Completing Your Qualitative Inquiry Project

“Completing” a qualitative project starts early and continues throughout the project.  Researchers can develop work plans and plan project “products” early, but only if those plans are purposely built for flexibility to incorporate changes directed by emergent discovery.

Tools and strategies can help researchers maintain attention to completion.  For example, PowerPoint can be used as a tool to store potential ideas and themes that may be “paper-worthy” and to draft sections of final papers and presentations.  Data analysis strategies can double as a vehicle to entertain possible themes to pursue and as pre-writing throughout a project. 

ResearchTalk’s Sort and Sift, Think Shift qualitative analysis approach features several tools that facilitate getting past stuck points and moving to deliverables.  Memoing and diagramming serve as think-aloud tools to develop emerging ideas.  Using quotations wisely and prominently highlights the power of participants’ words.  Episode profiles focus on using holistic stories of participants’ lived experience to uncover findings that guide results sections. Feedback strategies, such as reporting out “what I know so far” at different project stages, can support road-testing ideas for final products. Taken together, engaging these tools helps researchers shape claims using qualitative data as evidence.

A critical question at the heart of this process is: “What does ‘complete’ or ‘done’ mean for a qualitative project?”

The course draws on material from:

  • Maietta, Raymond C., Reifsteck, Erin J., Petruzzelli, Jeff, Mihas, Paul, Swartout, Kevin, & Hamilton, Alison B. “The Sort and Sift, Think and Shift Analysis Method” (chapter 16), in Richards, K. A., Hemphill, M. A., & Wright, P. M. (Eds.). (2024). Qualitative research and evaluation in physical education and sport pedagogy. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Maietta, R., Mihas, P., Swartout, K., Petruzzelli, J., & Hamilton, A. B. (2021). Sort and Sift, Think and Shift: Let the Data Be Your Guide An Applied Approach to Working With, Learning From, and Privileging Qualitative Data. The Qualitative Report, 26(6), 2045-2060.

Open-source article available at: