Do we need validity? –A critical appraisal of validity in qualitative research.

University essay from Lunds universitet/Sociologi

Abstract: Background: Validity is understood to be a question of the correctness or accuracy of research. It can be viewed as a condition for science’s aspiration to produce authoritative knowledge. When it comes to qualitative research, the claims produced are often interpretations of people’s way of understanding. The validity of qualitative research can therefore be viewed as particularly difficult to affirm. Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to review literature on validity in qualitative research. It also discusses the literature in relation to using it in assessment of research. Literature was collected through extensive searches in method books on qualitative research and databases. The focus is on research in sociology. Results: Validity in qualitative research has been understood, among other things, as truth, accurate representation and adequacy. It has also been reconceptualized as concerning success in practice and acknowledgement of multiple possible interpretations. An attractive solution to the problem of validity is to equate it with that findings can be trusted to use in further research. A common theme is that validity is dependent on consensus, e.g., consensus concerning the meaning and application of concepts. Problems with consensus is that it can be hard to reach, standards based on it may be hard to practice, and it can also stop innovation. Conclusion: A workable and mutual concept of validity is possible if there is consensus within a research community on, e.g., concepts and their application. However, such a consensus may block new interpretations and work as a “policing” of a research field. Instead, conceptions of validity should be treated as incitements to research. Moreover, a generic conception of validity, independent of what purpose the research should serve, is not possible. Still, transparency and honesty is generally called for, since they facilitate the evaluation of research.

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