What makes for good qualitative research?
Truth and rigor in qualitative research is highly prized. You will need to uphold the integrity of your data, ensure it is strong and also directly pertinent to the research question.
You will often hear the term ‘validity’ in relation to research. It is concerned with whether research methods actually measure what the researcher claims they measure, if the research findings reflect reality and if they are accurate. In qualitative research the use of the term ‘validity’ has met with considerable debate, as the term has its roots in quantitative and experimental research methodologies.
While many researchers maintain validity criteria are not appropriate for qualitative research studies Whittemore, Chase, & Mandle argue that, ‘translated standards of validity have proven to be useful criteria for demonstrating the rigor and legitimacy of qualitative research’ (2001, p. 523). These authors suggest the terms authenticity, credibility, criticality, and integrity are more appropriate and cite Lincoln and Guba (1985) as preferring the terms confirmability, credibility, dependability, and transferability. The terms are defined below and include a practical suggestion for each.
Before embarking on your research design, consider how you will address each of the following requirements and questions.
Does the research genuinely and accurately reflect the experiences of participants and the meaning they attribute to their experiences? For example, if you returned your research findings to participants, would they recognise them as their own?
Can the results be confirmed or corroborated by others? For example, you will need to document the procedures for checking and rechecking the data throughout the study. You could also ask a colleague to check their interpretations of the data.
Are the findings credible? Do the findings believably portray the experiences of participants and accurately interpret the meaning of the data? For example, you could check if the findings are consistent or inconsistent with other sources of data.
Is the research design systematic and is there evidence of critical analysis and reflexivity? This means your readers should be able to follow your thinking and understand the rationale behind your decisions. How will you document your thought processes?
Have you accounted for the ever-changing context within which your research occurs? For example, you must document any changes that occur in the research setting and the effect these changes may have had on your study.
Are interpretations of the data grounded within the data and is integrity evident within the process of data analysis? For example, you may be required to provide verbatim transcripts of interviews.
Do the findings fit other settings? For example, do others with similar experiences not included in the study also identify with the findings? In other words, are your research findings similar to their own?
When considering the truth or rigor of the findings that emerge from qualitative data analysis, researchers must consider whether their findings are credible, trustworthy, and able to be confirmed. Select the comments link and share with the group how you will attempt to achieve these requirements in your own research design and process.
Whitmore, R., Chase, S.K. & Mandle, C.L. (2001). Validity in Qualitative Research. Vol 11, Issue 4.
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