Reliability assessments in qualitative health promotion research

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This article contributes to the debate about the use of reliability assessments in qualitative research in general, and health promotion research in particular. In this article, I examine the use of reliability assessments in qualitative health promotion research in response to health promotion researchers’ commonly held misconception that reliability assessments improve the rigor of qualitative research. All qualitative articles published in the journal Health Promotion International from 2003 to 2009 employing reliability assessments were examined. In total, 31.3% (20/64) articles employed some form of reliability assessment. The use of reliability assessments increased over the study period, ranging from <20% in 2003/2004 to 50% and above in 2008/2009, while at the same time the total number of qualitative articles decreased. The articles were then classified into four types of reliability assessments, including the verification of thematic codes, the use of inter-rater reliability statistics, congruence in team coding and congruence in coding across sites. The merits of each type were discussed, with the subsequent discussion focusing on the deductive nature of reliable thematic coding, the limited depth of immediately verifiable data and the usefulness of such studies to health promotion and the advancement of the qualitative paradigm.

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