What is confirmability in qualitative research and how do we establish it?

Qualitative Methodology

Confirmability is the last criterion of Trustworthiness that a qualitative researcher must establish. This criterion has to do with the level of confidence that the research study’s findings are based on the participants’ narratives and words rather than potential researcher biases. Confirmability is there to verify that the findings are shaped by participants more so than they are shaped by a qualitative researcher. There are a couple of techniques that you can use to establish the confirmability of the research study’s findings:

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Audit Trail. This is the most popular technique used to establish confirmability because it is incredibly useful when writing up the results chapter. An audit trail is when a qualitative researcher details the process of data collection, data analysis, and interpretation of the data. You record what topics were unique and interesting during the data collection, write down your thoughts about coding, provide a rationale for why you merged codes together, and explain what the themes mean.

Reflexivity. This is a technique that is useful in qualitative research, especially in phenomenological research. Reflexivity is an attitude that a qualitative researcher adopts when collecting and analyzing the data. A qualitative researcher must look at his or her own background and position to see how these influence the research process (i.e., selecting the topic, choosing the methodology, analyzing the data, interpreting the results, and presenting the conclusions). In order to achieve reflexivity, a qualitative researcher can keep and maintain a reflexive journal. Think of this as a diary where you reflect on what is happening in the research process, with regard to your values and interests.

Boiling these two techniques down, you will need to provide a rationale for the decisions you made during the research process. The confirmability criterion of Trustworthiness may be the easiest one to establish, as it is just a matter of about explaining the decisions that are being made in the research process. These details can help provide valuable insight for readers to understand how the themes emerged from the data.