Research Methodology: A look at validity

The essence of research is the collection of facts or bits of information in order to prove or debunk theories and hypothesises. The collected information would be useless if it were not accurate, relevant and did not pertain to the topic i.e. if it were not valid. In order for one to understand the challenges to validity in qualitative research, one must have a solid understanding of the term 'validity'.

"Validity is often defined by asking the question: Are you measuring what you think you are measuring?" (Kerlinger, 1979,p.138, cited in Kvale, 1996,p.238) There is a greater emphasis on the exact degree or extent that the information gathered, assists the researcher in proving the hypothesis. (Kvale, 1996) Interview investigations are common practice in qualitative research; therefore it is significant to illustrate the challenges to validity at the various stages.

Kvale (1996) lists Thematizing as the first stage. In this stage the validity depends on 'the soundness of the theoretical presuppositions of a study'. The theory must be stable and logical conclusions about the research questions must be made. The second stage is Designing in which validity is dependant on the 'adequacy of the design'. The particular method used will also affect the degree of validity. Kvale states that in order for a research design to be valid it should involve beneficence.

The next stage is Interviewing .In this stage validity is dependant on the Interviewers ability to produce a good interview. The Interviewer should probe the subject and guide the interview but must not alter the truth or be bias. The subject must be trustworthy. It is worthless data if the information was fabricated by the subject. Transcribing is the following stage. Validity can be compromised if the interview is not correctly translated into writing. It is easy to "mess up" the meaning of a phrase or to take it out of context.

The fifth stage is Analysing .In this stage the validity of the questions in the interview and the interpretation are questioned. There is no point in asking questions about drug abuse in a survey for motor vehicle preference. The questions must not be ambiguous, or we will have responds to the wrong questions. The next stage is Validating. This is probably the most relevant stage as it is in this stage that the types of validation are chosen. It entails a reflective look on the process questioning the needs of the study. The final stage is Reporting. This stage questions the validity of the report as an account of the main findings of the study. It also looks at the role of the reader in validating the results. Kvale uses these stages to demonstrate some of the challenges to validity .If any variable or factor is affected, the validity of the project is affected, weather it is a bad subject or the wrong design the result is the same.

Reason and Rowan (1981) have cited a few ways to increase validity.

* Valid research rests above all on high- quality awareness on the part of the co-researchers.

It is implied that the researchers should be aware of what each other does, they should check each others work and make sure validity is not compromised

* Such high-quality awareness can only be maintained if the co-researchers engage in some systematic method of personal and interpersonal development.

The researchers must pre-determine what would be valid and what will be disregarded

* Valid research cannot be conducted alone

Everyone needs constructive criticism. It helps prevent biases.

* The validity of the research must be enhanced by the systematic use of feedback loops, and by going round the research cycle several times.

A valid source would be true every time.

* Valid research involves a subtle interplay between different forms of knowing.

* Contradiction can be used systematically.

* Convergent and contextual validity can be used to enhance validity on any particular piece of data.

* The research can be replicated in some form.

Concluding Thought

There are several challenges to validity in qualitative research; these challenges can be overcome by following the above-mentioned steps. The importance of validity cannot be emphasised further, thus it is vital that these steps are taken.


Kvale, S. (1996) The social construction of validity. In Interviews. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Reason, P. & Rowan, J. (1981). Issues of validity in new paradigm research. In P.Reason &J .Rowan, Human Inquiry. Chichester: John Wiley.


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