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 the Qualitative Research Paradigm, but for this the article first takes us through what Quantitative Research is and how reliability and validity are used in quantitative research techniques in establishing truths. Studying quantitative research and understanding reliability and validity will serve as a springboard over which we will be leveraging our understanding to have the same approach in qualitative research. In quantitative research the researcher first acclimatizes him or her to the problem to be studied or the concept which he is working on and then generate hypotheses to be tested 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 which he is studying by delimiting it to a set of standards he is accustomed to or familiar with; also if he is 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 this instrument is of prime importance to us. The test is supposed to validate if what we are measuring is what was truly meant to be measured? Therefore replicability and reliability of the result 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 accurate representation of the total population under study is referred to as reliability and if the results of a study can be reproduced under a similar methodology, then the research instrument is considered to be reliable.” So basically it cities the idea of how much repeatability is seen in the observations or results.

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 some people who answer to certain types of questionnaire which are same but measure at different points in time may have different results, primarily owing to the fact that the responder might have sensitized himself to the questions, may want to project some desirable image after getting to know the results of the first questionnaire et al. Cynics and dissenters still question the integrity of the tests itself, citing that certain researchers have the ability to duplicate observations and numbers which ensure repeatability and internal consistency, and hence the reliability of the test instrument but the instrument in itself may not be valid. Validity: “Validity determines whether the research truly measures that which it was intended to measure or how truthful the research results are. In other words, does the research instrument allow you to hit "the bull’s eye" of your research object? Researchers generally determine validity by asking a series of questions, and will often look for the answers in the research of others.” The validity in Quantitative Techniques is defined as “construct validity”, the construct is the initial concept, notion, question or hypothesis that determines which data is to be gathered and how it is to be gathered. Also, “quantitative researchers actively cause or 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 the researchers 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 hold good? While a quantitative researcher will be concerned with the degree to which the results will repeat and more over have they actually observed or measured what they intended to measure, the qualitative researcher on the other hand would be concerned over not repeatability but the precision, credibility and transferability. So when we evaluate these paradigms, Golafshani (2003) says that two different approaches, and if I were to draw an analogy to this would be like the same poles of two magnets which repel each other. We now move to what Qualitative Research is? Qualitative research is a paradigm of methodologies 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 Qualitative research, findings are not arrived at by statistical tools but unfold naturally. Hoepfl (1997) said “Unlike quantitative researchers who seek causal determination, prediction, and generalization 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 the qualitative paradigm to be of utmost importance to his or her researcher and unlike quantitative research in qualitative research the credibility of the research lies on the ability of the researcher. In the case of the quantitative researcher the credibility lies on the instrument whereas in this case (qualitative research) it is the researcher himself in first person. Reliability in Qualitative Research: The test of reliability in this case would be one where in the research is tested for its quality and its ability to explain an otherwise obfuscating situation. Stenbacka (2001) stated “This relates to the concept of a good quality research when reliability is a concept to evaluate quality in quantitative study with a “purpose of explaining” while quality concept in qualitative study has the purpose of “generating understanding”” Stenbacka also questioned the need of reliability in Qualitative Research, stating the fact that qualitative research did not need reliability and that that concept was irrelevant if not misleading as well. On the other hand Patton et al. (2001) felt that reliability and validity were important concepts asserting that there should be certain ways in which an inquirer can convince 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 to quality 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 in Qualitative research paradigm, rather ““rather a contingent construct, inescapably grounded in the processes and intentions of particular research methodologies and projects”” is how qualitative research scholars address the issue of finding the surrogate of “validity” in this paradigm. Also they have debated the need for a refined definition. The author further takes the support of many eminent scholars who have advocated triangulation approach in order to test their theory/research finding. Triangulation is as defined in the paper “Triangulation may include multiple methods of data collection and data analysis, but does not suggest a fix method for all the researches. The methods chosen in triangulation to test the validity and reliability of a study depend on the criterion of the research.

The author then calls for a refined approach of the above three terms and some amount of standardization for the establishment of truth via the qualitative route.

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