Rigor or Reliability and Validity in Qualitative Research: Perspectives, Strategies, Reconceptualization, and Recommendations

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Abstract

Issues are still raised even now in the 21st century by the persistent concern with achieving rigor in qualitative research. There is also a continuing debate about the analogous terms reliability and validity in naturalistic inquiries as opposed to quantitative investigations. This article presents the concept of rigor in qualitative research using a phenomenological study as an exemplar to further illustrate the process. Elaborating on epistemological and theoretical conceptualizations by Lincoln and Guba, strategies congruent with qualitative perspective for ensuring validity to establish the credibility of the study are described. A synthesis of the historical development of validity criteria evident in the literature during the years is explored. Recommendations are made for use of the term rigor instead of trustworthiness and the reconceptualization and renewed use of the concept of reliability and validity in qualitative research, that strategies for ensuring rigor must be built into the qualitative research process rather than evaluated only after the inquiry, and that qualitative researchers and students alike must be proactive and take responsibility in ensuring the rigor of a research study. The insights garnered here will move novice researchers and doctoral students to a better conceptual grasp of the complexity of reliability and validity and its ramifications for qualitative inquiry.

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