What is trustworthiness and what does it mean? For quantitative studies, it is referred to as validity and reliability. However, in qualitative studies, this concept is more obscure because it is put in different terms. Since qualitative researchers do not use instruments with established metrics about validity and reliability, it is pertinent to address how qualitative researchers establish that the research study’s findings are credible, transferable, confirmable, and dependable. Trustworthiness is all about establishing these four things, which are described in more detail below.
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Credibility is the how confident the qualitative researcher is in the truth of the research study’s findings. This boils down to the question of “How do you know that your findings are true and accurate?” Qualitative researchers can use triangulation to show the research study’s findings are credible.
Transferability is how the qualitative researcher demonstrates that the research study’s findings are applicable to other contexts. In this case, “other contexts” can mean similar situations, similar populations, and similar phenomena. Qualitative researchers can use thick description to show that the research study’s findings can be applicable to other contexts, circumstances, and situations.
Confirmability is the degree of neutrality in the research study’s findings. In other words, this means that the findings are based on participants’ responses and not any potential bias or personal motivations of the researcher. This involves making sure that researcher bias does not skew the interpretation of what the research participants said to fit a certain narrative. To establish confirmability, qualitative researchers can provide an audit trail, which highlights every step of data analysis that was made in order to provide a rationale for the decisions made. This helps establish that the research study’s findings accurately portray participants’ responses.
Finally, dependability is the extent that the study could be repeated by other researchers and that the findings would be consistent. In other words, if a person wanted to replicate your study, they should have enough information from your research report to do so and obtain similar findings as your study did. A qualitative researcher can use inquiry audit in order to establish dependability, which requires an outside person to review and examine the research process and the data analysis in order to ensure that the findings are consistent and could be repeated.
We hope that this clears up any confusion about trustworthiness and helps shed light on the different components involved in establishing a trustworthy research study!