Dependability and Trustworthiness in Qualitative Research

mrx glossary trustworthiness in qualitative research

Quantitative research can be a great starting point for understanding consumers, while qualitative research is a fantastic way to discover emerging consumer views and dive deep into quantitative data.


Say you’ve just completed a quant study and found 87% of people choose laundry detergent based on fragrance, 65% are looking for stain removal, and 49% are bothered by the environmental impact of their choice. This information can be used as a springboard for discussion in the qualitative phase - for example, which fragrances are attractive, and which aspects of eco-friendliness are most important? However, with no numbers to latch onto, how do we gauge the trustworthiness of qual research? 


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


Components of trustworthiness in qualitative research

So, what does ‘trustworthiness’ actually mean? 

Trustworthy findings are those that score highly on being: 


  • Credible: believable; they sound reasonable given what you know about your market
  • Transferable: the findings fit within consumers’ broader attitudes and can be applied to other contexts in their lives
  • Dependable: the findings would be consistent if the same study were conducted two or more times
  • Confirmable: unbiased and unaffected by the researcher’s own attitudes or biases


Let’s look at these four components in more detail below: 



Put simply, credibility in qualitative research means the research findings are believable. In other words, the topic has 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 or 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.



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


The thorough recording and interpretation of findings from qualitative research go beyond simply writing a surface-level narrative of what respondents have said based on observing or listening to them. Qualitative research considers social and cultural context, values, and 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 a sample according to those selective criteria (known as purposive sampling).



Dependability in qualitative research 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 study is conducted with rigor, then its replicability and therefore its dependability will be high.



Confirmability in qualitative research is 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.


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: 

Get in touch to learn more!



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