Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Online Dynamic Asynchronous Audit Strategy for Reflexivity in the Qualitative Paradigm

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Online Dynamic Asynchronous Audit Strategy for Reflexivity in the Qualitative Paradigm

Article excerpt

Qualitative research is based on the nature of ill-conceived problems: there is an open-endedness to the field of study (Kleinsasser, 2000). Since qualitative research focuses on interpretation and emerging design, there is no predetermined format for design and data collection (Merriam, 1998; Russell & Kelly, 2002; Stake, 1995). Depending on the nature of the research question, various models of study can be employed. For example, a case study might be appropriate for focused site-specific study on literacy strategies used in the classroom of a primary school teacher, while a phenomenological study might examine general practices that inhibit or enhance school effectiveness. Moreover, an ethnographic approach might be more relevant for a broader study of children's language development and use in different cultures. However, there are underlying methodological techniques that underpin the qualitative paradigm. Therefore it is critical for researchers to be mindful of trustworthiness when conducting a study.

In order to maintain high trustworthiness in a qualitative study, Krefting (1991) suggested four criteria to ensure valid interpretation of data: truth value, applicability, consistency, and neutrality. In the qualitative approach, truth value is measured by credibility: having an adequate engagement in the research setting so recurrent patterns in data can be properly identified and verified. Applicability is established with transferability: allowing readers to be able to apply the findings of the study to their own situations. Transferability is different than generalizability, as a qualitative researcher is often unlikely to make blanket application of research findings to larger populations. Consistency in a study is enhanced by dependability: knowing that the patterns and themes that emerge from data are repeatable and replicable. Finally, neutrality ensures confirmability. This is not necessarily researcher objectivity but rather an external verification of findings. Since a qualitative researcher's perspective is naturally biased due to his or her close association with the data, sources, and methods, audit strategies can be used to confirm findings (Bowen, 2009; Miller, 1997). It is critical that the researcher engage in robust and diverse strategies to audit emerging data, both through self-reflective and external audits (Rodgers & Cowles, 1993). Therefore, trustworthiness of (a) interpretations, and (b) findings are dependent on being able to demonstrate how they were reached (Mauthner & Doucet, 2003).

One of the key tenets to trustworthy qualitative research is high quality reflexivity. Reflexivity, as defined by Schwandt (2001), is "the process of critical self-reflection on one's biases, theoretical predispositions, preferences," an acknowledgement that the "inquirer is part of the setting, context, and social phenomenon he or she seeks to understand ... and a means for critically inspecting the entire research process" (p. 224). Often taking the form of a handwritten journal, reflexivity is the opportunity for researchers to understand how their own experiences and understandings of phenomena affect the research process (Morrow, 2005).

Reflexivity is connected to action and a part of the interpretive process in which participants and the researcher are engaged. Since knowledge does not correspond to an objective reality, but rather is socially constructed within the community of practice, reflexivity is intersubjective because it develops from the interaction between researchers and the sources and methods of data (Colombo, 2003). Therefore, trustworthiness increases when researchers delineate how findings reflect their own personal milieu (Hall & Callery, 2001). Reflexivity provides the rigor that makes data more transparent.

Reflexivity encourages researchers to determine their positionality, identifying personal and theoretical commitments that can be critically examined and evaluated. …

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