika Sus on how to improve qualitative research. I thank her for prompting me to write this piece.

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Correspondence to Carlos Closa.

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Closa, C. Planning, implementing and reporting: increasing transparency, replicability and credibility in qualitative political science research. Eur Polit Sci (2021). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41304-020-00299-2

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Keywords

  • Implementing research
  • Planning research
  • Reporting research
  • Qualitative research
  • Transparency