Qualitative Research Critique Template

Qualitative Research Critique

PSY 326 Research Design

Qualitative Research Critique


In this paper, I am going to identify and evaluate the research design and methods used in carrying out research regarding the eating habits of college students. I will identify any ethical issues that might be present in the study, as well as, bring to light any strengths, weaknesses or limitations that may exist. The purpose of this paper is to provide a general understanding of qualitative research and to be able to identify and explain the research design and methods used in the collection and analysis of data.

I will be examining a study by Deliens, Clarys, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Deforche (2014) titled “Determinants of eating behavior in university students: a qualitative study using focus group discussions”. In this study researchers are looking to find out what factors play a role in the eating habits (healthy or unhealthy) of college students, and also to receive feedback as to how they might design constructive programs that will boost healthy eating habits in college students (Deliens, Clarys, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Deforche, 2014, pg.4)

The healthy eating behaviors of college students can be influenced by many factors including availability, price, and self-control (Deliens, Clarys, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Deforche, 2014, pg. 4). It is thought that when individuals make the transition from high school to college that their new-found independence and lack of parental control plays a major part in their food choices. These factors set the stage for weight gain in college students. Therefore it is important to examine these different factors and create strategies and effective methods that promote and enhance healthy eating habits among college students.

The selection of studies used in this research does not seem to present any bias as most of them represent similar findings leaning heavily towards the conclusion that adaptation to environment is a key factor in the eating habits of college students, for example, those who adapt well to their new found freedom of college life will choose healthier foods than those who adapt poorly or have trouble adapting.

Summary of Methods

The qualitative research design that was used for this research study was phenomenology. Phenomenological research aids the researcher(s) in understanding the experiences of individuals in regards to a specific phenomenon or behavior (Wertz, 2005, p. 1), such as the eating habits of college students. The sampling method used in this study consisted of snowball sampling. Snowball sampling is a method of sampling in which the researchers recruit only a few participants who will then in return recruit more participants. There was between six and ten participants recruited for this study. Data was collected by way of focus group discussion sessions that ranged anywhere from 90 to 120 minutes and was led by a moderator who guided the discussion through the use of questions specific to the topic of eating habits and college students, and an assistant moderator who took notes during the discussions. Participants were also required to complete a brief questionnaire which asked questions about their health (gender, height, weight, etc.). I do not recall the researchers mentioning bracketing, epoché, or reflexivity during the course of this research study report.

This study used SPSS Statistics 20 in order to analyze the data that was collected from both the focus group discussions as well as the health questionnaires that were completed by participants prior to discussions. Content analysis was used in coding during data analysis. In order to confirm and clarify reliability researchers collaborated with two other researchers until a concurrence could be agreed upon.

Summary of Findings

Aside from exploring the eating habits of college students, the researchers also discussed different factors that can have an effect on these choices, such as, more freedom, less time, and availability of food choices. Researchers also discussed weigh and how eating habits can have negative influences on weight gain, and future lifestyle choices. The evidence in this study is sufficient in supporting the results of the study. In conducting focus groups researchers were able to gather firsthand information in regards to factors that influence the eating habits of college students. Participants expressed that individual factors such as social influences (friends and social groups), physical environment (living on campus) contributed the most to their eating habits. This study also concludes that what might be a factor for one student may not be a factor for another student thus emphasizing the fact that intervention plans should be individualized which supports the conclusion that college students tend to be influenced by a variety of factors that impact their eating habits including, University characteristics such as, exams and living on campus.

Ethical Aspects

There was no mention of any ethical issues throughout this research study, however, participants were required to sign an informed consent which assured that their “anonymity and confidentiality were assured”. The researchers did not specify that they received prior approval from an Institutional Review Board before conducting research. None of the practices carried out by the researchers posed any ethical concerns to the participants.

Evaluation of Study

Referring to a source about the research design and methods used in this study to support your evaluation, do you feel the researchers used these methods appropriately to investigate the research question?

Some of the strengths associated with this research study included the fact that researchers used a simple effective form of data collection, and were able to generate a deep understanding of the determinants associated with the eating behaviors of college students based on their experiences and opinions. The study was fairly easy to follow and provided informational insight into the research question. The researchers in this study do a good job of providing executing the features of descriptive research by describing the elements of an existing phenomenon (Newman, 2016, section 2.1).

According to the authors of this research study, there were many limitations. One of the limitations mentioned was that the studies participants were volunteers which could potentially create bias due to participant interest. Another the fact that participants were a mixture of both male and female and differed in the number of years that they had been in a college setting, and not to mention that participants were all studying different disciplines. Also, although the setting chosen to hold the focus group discussions did, in fact, take place in a college setting, not all colleges are created equally (environmental setting)(Deliens, Clarys, De Bourdeaudhuij, & Deforche, 2014). I feel that the authors did a good job of covering all possible limitations and do not feel that there are any other limitations regarding the research. For future research regarding the topic of eating behaviors in college students, the authors suggest that a quantitative approach be taken in order to further investigate each determinant, as well as, categorizing determinants according to gender, number of years in college, and area of study along with other student attributes. They also suggest using larger sample sizes for future research as per the quantitative approach.

I think that a mixed method (qualitative and quantitative) approach such as the exploratory design would have worked well for this research question. In using a mixed method the researchers would have been able to not only use qualitative data in order to gain a deeper understanding of the determinants of eating behaviors in college students, but they would have also been able to also use quantitative data to generalize each determinant individually in order to better understand it’s importance and how it related specifically to the issue. One of the benefits of using the exploratory (mixed methods) approach is that it provides flexibility in answering important research questions (Almalki, 2016, p. 6).


While there are a variety of factors that have been found to influence food choices among college students, the researchers in this study were not able to conclude or pinpoint how each factor is involved in any specific context, however they were able to gain insight into possible intervention methods that might help college students to make healthier food choices, such as, requiring that students take a short health course to help them gain the knowledge that they need in order to make healthier choices, campus fliers that show illustrations of the food pyramid, as well as, social media, and e-mail to promote healthy lifestyle ideas. I believe that this study was conducted in an appropriate fashion and all aspects of the study were portrayed correctly, and that limitation regarding sampling and design were thoroughly revealed and explained. For a follow-up study, I would recommend a research question like; “what are the main causes of food choices in college students?”. This would help researchers to narrow the cause and pinpoint the most prominent factors. The method that I would recommend would be a mixed method design. In order to still be able to gain a deep understanding of the issue through the qualitative design, yet still, be able to develop a general understanding of each factor using the quantitative design. I think that this would allow the researchers to better expand on the issue.


Almalki, S. (22016). Integrating Quantitative and Qualitative Data in Mixed Methods Research–Challenges and Benefits [Journal]. Journal of Education and Learning, 5(3), 288-296. Retrieved from http://eds.a.ebscohost.com.proxy-library.ashford.edu

Deliens, T., Clarys, P., De Bourdeaudhuij, I., & Deforche, B. (2014) Determinants of eating behavior in university students: a qualitative study using focus group discussions [Article]. BMC Public Health, 14(1), 53.doi.org/10.1186/1471-2458-14-53

Newman, M. (2016). Research methods in psychology. (2nd ed.). San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.

Wertz, F. J. (2005). Phenomenological Research Methods for Counseling Psychology. [Joournal]. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 52(2), 167-177. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-0167.52.2.167

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