It is time to reconsider the importance of verification strategies used by the researcher in

It is time to reconsider the importance of verification strategies used by the researcher in

the process of inquiry so that reliability and validity are actively attained, rather than

proclaimed by external reviewers on the completion of the project. We argue that

strategies for ensuring rigor must be built into the qualitative research process per se.

These strategies include investigator responsiveness, methodological coherence,

theoretical sampling and sampling adequacy, an active analytic stance, and saturation.

These strategies, when used appropriately, force the researcher to correct both the

direction of the analysis and the development of the study as necessary, thus ensuring

reliability and validity of the completed project.

The Nature of Verification in Qualitative Research

Verification is the process of checking, confirming, making sure, and being certain. In

qualitative research, verification refers to the mechanisms used during the process of

research to incrementally contribute to ensuring reliability and validity and, thus, the

rigor of a study. These mechanisms are woven into every step of the inquiry to construct

a solid product (Creswell, 1997; Kvale, 1989) by identifying and correcting errors before

they are built in to the developing model and before they subvert the analysis. If the

principles of qualitative inquiry are followed, the analysis is self-correcting. In other

Morse, Barret, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY 10

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 1 (2) Spring 2002

words, qualitative research is iterative rather than linear, so that a good qualitative

researcher moves back and forth between design and implementation to ensure

congruence among question formulation, literature, recruitment, data collection

strategies, and analysis. Data are systematically checked, focus is maintained, and the fit

of data and the conceptual work of analysis and interpretation are monitored and

confirmed constantly. Verification strategies help the researcher identify when to

continue, stop or modify the research process in order to achieve reliability and validity

and ensure rigor.

While much has been written about the use of these strategies in various methods, the

literature has focused on “how to do” rather than the contribution that these strategies

make in optimizing the research outcome. In actual fact, it is the analytical work of the

investigator that underlies these strategies that ensures their effectiveness. For example,

many research decisions may underlie the sampling selection, which requires

responsiveness to the needs of developing variation, verification, and the developing

theory.

Investigator Responsiveness

Research is only as good as the investigator. It is the researcher’s creativity, sensitivity,

flexibility and skill in using the verification strategies that determines the reliability and

validity of the evolving study. For example, ongoing analysis results in the dynamic

formulation of conjectures and questions that force purposive sampling. The researcher

analyses the data, which would then determine future participant recruitment. Within the

notions of categorization and saturation lie sampling strategies to ensure replication and

Morse, Barret, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, RELIABILITY AND VALIDITY 11

International Journal of Qualitative Methods 1 (2) Spring 2002

confirmation.

Responsiveness of the investigator to whether or not the categorization scheme actually

holds (and is kept), or appears thin and muddled (and the scheme is changed), influences

the outcome. In this way, it is essential that the investigator remain open, use sensitivity,

creativity and insight, and be willing to relinquish any ideas that are poorly supported

regardless of the excitement and the potential that they first appear to provide. It is these

investigator qualities or actions that produce social inquiry and are crucial to the

attainment of optimal reliability and validity.

The lack of responsiveness of the investigator at all stages of the research process is the

greatest hidden threat to validity and one that is poorly detected using post hoc criteria of

“trustworthiness.” Lack of responsiveness of the investigator may be due to lack of

knowledge, overly adhering to instructions rather than listening to data, the inability to

abstract, synthesize or move beyond the technicalities of data coding, working

deductively (implicitly or explicitly) from previously held assumptions or a theoretical

framework, or following instructions in a rote fashion rather than using them strategically

in decision making.

Verification Strategies

 

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