Critical Analysis of Strategies for Determining Rigor in Qualitative Inquiry

Qual Health Res. 2015 Sep;25(9):1212-22. doi: 10.1177/1049732315588501. Epub 2015 Jul 16.


Criteria for determining the trustworthiness of qualitative research were introduced by Guba and Lincoln in the 1980s when they replaced terminology for achieving rigor, reliability, validity, and generalizability with dependability, credibility, and transferability. Strategies for achieving trustworthiness were also introduced. This landmark contribution to qualitative research remains in use today, with only minor modifications in format. Despite the significance of this contribution over the past four decades, the strategies recommended to achieve trustworthiness have not been critically examined. Recommendations for where, why, and how to use these strategies have not been developed, and how well they achieve their intended goal has not been examined. We do not know, for example, what impact these strategies have on the completed research. In this article, I critique these strategies. I recommend that qualitative researchers return to the terminology of social sciences, using rigor, reliability, validity, and generalizability. I then make recommendations for the appropriate use of the strategies recommended to achieve rigor: prolonged engagement, persistent observation, and thick, rich description; inter-rater reliability, negative case analysis; peer review or debriefing; clarifying researcher bias; member checking; external audits; and triangulation.

Keywords: credibility; dependability; generalizability; qualitative; reliability; rigor; transferability; trustworthiness; validity.

MeSH terms

  • Bias
  • Humans
  • Peer Review
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Reproducibility of Results*
  • Research Design
  • Research Personnel