Exposing the Backstage: Critical Reflections on a Longitudinal Qualitative Study of Residents’ Care Networks in Assisted Living

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In this article, we analyze the research experiences associated with a longitudinal qualitative study of residents’ care networks in assisted living. Using data from researcher meetings, field notes, and memos, we critically examine our design and decision making and accompanying methodological implications. We focus on one complete wave of data collection involving 28 residents and 114 care network members in four diverse settings followed for 2 years. We identify study features that make our research innovative, but that also represent significant challenges. They include the focus and topic; settings and participants; scope and design complexity; nature, modes, frequency, and duration of data collection; and analytic approach. Each feature has methodological implications, including benefits and challenges pertaining to recruitment, retention, data collection, quality, and management, research team work, researcher roles, ethics, and dissemination. Our analysis demonstrates the value of our approach and of reflecting on and sharing methodological processes for cumulative knowledge building.

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