In regards to qualitative research, a researcher may be required to undergo the test of peer debriefing to guarantee the validity of the presented information, and it is during debriefing sessions that impartial peers inspect the research data and then aim debriefing questions and feedback at the researcher. The feedback should lead the researcher to correct erroneous or reassess assuming statements in his work. After facing debriefing questions, the researcher may even decide on a new structure or focus for the information.
Nature of Impartial Peers Conducting Debriefing Questions
The impartial peers who conduct the peer debriefing session may or may not be knowledgeable on the subject matter of the presented research; the most important thing is simply that the individuals asking questions of the researcher and providing feedback are peers. The feedback of individuals who are at a lower academic standing than the researcher may not be taken seriously. On the other hand, feedback from individuals of a higher academic standing may be readily received without question. Therefore, members of the research committee should not be issuing debriefing questions or feedback.
Debriefing questions can take on a variety of forms, whether they call attention to legal matters, ethical issues or methodological choices. The following types of questions will be beneficial to the progress of the researcher’s work:
- Questions that demand clarification serve to clear up misconceptions concerning the nature of the research. Impartial peers may begin sessions with these types of questions to ensure that everyone is on the same page regarding the progress and general purpose of the research.
- Questions that demand general elaboration on behalf of the researcher will push the discussion into deeper territory.
- Questions that challenge the researcher to explore alternatives may change the direction of the project itself. A peer can suggest alternatives whether or not the current course of the research is proving successful. The goal is to keep the researcher’s mind open to other paths.
- Questions that inquire about the benefits of the project will force the researcher to consider the significance of the information. Perhaps the researcher will find a way to add relevance to his work.
- Questions about the risks associated with the project may lead the researcher to weigh the potential risks and benefits of the current approach. These will also serve to measure the confidence of the researcher in his work.
- Questions about the researcher’s uncertainty regarding the study may lead to a different approach.
Impartial peers should not hesitate to play the role of devil’s advocate. While questions regarding the importance or benefits of the presented information may frustrate the researcher, these inquires can also help him reach for a new level of depth in his work. At the same time, the debriefing questions should not be tailored specifically to annoy the researcher, but rather challenge his approach and methodology. After the session, the researcher should not feel so discouraged that he lacks the motivation to continue with the project.
Although any question regarding the work can be offered during a debriefing session, the impartial peers should follow some general guidelines to avoid causing more harm than good. Peers should do the following:
- Prepare a list of questions before the debriefing session.
- Keep their questions as clear and concise as possible.
- Avoid questions that lead the discussion away from the subject matter.
- Listen carefully to the discussion to prevent overlapping questions.
- Avoid a tone that seems overly condescending.
Beyond the setting of the meetings, peer debriefers should stay in touch with the researcher. Frequent contact will prevent misunderstandings regarding the time and place of future meetings. However, unless they are completely necessary, debriefing questions should be reserved for the sessions, wherein everyone may contribute feedback.