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

Qualitative Methodology

Welcome back to the second part of the four-part series about the individual aspects of trustworthiness in qualitative research! We get a lot of questions about this topic, so here we will provide an in-depth explanation of it to help all those out there wondering “What the heck is dependability?”

Let’s begin with the basics. Dependability is important to trustworthiness because it establishes the research study’s findings as consistent and repeatable. Researchers aim to verify that their findings are consistent with the raw data they collected. They want to make sure that if some other researchers were to look over the data, they would arrive at similar findings, interpretations, and conclusions about the data. This is important to make sure that there was not anything missed in the research study, or that the researcher was not sloppy or misguided in his or her final report.

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While there are several techniques one could use to establish dependability, one of the best ways to establish dependability is to have an outside researcher conduct an inquiry audit on the research study. This technique is also called an external audit. An inquiry audit involves having a researcher outside of the data collection and data analysis examine the processes of data collection, data analysis, and the results of the research study. This is done to confirm the accuracy of the findings and to ensure the findings are supported by the data collected. All interpretations and conclusions are examined to determine whether they are supported by the data itself. Inquiry audits are beneficial because they allow an outside researcher to examine, explore, and challenge how data analysis and interpretation occurred. A researcher can gain valuable insight from this method, and the inquiry audit can help prepare doctoral students for their final defense. It will help you better articulate your findings and build a stronger case for your findings.

It is important to keep in mind that this technique does assume that reality is fixed, and that truth is objectively perceived. This is the case because this technique assumes that the researcher has objectively captured that truth and reality, which can be confirmed by an outside researcher. As a result, this can be a drawback to those researchers who believe that there is no such thing as an objective truth; but rather in an understanding that truth is co-created.

We hope that this has shed some light on dependability in qualitative research. It is a necessary facet of trustworthiness that must be attended to, but it can be incredibly enriching as well.