Assessing the quality of qualitative research In entrepreneurship A presentation by : BabakZarrinPanah June , 2010 Assistant Prof. : Dr. Arabiun
Qualitative studies in entrepreneurship research A qualitative study is here defined as a study that focuses on understanding the naturalistic setting, or everyday life, of a certain phenomenon or person. Qualitative studies do not represent a uniform perspective. Rather, depending on assumptions about ontology and epistemology, different qualitative techniques and approaches are applicable.
Qualitative studies in entrepreneurship research Common to qualitative studies is that the researchers do not ‘remain as external observers, measuring what they see; they must move to investigate from within the subject of study’ (Morgan and Smircich 1980: 498). The main difference between the different qualitative approaches is the degree to which the researcher accepts subjectivity.
Comment on this chapter : The chapter is structured into three sections. First follows a discussion on different types of research criteria (presented above). Focus thereafter is on quality criteria in ethnographic studies, the discussion is structured according to the criteria that a good ethnographic study is authentic, plausible, and critical (Golden-Biddle and Lock 1993). Finally, the chapter addresses the question who is the judge: the inner academic world, practitioners, or both?
Quality criteria in qualitative research Table 15.1 presents four different types of quality criteria: traditional scientific research criteria, critical realism criteria, social constructivist criteria, and postmodern criteria. Researchers applying the traditional scientific research criteria and the critical realism criteria are working in the functionalist paradigm of inquiry, while the researchers operating in the interpretative paradigm apply research criteria from the third or fourth column. Columns one, three and four are further elaborated below.
Traditional scientific research criteria These are applied by researchers adopting the positivist or post-positivist perspective. Such criteria are most common among quantitative researchers but there are also researchers who work with qualitative data who apply these criteria (cf. the articles published in ETP and JBV). In 1985 Lincoln and Guba posed the following criteria for qualitative research: credibility, transferability, dependability and confirmability.
Social construction and constructivist criteria. In 1989 Guba and Lincoln reevaluated their criteria from 1985 and concluded that they were analogous to conventional criteria. Hence they added a second set of five criteria called authenticity criteria, which they perceived as more in line with the constructivist epistemology. These criteria are presented in Table 15.3. Other researchers have also contributed to the dialogue, such as Stewart (1998), who argues for the criteria veracity, objectivity and perspicacity, and emphasizes the following questions :
● How well, with what verisimilitude, does this study succeed in its depiction? ● How well does this study transcend the perspectives of the researchers? ● How well does this study transcend the perspectives of informants? ● Is this study revelatory? ● Does this generate insights that are also applicable to other times, other places, in the human experience? ● How fundamentally does this study explain?
Postmodern criteria Postmodern criteria are applicable in qualitative studies that have a subjectivist approach to social science, such as ethnographic studies. In the most general sense ethnography refers to the study of culture(s) that a given group of people share to a greater or lesser extent (Van Maanen 1995), or asWolcott expresses it; ‘to make sense of human social behavior in terms of cultural patterning’.
Authenticity A text is authentic when the readers can see that the researcher has been in the field and is genuine about what s/he has experienced there by having observed and participated in everyday life. Making participant observations means that the researcher takes the role of an observer as well as a participant in daily life activities, in order to create understanding about how people live their lives.
Authenticity A text is convincing when it offers ‘thick descriptions’ (Geertz 1973). Thick descriptions are those accounts that in a reliable way make the culture come alive for the readers of the text, through stories that provide meaning to the context studied (ibid.). The researcher should record circumstances, meanings, intentions, strategies and so on that characterize particular episodes that s/he experiences and interpret these.