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Qualitative research in demography: quality, presentation and assessment

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Social scientists need to identify, assess, aggregate, interpret and disseminate the highest quality evidence, whilst acknowledging that quality is an abstract concept. Despite peer review, recent use of qualitative approaches within demographic research has not always been accompanied by critical assessment of the quality of qualitative data and analyses. This contrasts with the sophisticated tools for assessing quantitative demographic data quality. Three objectives are addressed. Firstly, to review approaches to the assessment of the quality of published qualitative research from other disciplines, and how these advances might be used and adapted by demography. Secondly, using illustrations from our own work we discuss various dimensions of the use and presentation of qualitative demographic research and the different steps which should be taken in terms of documention, reflection and presentation to facilitate assessment of quality. Finally, in an update of Randall & Koppenhaver (2004), we describe the diffusion of qualitative approaches, to identify diverse elements which should allow the reader to judge of the validity of demographic results presented.

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