Before I discuss about threats to reliability in qualitative research let me explain what is reliability. Even though the term ‘Reliability’ is a concept utilized for testing or analyzing quantitative research, the concept is frequently used in all sorts of research. Reliability concerns the capability of different researchers to make the same observations of a specified phenomenon if and when the observation is conducted employing the same method(s) and procedure(s).
The definition of reliability in qualitative research is different between positivists (traditionalists and modernists), constructionists, and the critical research workers, there is however concurrence in the requirement for trustworthiness, accuracy, and dependability of research findings. Wolcott (2005) mentioned, “It is tough to escape the suggestion that if our work is not reliable, then it must be unreliable”. Despite the fact that Wolcott has recognized reliability as unnecessary in field research as it distracts from the research findings by pressuring the investigator to concentrate on the research process, many qualitative researchers don’t share his thinking about reliability.
As the qualitative researcher frequently is regarded as the research instrument, they must make certain that reports/records is correct and not oversimplified or misinterpreted. If several experts are employed, they should report/record comparable observations in the same way. Qualitative researchers need to determine their biases and values, report how the sample was chosen, and report any preconceived assumptions they may have possessed to help the reader in figuring out the reliability of the research and to enhance replication. A number of other techniques to enhance the reliability of qualitative research have been identified.
Following methods can be used to enhance reliability in qualitative research:
Research worker reliability: If several research workers are working on a project, it is crucial that all be trained to record events, gather data, and carry out interviews in a similar method. Check-coding could be employed to make sure that interviewers and investigators transcribing the interviews are doing so accurately.
Variation in observations: To improve the reliability of observations, investigators need to change the time and place that the studies occur. Shifting the time and place of the observations will help in establishing reliability by showing the same occurrence regardless of whether it is night or day.
Test-retest method: This can be employed to make sure that same observations are found by changing the times and places the observations are made. The test-retest technique is also utilized to guarantee that previously received information collected from a participant was correct.
Split-half method: The split-half technique is employed to make sure reliability by soliciting a number of answers from a participant to the same question asked in a variety of ways. The answers to the different questions needs to be the same or virtually identical.
In this article, I have discussed about the threats to reliability in qualitative research and measures to enhance reliability. Having a reliable measure or increasing the reliability of a measure does not guarantee validity, credibility, or transferability of research.