How is reliability and validity realized in qualitative research?

       Reliability in qualitative research refers to the stability of responses to multiple coders of data sets. It can be enhanced by detailed field notes by using recording devices and by transcribing the digital files. However, validity in qualitative research might have different terms than in quantitative research. Lincoln and Guba (1985) used “trustworthiness” of a study as the naturalist’s equivalent for internal validation, external validation, reliability, and objectivity. Trustworthiness is achieved by credibility, authenticity, transferability, dependability, and confirmability in qualitative research. To operationalize these terms, long engagement in the field and the triangulation of data sources, methods, and investigators to establish credibility. To confirm that the results are transferable between the researcher and those being studied, thick description is needed. In qualitative research, researchers look for dependability that the results will be subject to change and instability rather than looking for reliability. In qualitative research.

        Instead of using the word validation, Eisner (1991) constructed standards such as structural corroboration, consensual validation, and referential adequacy as evidence for asserting the credibility of qualitative research. In structural corroboration, the scientist uses several sources of data to support or deny the interpretation. According to Lather (1991) he identified four types of validation (triangulation, construct validation, face validation, and catalytic validation) as a “reconceptualization of validation.”

Whittemore, Chase, and Mandle (2001), analyzed 13 writings about validation and came up with key validation criteria from these studies. They classified these criteria into primary and secondary criteria. They found 4 primary criteria which are:

  1. Credibility (Are the results an accurate interpretation of the participants’ meaning?)
  2. Authenticity (Are different voices heard?)
  3. Criticality (Is there a critical appraisal of all aspects of the research?)
  4. Integrity (Are the investigators self-critical?)

The secondary criteria are related to explicitness, vividness, creativity, thoroughness, congruence, and sensitivity.

        According to Creswell & Poth (2013) they consider “validation” in qualitative research as it is trying to assess the “accuracy” of the results, as best described by the researcher, the participants, and the readers. This indicate that any report of research is a representation by the author. They believe that validation is used to emphasize a process, instead of verification made by extensive time spent in the field, detailed description, and a close relationship between the researcher and the participants.

Useful resources:

Whittemore, R., Chase, S. K., & Mandle, C. L. (2001). Validity in qualitative research. Qualitative Health Research, 11, 522–537. doi:10.1177/104973201129119299


Creswell, J., & Poth, C. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design : Choosing among five approaches (Fourth ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE Publications.