Critiquing Qualitative Research: Analysing Black Students' Experiences of Racism at UK Universities

"Black students' experiences of “acceptable” racism at a UK university - Osbourne, L., Barnett, J., and Blackwood, L., 2022. Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology."


Research Methods

This essay has a goal of critiquing a research paper to identify its usefulness as an item of evidence that might potentially be utilised in evidence-based practice. The study that is critiqued is that of Osbourne et al. (2022) with the title, ‘Black students' experiences of “acceptable” racism at a UK university.’ The topic is important within the field of Adult Nursing because as Stenhouse (2020) reports, nurses are required to treat patients as individuals, ensuring that they respect diversity to provide care that is patient-centred and individualised. If nurses practice “acceptable” racism it is difficult to see how this might be achieved, so understanding the phenomenon is important. In the first instance, the discussion that follows explains what evidence based practice is. It moves on to outlining its importance to safe practice in clinical settings. The commentary also examines what is meant by certain terms such as quantitative and qualitative research. The analysis of the paper then commences, with both the authenticity of the research and its academic robustness considered through a process of critiquing it in a structured manner. The discussion beyond that moves on to a consideration of the usefulness of the research to practice, and where it fits within the evidence base, before finally concluding on what has been learned.

Reading and Webster (2014, p. 6) define evidence-based practice as being, “the conscientious, explicit and judicious use of current best evidence in making decisions about the care of individual patients.” They go on to explain that this means integrating the evidence within existing clinical practice (Reading and Webster, 2014). As Christenbery (2017) points out, evidence-based practice has been shown to lower the number of errors and reduce levels of morbidity and mortality among patients, which are important benefits. Evidence-based practice is also required by the NMC, as highlighted both in the Code and its future nurse required competencies (NMC, 2018; NMC, 2018). One of the problems is in identifying what is the best evidence (Reading and Webster, 2014). It has been shown that nurses struggle to achieve this, because a barrier to its use is training (Christenbery, 2017). Identifying the best evidence can be achieved by critiquing research (Dimidjian, 2019) and this is what this essay seeks to do with a specific piece of evidence. This essay reviews a qualitative research paper utilising the critiquing framework of Moorley and Cathala (2019) to do so, with the aim of understanding its overall utility as a piece of evidence in practice. Qualitative research is that which is defined as seeking to understand the reasons behind behaviours; it is descriptive, based on language and is interpretative (Lipscomb, 2015). This contrasts with quantitative research, which is based on measurable, numbers-based studies that seek to prove theories (Lipscomb, 2015).

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Starting with the critique, as Moorley and Cathala (2019) outline, it is necessary to consider the authenticity of the research by examining aspects of it such as author credentials, abstract, keywords and title. As Dewing et al. (2021) argue, this helps to understand the value of the research and whether it is credible and can be trusted or not. Moreover, Gerrish and Lacey (2015) opine that credibility is of great importance in ensuring that qualitative research is of a high quality. Reviewing the aforementioned items, the title and the keywords appear to be a reasonable reflection of the research article. The primary researcher (Osbourne) has a doctorate and the other two researchers are both professors in a relevant field to the research, and this too adds credibility to the research. However, the abstract is somewhat disorganised and might have been better structured. As Black (2019) good organisation of an abstract is important to gain a full sense of what is within the paper, and the lack of organisation in this case might challenge credibility, and consequently authenticity a little in this case.

The next step involved in critiquing the research paper of Osbourne et al. (2022) is consideration of its academic robustness, through reviewing areas such as research problem, study design, sampling, ethical considerations, data collection, analysis and findings (Moorley and Cathala, 2019). Each of these areas will be explored in turn. Looking first at the research problem and significance of the study along with the research aim, Moorley and Cathala (2019) argue that it should be clear what the research question is, or alternatively there must be a clarified statement of the problem. From assessing the analysis of Osbourne et al. (2022) it is possible to see that there is clarify in the statement of the research problem, because it is highlighted that it is difficult for Black students to have a strong social identity in largely White institutes, and that there is a sense of otherness for such students. It is argued by Osbourne et al. (2022) that this may be impacting on lower attainment of Black students, but that there has been limited research into the sense making of Black students in relation to interactions with White students. The researchers clearly state the two research questions they seek to answer, with regard to the everyday experience of Black students and how they impact on identity and belonging, and the sense that Black students make of their experiences and how they can respond (Osbourne et al., 2022).

The critiquing of a research article should next examine the literature review undertaken by the researchers according to Moorley and Cathala (2019). Chesnay (2014) states that a literature review provides the context and backdrop for the research, and Moorley and Cathala (2019) argue the case that research included should be peer reviewed and current (namely 5-8 years old at a maximum). A glance at the research included in the literature review demonstrates that several studies included are more than 15 years old, and some more than 20 years old and beyond. There are even studies referred to that are more than 30 years old, and in two cases, literature dating from the 1970s. It is questionable the relevance of literature from the 1970s to a research study set in the modern context, so this does lead to a concern about the overall robustness of the Osbourne et al research. Furthermore, in their critiquing framework, Moorley and Cathala (2019) state that there is a need for a theoretical or conceptual framework to connect the research to the existing knowledge. Within the Osbourne et al. (2022) research, they do refer to using a reflexive approach, but other than that there is little that is explicit to tie their activity to a known theoretical or conceptual framework.

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As argued by Moorley and Cathala (2019) there is no one single accepted view of what the sample size should be for a qualitative research paper, though their view is that it can be of any size if it answers the research question. Osbourne et al. (2022) state that their sample size was 30 Black students at the university, and they mention that snowball sampling was the type of method used in the sampling process. Cernat et al. (2021) explains that snowball sampling is purposive, and Grove and Gray (2018) argue that this is where the researcher deliberately sets out to find participants that will be able to best help with answering the research question. Meanwhile, Houser (2016, p. 487) describes snowball sampling as a process that, “relies on referrals from the initial subjects to recruit additional subjects.” It is explained that this is used where it may be difficult to find participants for a given study. In the case of the Osbourne et al. (2022) study, this would seem appropriate, given that only 2% of those attending the university were Black. However, snowball sampling can lead to some bias in the research because as explained by Parker et al. (2019) it might lead to certain views being over-represented. Audemard (2020) highlights that this means that snowball samples must not be seen as representative of the wider population, which has ramifications for transferability of the research. These issues are not considered by Osbourne et al. (2022) in their dialogue, which leads to questions about the trustworthiness of the research.,,Read More




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