Rigor in Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative data’s importance is directly linked to its quality. From initial phases of design to post release follow-through, such input helps designers and marketers better understand their customers’ or prospective customers’ opinions, ideas, and concerns. Integral for direction, qualitative data must be accurate and thorough as possible.

A study’s rigor is what primarily differentiates what is research and what is not research.  The strength of a study’s processes and findings, ‘rigor’ is a catch-all term that denotes quality and reliability within all methods of research. Measuring rigor depends on research methodology and type. Rigorous quantitative research, for instance, considers specificity, accuracy, and thoroughness. Likewise, qualitative research also has its own criteria.

  • Credibility – The stringency of a study’s processes, accuracy of its sources, and level that findings that properly reflects its topic area
  • Applicability – The data’s and study processes’ applicability to different contexts and scenarios  
  • Consistency – The study’s findings degree of similarity if the research and its processes are repeated
  • Neutrality – Lack of biases, motives, or other elements that can skew findings

Common Methods to Ensure the Adequate Rigor

There are a few core methods that help ensure vigor. Each accounts for different factors that direct business research methods like interviews or focus groups. While important individually, using multiple methods further enhances each study’s overall accessibility. Doing so is also important because no method area is comprehensive. 

Accounting for Bias

Qualitative researchers strive for the most accurate findings possible. Objectivity is very important. No researcher, however, can remain completely detached from their own perspective. Analyzing bias and expectations, both individually and as a group, ensures researchers better consider implications, processes, and all important lines of inquiry.

Clear Paper Trail

A clear paper trail that documents all important activity, processes, and details is crucial for both the study’s direction and analysis. Through it, researchers can identify their progress and objectives, as well better consider alternative routes to their goals. Clear paper trails allow researchers to more easily review archives, as well track progress and changes.    

Respondent Validation

Selecting the right respondents is crucial to qualitative research. Ensuring respondents are truthful about their background is a major part of each study’s legitimacy. Including the wrong respondents can throw off insight relevant to anything from product generation to post-release follow ups.   

Software and Technology

Computer-assisted qualitative data software, or CAQDAS, enables researchers to streamline numerous market research methods while also preserving the data’s integrity. Typically used for coding, or the process of cataloging and comparing input, CAQDAS also quickens the analysis process. Researchers can cover more areas and consider more angles with such programs.

Innovations like efficient HD streaming and mobile technology, meanwhile, are opening new avenues for researchers. Many qualitative methods traditionally require a shared space for research -emotives are often important as spoken replies. New services, however, are enabling researchers to conduct on-demand, online qual that offers the same observational detail as the human eye. Online qualitative platforms also improve the other aspects of rigor.  Overall access to respondents dramatically improves, as does validating them and tracing each study’s progress.

Click here to learn more about online qualitative interviewing. 

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