Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Validity in Qualitative Research: A Processual Approach

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Validity in Qualitative Research: A Processual Approach

Article excerpt


An adequate effort in the pursuit of validity assurance seems to be vital in order to have a work accepted by the scientific community (Morse, Barret, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002). Furthermore, it is necessary that qualitative research strives to firmly demonstrate its scientific nature to obtain an in-depth understanding of the phenomena studied without losing sight of the subtlety of the immersed researcher's subjectivity in a context that is in constant change and development (Drapeau, 2004b; Van der Maren 1996; Van Maanen, 1995). Validity in qualitative research can have different meanings, such as rigor, trustworthiness, appropriateness, and even as quality, and it can be described in a great variety of terms (Golafshani, 2003). However, despite the importance of the concept to the development of the qualitative research field, few studies try to fill up this gap and to help solving the quest (Golafshani, 2003; Kvale, 1995; Lincoln, & Guba, 1985; Maxwell, 1992; Onwuegbuzie, & Johnson, 2006; Whittemore, Chase, & Mandle, 2001; Winter, 2000).

This article aims to analyze the processual aspect of validity in qualitative research. This issue seems to be fundamental when addressing a qualitative study due to its nature, proposal, ontology and the variety of research methods that are involved (Royer, 2007; Thompson, 2011). However, one may pose the following question: Why should a researcher adopt a processual rather than a traditional validity approach? We argue that the focus on ensuring validity and transparency of qualitative research is not specific to any single stage of the research; instead, it should be part of all research stages.

Unlike validity in quantitative studies, qualitative validity is not a watertight product or a set of measures that can ensure the validity of the research. There are paradigmatic, ontological and epistemological differences between quantitative and qualitative or mixed research (their incommensurability is not advocated here) (Drapeau, 2004a; Hammarberg, Kirkman, & Lacey, 2016; Royer, 2007; Thompson, 2011). There are also differences between the purposes of the research based on the context and the maturity of the field and the available literature. Quantitative studies are not better than qualitative ones and vice versa. They are merely different and could be complementary. As evidenced more recently, there is an increasing process of approximation and dialog between them (Aubin-Auger et al., 2008; Benedicto, Benedicto, Stieg, & Andrade, 2011; Brannen, 2017; Creswell, 2009; MolinaAzorin, & Fetters, 2016). However, while validity is recognized and widespread in quantitative research, the same cannot be said for qualitative studies (Drapeau, 2004a).

We need broader discussions on how to maintain quality, accuracy and consistency between the problem, the data, and the methods of qualitative studies (Baxter & Jack, 2008; Leung, 2015; Mukamurera, Lacourse, & Couturier, 2006; Winter, 2000). It seems unrealistic to adopt the same criteria for validity and reliability used in quantitative studies, reinforcing the argument in favor of adopting a processual approach to validity since it allows for the control of the validity at different stages of the research. This seems to be a coherent approach to the maintenance of scientific criteria, especially for different types of methods, epistemologies and qualitative ontologies. Dubé and Paré (2003) had already included elements of validity in the research process to obtain scientific rigor, such as a strongly formulated research question, a well-described theory, a research design that potentiates the scientific aspects of the study, and a well-described process of collecting and analyzing data.

This paper is divided into four sections. The first section provides a description of validity that was originally developed in quantitative studies. The second section reviews the versions of validity applied to qualitative studies. …

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