Nursing: Qualitative Research and Ethical Considerations

Available nursing scholarship demonstrates that a research critique is often undertaken to not only provide feedback for improvement, but also to contribute to the body of nursing knowledge (Bosewell & Cannon, 2012). In this regard, it is important to undertake an in-depth review of how each step of the research process was undertaken with the view to finding evidence on which to base the care provided or address a multiplicity of clinical issues (Ryan, Coughlan, & Cronin, 2007). The present paper critiques a qualitative research article on obesity management with the view to contributing to the body of nursing knowledge regarding whether exercises and lifestyle changes are more effective than medication therapy in improving the health status of obese patients.

Background of Study

The article selected for the critique is by Sand, Emaus, and Lian (2017), and is titled “Motivation and Obstacles for Weight Management among Young Women: A Qualitative Study with a Public Health Focus.” The clinical problem that led to the study concerns the global increase in overweight and obese individuals, particularly adolescents and young adults who comprise a vulnerable group.

The research problem revolved around having inadequate knowledge of motivating and impeding factors for weight cutback, weight maintenance and healthy lifestyle choices among young women aged 18 to 21 years. The researchers felt that there was an existing research gap on sociocultural determinants of lifestyle behaviors, physical activity and body size perception in young people despite prevention and treatment regarding overweight and obesity in this group of the population becoming increasingly significant in research and public health policies (Sand et al., 2017).

The authors did well in explaining why the study needed to be undertaken by demonstrating how the study would expand our knowledge of underlying conditions regarding weight issues and how these conditions affect young women who are at a critical phase of their life-course. The purpose of the study was clearly identified as exploring how motivational and environmental influences support and impede weight reduction and weight balance among the selected sample of young adult women.

The research question was also unambiguous as it was stated as follows: “What are the most important motivational and environmental factors that support or obstruct lifestyle changes and weight reductions or weight maintenance among young women?” (Sand et al., 2017, p. 3). The purpose and the research questions were directly related to the problem of having inadequate knowledge of motivating and impeding factors for weight reduction, weight maintenance and healthy lifestyle choices among young women.

Method of Study

The qualitative methods used in the study (qualitative research approach and a phenomenological, hermeneutic design) were appropriate to answer the research question as they allowed the researchers to get access to the experiences of the sampled women and illuminate their life-world in terms of the motivational and environmental factors that they consider most important in supporting and impeding lifestyle changes and weight reductions. However, the authors failed to identify a specific perspective to anchor the study.

Sand et al. (2017) used a mix of quantitative and qualitative studies to undertake a comprehensive literature review on the issues of obesity and weight management, in addition to policy documents, books and other secondary sources. Although most of the sources were up-to-date, the authors made use of several older qualitative and epidemiological studies on obesity and related topics. Overall, it is clear that the studies used to review and synthesize the literature on obesity met the philosophical underpinnings of the critiqued study and fulfilled its objectives. No framework was developed from the study findings since the researchers used a phenomenological research design (hermeneutics), rather than the grounded theory.

Results of Study

The participants demonstrated a strong motivation for maintaining a healthy weight through increased levels of physical activity, better dietary behaviors, as well as regularity in daily life. Although no participant mentioned medication therapy as an important way to reduce obesity, parents were portrayed as significant influencers regarding lifestyle habits and a number of participants articulated a need for more information on healthy nutrition and eating. Engagement in physical activity among participants was associated with a positive social environment and components of joy.

Some of the impeding factors acknowledged by participants included transition into adulthood, moving out of their parents’ homes, as well as high costs of healthy food items and sports activities (Sand et al., 2017). The implication of the results to the nursing practice is that individuals in this age group need to be provided with reliable and easily accessible health education and information on healthy nutrition, proper eating habits, physical activity opportunities, food choices, and preparation of food items. These findings contribute to nursing knowledge as they show that young women identify more with eating healthy diets and undertaking physical exercises to keep fit and address weight-related issues that may lead to obesity. These findings would impact nursing practice, particularly in terms of providing focused strategies to address the impediments that often lead young women to become obese.

Ethical Considerations

Although letters with invitation to participate were sent to eligible participants, there is no mention of whether the study was approved by an Institutional Review Board. Another weakness relates to the fact that the researchers did not indicate how the privacy of participants was protected, though it is clear that the investigators should have made ethical considerations regarding the treatment of obese participants. Perhaps this explains why the researchers experienced a disappointingly low turnout rate of only 10 percent in the overweight group during the interview sessions (Sand et al., 2017). Available scholarship underscores the need for researchers to not only fully inform participants about the nature of the research and guarantee their autonomy and confidentiality (Ryan et al., 2007), but also to protect them from harm and ensure that the ethical permission to undertake the study is granted (Bosewell & Cannon, 2012).


Overall, the critiqued research article shows that physical exercises and lifestyle changes in dietary habits are more effective than medication therapy in improving the health outcomes of obese patients. Drawing from the appraisal, it is clear that the researchers of the article used most of the established research standards and protocols in conducting the qualitative study; however, the neither developed a comprehensive perspective to anchor the study nor discussed the ethical perspectives of their interactions with participants. From the study findings, it is evident that young women consider physical exercises and healthy eating habits to be of immense importance in dealing with weight issues.

It is also clear that parental figures could be used to influence young people to engage in physical exercises and adopt healthy lifestyles, though the high cost of healthy food and physical training facilities serve as drawbacks to the maintenance of a healthy body weight. These findings are applicable to nursing practice by virtue of providing evidence-based knowledge on what strategies to use to ensure young people maintain healthy body weights. The findings, more than anything else, contribute to nursing knowledge as they show that young people identify more with eating healthy diets and undertaking physical exercises to keep fit and address weight-related issues that may lead to obesity.


Bosewell, C., & Cannon, S. (2012). Introduction to nursing research: Incorporating evidence based practice. Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Ryan, F., Coughlan, M., & Cronin, P. (2007). Step-by-step guide to critiquing research. Part 2: Qualitative research. British Journal of Nursing, 16(12), 738-744.

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