When the researcher deals with qualitative data, the concepts of reliability and validity are not applicable. Instead of that, trustworthiness must be established. This can be done in the following ways (Creswell, 2013):
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- by establishing credibility, which contributes to the general trustworthiness of the information since it is created as a result of persistent observations, peer-reviewing, engagement, triangulation, and member checks;
- by establishing transferability, which implies that findings obtained as a result of a trustworthy study can be easily applied in a number of other contexts, enriching the previous interpretation of the data;
- by establishing dependability, relating to the ability of other researchers to replicate the results of the study so that their findings would be consistent;
- by establishing confirmability, which refers to the degree of neutrality of the research outcomes (meaning that no bias or personal subjective perceptions of the researcher took place during the study affecting the final interpretation of the results obtained).
In order to ensure that a qualitative study is trustworthy, it is necessary to address all four aspects. If one of them is lacking, the trustworthiness of the research may be undermined.
The unique ethical issues that should be taken into account when conducting a qualitative study include (Grove, Burns, & Gray, 2014):
- Confidentiality. This means that personal information provided by study participants can be revealed only under the negotiated conditions and in particular situations, of which each participant is aware.
- Autonomy. This issue implies that the researcher must do his/her best to bring the possibility of intrusion of the study into the personal autonomy of its participants to the minimum.
- Informed consent. This is an integral part of the research ethics regardless of the study design. Yet, it can be called unique for qualitative studies since it is inevitable and emphasizes the researchers’ responsibility to provide participants with all the information about the research and their role in it.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
Grove, S. K., Burns, N., & Gray, J. (2014). Understanding nursing research: Building an-based practice. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Elsevier Health Sciences.