Qualitative Methods

8. Credibility

As we have seen, the critics of Koppel’s qualitative study treated it as ‘anecdotal.’ Set out below are some of the arguments that qualitative researchers use to answer their critics (for more detail, see Silverman, 2006:271-314).

  • Whether qualitative or quantitative, social science is credible to the extent that it uses appropriate methods and is rigorous, critical, and objective in its handling of data.
  • Qualitative research can be made credible if we make every effort to falsify our initial assumptions about our data.
  • High reliability in qualitative research is associated with what Clive Seale (1999:148) calls low-inference descriptors. As Seale puts it, this involves: ”recording observations in terms that are as concrete as possible, including verbatim accounts of what people say, for example, rather than researchers' reconstructions of the general sense of what a person said, which would allow researchers' personal perspectives to influence the reporting.” 
  • Appropriate methods for validating studies based largely or entirely upon qualitative data include: analytic induction, the constant comparative method, deviant-case analysis, and the use of appropriate tabulations.
  • Generalizing from case-studies is less of a problem than is usually assumed. The generalizability of a piece of qualitative research can be increased by purposive sampling guided by time and resources and theoretical sampling (see Silverman, 2006:303-10).
Silverman, D. (2006) Interpreting qualitative data (3rd Ed.), London: Sage.
Seale, C. (1999) The quality of qualitative research. Introducing Qualitative Methods Series, London: Sage.
Silverman, D. (2006) Interpreting qualitative data (3rd Ed.), London: Sage.