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The Qualitative Transparency Deliberations: Insights and Implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  06 January 2021


In recent years, a variety of efforts have been made in political science to enable, encourage, or require scholars to be more open and explicit about the bases of their empirical claims and, in turn, make those claims more readily evaluable by others. While qualitative scholars have long taken an interest in making their research open, reflexive, and systematic, the recent push for overarching transparency norms and requirements has provoked serious concern within qualitative research communities and raised fundamental questions about the meaning, value, costs, and intellectual relevance of transparency for qualitative inquiry. In this Perspectives Reflection, we crystallize the central findings of a three-year deliberative process—the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations (QTD)—involving hundreds of political scientists in a broad discussion of these issues. Following an overview of the process and the key insights that emerged, we present summaries of the QTD Working Groups’ final reports. Drawing on a series of public, online conversations that unfolded at, the reports unpack transparency’s promise, practicalities, risks, and limitations in relation to different qualitative methodologies, forms of evidence, and research contexts. Taken as a whole, these reports—the full versions of which can be found in the Supplementary Materials—offer practical guidance to scholars designing and implementing qualitative research, and to editors, reviewers, and funders seeking to develop criteria of evaluation that are appropriate—as understood by relevant research communities—to the forms of inquiry being assessed. We dedicate this Reflection to the memory of our coauthor and QTD working group leader Kendra Koivu.1

© American Political Science Association 2020

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A list of permanent links to the Supplementary Materials provided by the authors precedes the References section.

Ana Arjona, Associate Professor, Northwestern University; Leonardo R. Arriola, Associate Professor, University of California, Berkeley; Eva Bellin, Professor, Brandeis University; Andrew Bennett, Professor, Georgetown University; Lisa Björkman, Assistant Professor,University of Louisville; Erik Bleich, Professor, Middlebury College; Zachary Elkins, Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin; Tasha Fairfield, Associate Professor, London School of Economics; Nikhar Gaikwad, Assistant Professor, Columbia University; Sheena Chestnut Greitens, Associate Professor, The University of Texas at Austin; Mary Hawkesworth, Professor Emerita, Rutgers University; Veronica Herrera, Assistant Professor, University of California, Los Angeles; Yoshiko M. Herrera, University of Wisconsin-Madison; Kimberley S. Johnson, Professor, New York University; Ekrem Karakoç, Associate Professor, Binghamton University (SUNY); Kendra Koivu, Associate Professor, University of New Mexico; Marcus Kreuzer, Professor, Villanova University; Milli Lake, Associate Professor, London School of Economics; Timothy W. Luke, Professor, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Lauren M. MacLean, Professor, Indiana University; Samantha Majic, Associate Professor, John Jay College/City University of New York; Zachariah Mampilly, Professor, City University of New York; Rahsaan Maxwell, Professor, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Robert Mickey, Associate Professor, University of Michigan; Kimberly J. Morgan, Professor, George Washington University; Sarah E. Parkinson, Assistant Professor, Johns Hopkins University; Craig Parsons, Professor, University of Oregon; Wendy Pearlman, Professor, Northwestern University; Mark A. Pollack, Professor, Temple University; Elliot Posner, Professor, Case Western Reserve University; Rachel Beatty Riedl, Professor, Cornell University; Edward Schatz, Associate Professor, University of Toronto; Carsten Q. Schneider, Professor, Central European University; Jillian Schwedler, Professor, City University of New York; Anastasia Shesterinina, Lecturer (Assistant Professor), University of Sheffield; Erica S. Simmons, Asssociate Professor, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Diane Singerman, Associate Professor, American University; Nicholas Rush Smith, Assistant Professor, City University of New York – City College; Hillel David Soifer, Associate Professor, Temple University; Scott J. Spitzer, Associate Professor, California State University, Fullerton; Jonas Tallberg, Professor, Stockholm University; Susan Thomson, Associate Professor, Colgate University; Antonio Y. Vázquez-Arroyo, Associate Professor, Rutgers University-Newark; Barbara Vis, Professor, Utrecht University; Lisa Wedeen, Professor, University of Chicago; Juliet A. Williams, Professor, University of California, Los Angeles; Elisabeth Jean Wood, Professor, Yale University; Deborah J. Yashar, Professor, Princeton University. For full biographical information and contact information for all authors, see Appendix 1 in the Supplementary Materials.

For financial support, we are grateful to the U.S. National Science Foundation under Political Science Program Grant # 1644757 for the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations Interim and Working Group Meetings. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the authors or participants in the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Elizabeth Good and Byron Haworth provided outstanding research assistance in the organization of QTD materials and the preparation of this essay; Kathryn Alexander and Elizabeth Good helped with preparing and conducting the APSA 2016 meeting of the QTD working groups; Rob Cooper, Courtney Orning, Stephen Sample, and Josh Smith at Duke University’s Social Science Research Institute and Florian Schmidt at the Hochschule für Politik/School of Governance at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) provided critical IT support for the QTD website and online fora; Alberto Alcaraz provided excellent editorial support for the entire project. The project was made possible by contributions to the Qualitative Transparency Deliberations by hundreds of scholars, ranging in rank from PhD students to emeritus professors.


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Supplementary material: PDF

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Appendix 1. Full Biographical Information for All Authors
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Supplementary material: PDF

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Appendix 2. QTD Working Groups’ Full Reports
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