The good, the bad and the relative, Part Two: Goodness and the criterion problem in qualitative research

Int J Nurs Pract. 1999 Mar;5(1):2-7. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-172x.1999.00139.x.


This (part two) paper finds 'the problem of the criterion' at the heart of disputes about what constitutes goodness in qualitative research, an ancient philosophic conundrum as to how best represent reality. Ways around the problem are considered, including conceiving criteria as open-ended 'lists', and 'enabling conditions'. Discussion principally concerns the impact of postmodernist thinking on the topic, and how qualitative researchers might usefully juxtapose the rationality of a modern world (in which notions such as reliability and validity are prized) with a mounting postmodern sensibility that acknowledges irrationality, fragmentation, and uncertainty. Part one of the paper traced efforts to define 'goodness' in qualitative research within various fields, including nursing. Disputes were found to centre on how the traditional concepts of reliability and validity related to qualitative research. In reviewing various sets of criteria of goodness, these concepts were consequently conceived as being championed, translated, exiled, redeemed, and surpassed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Knowledge*
  • Models, Nursing
  • Nursing Methodology Research / methods*
  • Nursing Methodology Research / standards
  • Philosophy, Nursing*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Science / methods*
  • Science / standards