Summary: Understanding Reliability and Validity in Organizational Research Submitted to: Dr. Munish Thakur Submitted by: Akshay S Bhat Course: Advanced Research Methods --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- The aim of this article is to discuss the use of Reliability and Validity in theQualitativeResearch Paradigm, but for this the article first takes us through whatQuantitative Research is and how reliability and validity are used in quantitative researchtechniques in establishing truths. Studying quantitative research and understandingreliability and validity will serve as a springboard over which we will be leveraging ourunderstanding to have the same approach in qualitative research. In quantitative research the researcher first acclimatizes him or her to the problemto be studied or the concept which he is working on and then generate hypotheses to betested in this there are four steps delineated:- (1) the emphasis is on facts and causes of behavior (2) the information is in the form of numbers that can be quantified and summarized (3) the mathematical process is the norm for analyzing the numeric data and (4) the final result is expressed in statistical terminologies The quantitative researcher as described in this article appreciates the phenomena whichhe is studying by delimiting it to a set of standards he is accustomed to or familiar with; also if heis measuring responses of the people, he assigns a numerical value to each of their responses. This place a lot of emphasis on the measuring tool or instrument, therefore validity of thisinstrument is of prime importance to us. The test is supposed to validate if what we aremeasuring is what was truly meant to be measured? Therefore replicability and reliability of theresult is of prime importance. And before we go into more profound details at the onset we describe:-Reliability: “The extent to which results are consistent over time and an accuraterepresentation of the total population under study is referred to as reliability and if the resultsof a study can be reproduced under a similar methodology, then the research instrument isconsidered to be reliable.”So basically it cities the idea of how much repeatability is seen in the observations orresults.
Kirk and Miller (1986) identified three types of reliability referred to in quantitative research,which relates to: the degree to which a measurement, given repeatedly, remains the same the stability of a measurement over time; and the similarity of measurements within a given time period But there are a few open ended arguments by the critics, who state that because somepeople who answer to certain types of questionnaire which are same but measure at differentpoints in time may have different results, primarily owing to the fact that the responder mighthave sensitized himself to the questions, may want to project some desirable image after gettingto know the results of the first questionnaire et al. Cynics and dissenters still question the integrity of the tests itself, citing that certainresearchers have the ability to duplicate observations and numbers which ensure repeatabilityand internal consistency, and hence the reliability of the test instrument but the instrument initself may not be valid.Validity: “Validity determines whether the research truly measures that which it wasintended to measure or how truthful the research results are. In other words, does theresearch instrument allow you to hit "the bull’s eye" of your research object? Researchersgenerally determine validity by asking a series of questions, and will often look for theanswers in the research of others.” The validity in Quantitative Techniques is defined as “construct validity”, theconstruct is the initial concept, notion, question or hypothesis that determines which datais to be gathered and how it is to be gathered. Also, “quantitative researchers actively causeor affect the interplay between construct and data in order to validate their investigation,usually by the application of a test or other process. In this sense, the involvement of theresearchers in the research process would greatly reduce the validity of a test.”(Golafshani,2003) But when we shift gear and come to qualitative research will these definitions holdgood? While a quantitative researcher will be concerned with the degree to which theresults will repeat and more over have they actually observed or measured what theyintended to measure, the qualitative researcher on the other hand would be concernedover not repeatability but the precision, credibility and transferability. So when weevaluate these paradigms, Golafshani (2003) says that two different approaches, and if Iwere to draw an analogy to this would be like the same poles of two magnets which repeleach other. We now move to what Qualitative Research is? Qualitative research is a paradigm ofmethodologies which seek to understand the natural phenomena in the natural setting, one
in which concrete hypotheses are not set and rather are an evolving process. In Qualitativeresearch, findings are not arrived at by statistical tools but unfold naturally. Hoepfl (1997)said “Unlike quantitative researchers who seek causal determination, prediction, andgeneralization of findings, qualitative researchers seek instead illumination, understanding,and extrapolation to similar situations”. But one major highlight by the author is that he views the researcher of thequalitative paradigm to be of utmost importance to his or her researcher and unlikequantitative research in qualitative research the credibility of the research lies on theability of the researcher. In the case of the quantitative researcher the credibility lies on theinstrument whereas in this case (qualitative research) it is the researcher himself in firstperson.Reliability in Qualitative Research:The test of reliability in this case would be one where inthe research is tested for its quality and its ability to explain an otherwise obfuscatingsituation. Stenbacka (2001) stated “This relates to the concept of a good quality researchwhen reliability is a concept to evaluate quality in quantitative study with a “purpose ofexplaining” while quality concept in qualitative study has the purpose of “generatingunderstanding”” Stenbacka also questioned the need of reliability in Qualitative Research, stating thefact that qualitative research did not need reliability and that that concept was irrelevant ifnot misleading as well. On the other hand Patton et al. (2001) felt that reliability and validity wereimportant concepts asserting that there should be certain ways in which an inquirer canconvince the audience he wishes to address to appreciate his or her findings. Lincoln &Guba (1985) used the term “dependability” as a surrogate to “reliability” when it came toquality research. Also “dependability” could be further bolstered be an inquiry audit.Validity in Qualitative Research: The concept of Validity is not well defined by scholars inQualitative research paradigm, rather ““rather a contingent construct, inescapably groundedin the processes and intentions of particular research methodologies and projects””is howqualitative research scholars address the issue of finding the surrogate of “validity” in thisparadigm. Also they have debated the need for a refined definition. The author further takes the support of many eminent scholars who have advocatedtriangulation approach in order to test their theory/research finding. Triangulation is asdefined in the paper “Triangulation may include multiple methods of data collection anddata analysis, but does not suggest a fix method for all the researches. The methods chosen intriangulation to test the validity and reliability of a study depend on the criterion of theresearch.
The author then calls for a refined approach of the above three terms and someamount of standardization for the establishment of truth via the qualitative route.