Trustworthiness in Qualitative Research

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mrx glossary trustworthiness in qualitative research

In this blog post, learn how to establish trustworthiness in qualitative research by looking for four main criteria: credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability.

 


 

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Say you’ve just completed a study and your quantitative research findings tell you that 87% of people choose laundry detergent based on fragrance, while 65% are looking for stain removal, 58% are loyal to a favorite brand and 49% are bothered about environmental impact (hypothetical numbers for the purpose of this example). These kinds of data-supported findings help you forecast what people actually take into account at the point of purchase and how they use the product in their homes. They are numbers you can latch onto as you consider brand extensions and develop new product ideas.

 

Quantitative research is great as a standalone approach, but also highly impactful when planning qualitative research. Consider you're about to conduct a focus group to talk more in-depth about using laundry detergent in the home; your quantitative, numerical data act as supporting percentages to quote, bar charts to refer back to, and data points to help drive the conversation. Qualitative research studies are a fantastic way to discover emerging consumer views or trends and do a deep dive into quantitative data, but how do we gauge their true trustworthiness?

 

Qualitative and quantitative research studies are set up quite differently in terms of methodologies and data analysis, though each is rigorous in its own way. Since qualitative research is generally less familiar than quantitative approaches for most researchers, we can determine the dependability of qualitative studies by breaking trustworthiness down into four key components.

 

 

Components of trustworthiness in qualitative research

Credibility

Put simply, credibility asks: are the research findings believable? Have they been researched thoroughly enough to be an accurate representation of what respondents have said?

 

qualitative research methods tend to involve a comparatively small sample size. However, with a well-thought-out research design and qualified participants, the same themes will rise amongst respondents of a similar profile, and depending on the theme, across different respondent types too.

 

One way of making certain important issues are uncovered is through member checks. This means that after conducting a portion of the research, researchers tell respondents what they have heard so far - e.g. 'other people have told me that they could never buy a fragrance-free detergent - what do you think of this?' or 'it seems that most people think stain removal is far more important than a brand name - tell me about that.' Member checks thus generate debate and the confirmation of qualitative data. 

 

Researchers also make sure to summarize findings with participants at the end of each interview. They may even re-contact respondents at a later date to go over the interview, check findings, and ensure they have understood what respondents have said. During these follow-up summaries, respondents also have a chance to clarify or validate their feedback and add additional views.

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Transferability

The second element of trustworthiness in qualitative research has to do with the transferability of the findings; in other words, the findings’ generalizability and applicability to other contexts. 

 

The thorough recording and interpretation of findings from qualitative research are known as 'thick description', and it goes beyond simply writing a surface-level narrative of what respondents have said based on observing or listening to them. Thick description means understanding where respondents are coming from according to their social and cultural context, their values, their aims, and their emotions. It gets to the heart of the researched sample, and (from the laundry detergent example above) it would demonstrate that laundry detergent isn't a purchase decision that is disconnected from other considerations and aspirations in someone's life. On the surface, it might seem like a laundry detergent purchase is driven only by practical needs, but digging deeper through qualitative means could reveal that contextual factors such as childhood memories of fragrance, environmental attitudes, and what other people think of them (on the subject of stained clothes and looking presentable, for example), will all feed into the final product choice. 

 

Understanding world views that respondents bring to any subject will give a good idea of how they will behave in similar situations or with regard to other products. If the key differentiating characteristics of consumers within a category are already known, researchers can recruit sample according to those selective criteria (known as purposive sampling).

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Dependability

Dependability is linked to reliability and is the measure of the extent to which a research study could be repeated by a separate researcher and reveal the same findings. This is all about the thoroughness of the research process: a detailed discussion guide or set of respondent tasks to ensure focused data collection, open-ended questions to elicit spontaneous and unbiased answers, digital recordings, rigorous analysis of transcripts, and extensive note-taking.

 

All this is followed by clear research findings that give a detailed description and interpretation to answer the research objectives. If a qualitative study is conducted with rigor, then its replicability and therefore its dependability will be high.

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Confirmability

A qualitative research study has confirmability when the insights collected reflect respondent views only - without any subjective or biased views of the qualitative researcher reporting the study's findings. This requires the researcher to take an objective reading of what they have seen and heard during the research, putting aside all prior expectations, prejudices, and stereotypes that could warp their interpretation.

 

Audit trails can be used by researchers to record data analysis from start to finish, detailing how themes were elicited, how sub-themes were grouped, and how decisions about relevant insights were made. This helps eliminate researcher bias by proving that the findings are based on views given by respondents only.

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Achieving trustworthiness with quantilope’s research solutions

Setting up a qualitative study with quantilope’s video research solution - inColor, makes data collection a breeze. The instinctive step-by-step sample recruitment tool means you get access to respondents of the desired profile, to whom you can pose the right questions via a simple video survey set-up.

 

Qualitative questioning encourages respondents to open up about their lives and views, helping to build a picture of contextual considerations pertinent not only to the study findings but to the findings of any future research you carry out. inColor’s automated data analysis helps you get the most out of the data collected, with sentiment and facial emotion analysis contributing an added dimension of understanding, allowing you to really get inside your audience's heads. Automated transcripts of video files allow you to repeatedly go over findings, while the keyword trend analysis helps you identify themes that are emerging without you having to listen out for them yourself. 

 

To talk more about how we can help you conduct qualitative research that is rigorous, insightful, and above all, trustworthy, get in touch with us below: 

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