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Keywords:

  • reliability;
  • validity;
  • generalization;
  • trustworthiness;
  • triangulation;
  • crystallization

Aim.  This paper discusses the literature on establishing rigour in research studies. It describes the methodological trinity of reliability, validity and generalization and explores some of the issues relating to establishing rigour in naturalistic inquiry.

Background.  Those working within the naturalistic paradigm have questioned the issue of using validity, reliability and generalizability to demonstrate robustness of qualitative research. Triangulation has been used to demonstrate confirmability and completeness and has been one means of ensuring acceptability across paradigms. Emerging criteria such as goodness and trustworthiness can be used to evaluate the robustness of naturalistic inquiry.

Discussion.  It is argued that the transference of terms across paradigms is inappropriate; however, if we reject the concepts of validity and reliability, we reject the concept of rigour. Rejection of rigour undermines acceptance of qualitative research as a systematic process that can contribute to the advancement of knowledge. Emerging criteria for demonstrating robustness in qualitative inquiry, such as authenticity, trustworthiness and goodness, need to be considered. Goodness, when not seen as a separate construct but as an integral and embedded component of the research process, should be useful in assuring quality of the entire study. Triangulation is a tried and tested means of offering completeness, particularly in mixed-method research. When multiple types of triangulation are used appropriately as the ‘triangulation state of mind’, they approach the concept of crystallization, which allows for infinite variety of angles of approach.

Conclusion.  Qualitative researchers need to be explicit about how and why they choose specific legitimizing criteria in ensuring the robustness of their inquiries. A shift from a position of fundamentalism to a more pluralistic approach as a means of legitimizing naturalistic inquiry is advocated.