RUNNING mental health professionals as the primary audience

RUNNING HEAD: QUALITATIVE RESEARCH CRTIQUE Qualitative Research Article Critique November 16, 2011 Overall critique: This paper is an article critique written by Alexander & Clare (2004) titled: You still feel different: The experience and meaning of women’s self-injury in the context of a lesbian or bisexual identity. This study’s purpose was to explore the meaning behind females’ self-injurious behavior within the context of being a lesbian or bisexual.

It aimed to better understand this behavior and the many roles that self-injury can serve for individuals. The article can be considered a high-quality qualitative research article for various reasons. In sum, it addresses a topic that has been researched very little, it aims to explore meaning and subjective experience of participants, is exploratory nature, uses a phenomenological research design and makes interpretations using a subjective and reflexive approach. Statement of the Problem:

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This article does a good job of clearly outlining the statement of the problem. In the introduction, it succinctly identifies the problem concerning the rise of self-injurious behavior and how it affects people of all ages and backgrounds and can eventually lead to suicide. Of particular importance to the study is self-injurious behavior among females with a lesbian and/or bisexual identity. The authors note that little research has been done concerning self-injury and this specific population.

One weakness of this study’s statement of the problem is that the authors only mention mental health professionals as the primary audience who could benefit from the study and fail to mention any other specific audiences. In terms of the need for a qualitative approach, the article clearly points out that there is a need to “explore” the meaning behind lesbian and bisexuals’ self-injurious behavior, in order to gain a better understanding behind self-injury behavior in a wider social context.

Additionally, the introduction and statement of the problem is easy to follow and well written encouraging the reader to continue reading. Study’s Purpose: The authors of this study also did an effective job of clearly stating and utilized the proper key words to signal the reader about the study’s purpose stating: “The aim of the study was to explore the meaning of women’s self-injury within the context of having lesbian/bisexual identity”. It clearly points the intent of the study, which is to find a link between self-injury and sexuality and specifies the central phenomenon that is being explored.

In regards to a specific theory guiding the study, it references how social constructionist and feminist perspectives can help enhance the understanding behind this phenomenon. The study lacks in proposing specific research questions using “what” and “how”. However, it does use exploratory language when specifying the central phenomena and purpose. The research question or goals of this study remained open and allowed to emerge in order to direct the qualitative study. Literature Review: The literature within the study is used very well.

The authors do an good job of presenting previous researching findings on self- injury and used terms defined by other authors, in order to frame the study’s problem. They referenced recent literature from the past 10-15 years with the exception of a few references from 1978. However, the in-text citations are all recent from 1996-2000 and the study was completed in 2004. Additionally, it used a variety of references/publications such as books, articles, and journals. The most journals used in the study included: Journal of Homosexuality and Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology.

This study lacks the use of conference papers but nevertheless there are plenty of studies referenced, including an unpublished dissertation, which are helpful to understanding the study’s topic, problem and purpose. Overall, the study does a great job of honoring APA style throughout the article and the authors effectively frame and position the study within the literature. Research Design: The research design of this study can be considered high-quality for various reasons. They use semi-structured interviews and open-ended questions and tilized the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis to point out themes from the interviews. This phenomenological research design and analysis is relevant to the study’s purpose of exploring meaning behind self-injurious behavior among lesbians and bisexuals. The author helps the reader understand how the IPA works and uses relevant references about the design, giving a detailed, concise overview of the analysis method being used. Quality of the Process of Research for a Qualitative Study:

Overall the process of research for this qualitative study can be considered high-quality. In the introduction, it is clearly stated that there is little research focused on self-injurious behavior among lesbians, gay men and bisexuals and is a problem that needs to be explored. The study draws on pre-existing research to help frame the problem of self-injury among individuals, specifically women with a lesbian or bisexual identity and assists in informing the reader about statistics addressing this phenomenon.

The purpose and research questions of the study are presented in an open-ended way in order to discover what self-injury means not only to women who are lesbian or bisexual, but also within a wider social context. It can be considered high-quality given that it attempts to understand the meaning that self-injury can have to all individuals. The study used semi-structured interviews and open-ended interview questions, which are indicative of a strong qualitative research article.

These questions revolved around the participant’s experience as a lesbian or bisexual and their participation in self-injurious behavior. Additionally, the authors used a phenomenological research design to describe subjective information from the participants and analyzed the data, grouping together common themes among the participants’ experiences. Finally, the discussion consisted of reflexive interpretation in which the researchers subjectively summarized their findings and discussed their limitations. Qualitative Data Collection:

This study purposefully sampled a small number of participants including fourteen lesbian and two bisexual self-injuring women for a total of 16 participants. The small sample size allowed each participant’s thoughts and experiences to be shared multiple times throughout the study. Each participant was able to share their personal experiences regarding some of the major themes of the study which will be discussed in the next section. The study chose participants who would help answer the intended research questions by recruiting from a magazine in which the target audience was the LGBT community.

The central phenomenon was described in detail through the literature and discussion of previous findings. Many of the theories and definitions were derived from previous literature. The process of participant recruitment was also explored. Extensive use of the previous literature is more characteristic of quantitative studies versus qualitative studies. However, the literature played a major role in defining the structure of the study since the “data” revolved around participants’ experiences and how it relates to the theories and research questions.

The study uses interviews as the primary means of data collection and the interview topics were very thorough including the aspects of self-injury, thoughts, triggers, and sexual identity. The study did not specify an organized means for collecting and recording data but it could be implied that the data was collected through verbal or written means and recorded in writing to be transcribed at a later time. The questions for the interview were not provided in the study but the main themes of the study along with the participants’ responses to the themes were presented in the research article.

According to the article, there did not appear to be many ethical or field issues involved the study except for the possibility that either the interviewer or the participants would experience some emotional disturbance while discussing sensitive issues. Overall, the study’s data collection was rated high quality for a qualitative study because the research article met most of the “high quality” criteria. Data Analysis and Findings: The study doesn’t analyze the data to respond to the research questions but it does list the theme and topic and shares the participants’ responses to the themes.

The research article transcribes the participants’ experiences verbatim but does not include the whole interview, just excerpts relevant to the research themes. No software program was mentioned in the study to facilitate the analysis of the collected data which is a low quality for the research study. However, the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis method was used in the study. This is a method that attempts to get the “insider’s perspective” by having several stages in which different authors divide the tasks of transcribing and analyzing the interview data.

The three strategies used to validate the findings was the Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis method, major themes defined by previous research, and a summary of results sent to the participants to validate their testimony. Although it is generally low quality for a qualitative study not to include the author’s description of their role in the interpretation of the findings, it was appropriate to exclude the author’s interpretation in the research article because it was strictly about the participants’ experiences.

There were six themes presented in the research article including: bad experiences, invisibility and invalidation, feeling different, just doing it, it helps me cope, and moving on. The participants’ descriptions of their thoughts, feelings, and experiences were full of key detail that gave the reader insight to their lives which was supplemented by the author’s descriptions. Overall, the data analysis was rated high quality except for the absence of software and a description of the author’s role of interpreting the findings. Conclusion and Back Matter:

The conclusion of the research article did a good job of not repeating results or introducing new ones. The previous literature, themes, and findings were well-presented in the conclusion and summarized in a clear manner. The conclusion also applies the past results to the previous findings of published literature and mentions possible implications for the findings including relevance to health professionals, educators, and in the LGBT community. The personal views of the authors were relatively absent although they focused on the impact that the themes had on the self-injuring behavior of the participants.

Some of the limitations the study mentioned included selection bias and the inability to generalize results to all lesbian and bisexual women. The authors mentioned that the findings must be tentative and future research should be conducted to further explore and compare the applicability of the findings at different life stages, between various groups of women, and to explore the process of moving away from self-injury. The conclusion ends on a positive and optimistic note by giving readers a different way to look at self-injury; such as a way to cope and deal with life experiences rather than as a mental disorder.

The back matter of the research article includes an extensive list of references and an acknowledgment section thanking the participants. However there are no appendixes or author contact info. The conclusion overall was rated as high quality for a qualitative study. References Alexander, N. , & Clare, L. (2004). You still feel different: The experience and meaning of women’s self-injury in the context of a lesbian or bisexual identity. Journal of Community and Applied Social Psychology, 14, 70-84.


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