Judging the quality of qualitative inquiry: Criteriology and relativism in action

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Statement of problem:A variety of conceptions of qualitative research exist. This leads to a situation in which there are competing claims as to what counts as good-quality work. These competing claims revolve around the issue of criteria and how they are used to pass judgment on qualitative research. Those involved in sport and exercise sciences need to reflect on this issue with a view to generating further dialogue and a greater understanding of difference within the research community.Method:Two ideal types of researcher, one a criteriologist the other a relativist, are constructed to illustrate how each might judge qualitative studies of different kinds.Results:A comparison of the ways in which the criteriologist and the relativist draw on different assumptions to judge qualitative studies illustrates the constraining nature of the former and the expansive possibilities of the latter.Conclusions:Criteria should be viewed as lists of characterizing traits that are open to reinterpretation as times, conditions, and purposes change. Researchers need to adopt the role of connoisseur in order to pass judgment on different kinds of study in a fair and ethical manner.

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