According to Lee (2006), the skills of reading and critiquing either quantitative or qualitative research are essential prerequisites for those who intend to undertake a critical review of literature, begin their own research, or initiate systematic reviews of research (p. 32). In this regard, the article “Why Don’t Teenagers Use Contraception? ” by Sally Brown and Kate Guthrie (2010) serves as n example of descriptive qualitative research, with its own peculiarities, limitations, and implications.
In the article “Why Don’t Teenagers Use Contraception?”, Sally Brown and Kate Guthrie (2010) touch upon the problem of teenage pregnancies and use of contraception, particularly in the UK. The problem appears to be very topical, because the UK has the highest rate of teenage pregnancy in Western Europe. That is why the key priorities of the UK government are reducing teenage pregnancies and lowering rates of young parenthood. Within the country, there are several places with the high rates of under-18 pregnancies.
The city of Kingston-upon-Hull in the north of England is one of them. In addition, the city has high levels of deprivation and social disadvantage, together with low rates of education after the age of 16. Therefore, the authors viewed the high rates of pregnancy and parenthood at a young age within a context of living in an area with poor educational attainment and high rates of youth unemployment, linking unintended pregnancies among adolescents to lower socio-economic status (Brown & Guthrie, 2010, pp. 197-198).
Taking the above problem into consideration, Brown and Guthrie (2010) set the following objective: to investigate the causes of unintended pregnancies and non-use of contraception among young women attending a day unit for surgical abortion (p. 197). The authors wanted to identify the circumstances under which these young women, who did not wish to continue with their pregnancy, had actually conceived. The study did not involve young women who wanted to be pregnant and intended continuing with their pregnancy, irrespectively of planning the pregnancy (Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198). Thus, the authors effectively establish a context for the research by emphasizing the topicality of the problem and, thereby, justifying the purpose of the study.
However, it is not only the problem and the purpose of a study that should be clearly developed and stated in a research (Lee, 2006, p. 30). In order to provide the questions for analysis, researchers should also consider the review of literature on the topic. Daly et al. (2007) provide criteria for assessing a qualitative study. With regard to the literature review, the authors state that the method of qualitative research derives from sociology which is a theory-based discipline (Daly et al., 2007, p. 44).
Since social theory includes making assumptions and the usage of concepts, sociologists consider both a traditional literature review and the theoretical literature, thereby providing a systematic means of understanding human actions and institutions. Thus, in order to define a research framework, qualitative studies can include both the review of the previous assumptions on the topic and the theoretical concepts. As a result, the questions for analysis and the appropriate concepts frame the study, ensuring direct relation of findings to the research question (Daly et al., 2007, p. 45).
However, not all qualitative studies embrace theoretical concepts. For instance, Daly et al. (2007) distinguish among generalizable, conceptual, descriptive, and single case studies, proceeding from their capacity to provide evidence for practice or policy (pp. 45-47). Upon careful consideration of the features, limitations, and evidence for practice of these four levels of qualitative research, it becomes clear that the choice of conducting a certain type of research also depends on the context and the purpose of the study. With regard to the analyzed study by Brown and Guthrie (2010), it should be noted that the study bears the markers of the descriptive (Daly et al., 2007, p. 46), rather than conceptual or generalizable level, for several reasons.
First of all, the sample was selected to illustrate practical, rather than theoretical issues. Also, a range of illustrative quotes were recorded and included the accounts of “several”, “most”, and “almost all” participants of the study. Secondly, the researchers did not report the full range of responses, and the sample was not diversified, in order to analyze the manner and the causes of differences. Finally, the study demonstrated the existence of a phenomenon in a defined group and identified practical issues for further consideration.
Thus, the descriptive nature of the qualitative study by Brown and Guthrie (2010) serves its intended purpose, namely, providing the questions for analysis and framing the study. With this in mind, the authors refer to the prior research and conclusions on the topic of teenage pregnancies, noting that much work had been undertaken internationally on reducing the incidence of teenage pregnancies. The focus of this work had been mainly on sex education in schools, access to contraception, and the use of sexual health services.
For example, the original research suggested that the approach to sex education in schools was often too biological for young women and should be taught earlier, especially for the teenagers who early become sexually active (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198). Also, the lessons of sex education can be uncomfortable for many young people, which can result in disruptive behavior and unwillingness to participate in the lessons. The need for more wide-ranging lessons is recognized. Along with the biological aspect, such lessons should be focused on emotions and relationships. The teachers are reported to feel constrained by pressure of time, lack of training, enthusiasm, and confidence (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198).
As for access to sexual health services, teenagers often perceive health practitioners as being unsympathetic and overly critical. Besides, access to services is felt to be crucial, because these services, as designed for teenagers, should take into account their needs and fears, especially those concerning confidentiality and visibility (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198). In relation to the use of contraception, the research on attitudes to contraception is reported to have the tendency to focus on girls and young women (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198).
Still, the research conducted among the young people of both genders indicated that boys approached the responsibility for contraception differently (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198). Also, the difficulties for different genders in negotiating the use of condom are highlighted. This is especially true for young women, whose successful negotiation of safe sex may be confounded by notions of romantic love (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198).
Therefore, proceeding from the above context and literature review, Brown and Guthrie (2010) identified the aim of the study, namely, to investigate the reason for pregnancy among young women having an abortion in the city of Kingston-upon-Hill. While conducting the research, the authors intended to consider the following factors: knowledge about sex and contraception, access to sexual health services, and attitudes to the use of contraception. The researchers also had in mind to ascertain the role of each of these factors in the resulting unintended pregnancies (as cited in Brown & Guthrie, 2010, p. 198).
As seen from the analysis provided above, the authors of the analyzed article managed to frame their study by successful matching the context of the study to its purpose and questions.