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Title:Validity in Qualitative Inquiry
Author(s):Dawson, Judith Annette
Department / Program:Education
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Education, Tests and Measurements
Abstract:Despite the increased use of qualitative methods of inquiry in educational research and evaluation, relatively little is known about validity in qualitative inquiry. This dissertation includes an examination of the concept of validity as it applies to qualitative inquiry and a discussion of the estimation of validity--by researchers and research users.
Validity is defined here as the adequacy of a description as a representation of a social situation or other phenomenon for a given purpose. A representation is likely to have multiple purposes; validity must be estimated separately for each; most representations will have multiple validities. The conceptualization of validity presented here suggests that it may be similar to utility; a description which cannot be used for a particular purpose is not valid for that purpose.
There are three requirements for validity: (a) correspondence with reality, (b) appropriateness of focus, scope, and intensity, and (c) understandability. The first requirement is similar to the traditional notion of validity, the extent to which a test measures that which it is believed to measure or the amount of agreement between research data and "reality." The second requirement assumes that social science descriptions cannot represent social settings completely; the aspects of a setting which are represented and the scope and intensity of the representation must be appropriate for a given purpose. A third requirement assumes that people cannot use a description appropriately unless it conveys to them the kinds of knowledge they need.
The extent to which a description seems to meet the three requirements is taken into consideration when the description's validity is estimated. Correspondence with reality can be estimated utilizing personal knowledge of the described phenomenon and evidence regarding strategies used by the researcher to improve or estimate validity. There may be evidence of (a) confirmation, or unsuccessful attempts to disconfirm, (b) the ruling out of potential sources of invalidity, and (c) the existence of research conditions which were favorable for validity. An examination of the appropriateness of a description's focus, scope, and intensity can be guided by an examination of the boundaries of the study. An estimation of a description's understandability will take into consideration the clarity and appropriateness of the writing style for conveying the types of knowledge needed by a particular audience.
This conceptualization of validity was used to examine the validity of three published descriptions for various purposes. The requirements and strategies appeared to be quite useful for estimating the descriptions' validities.
An estimate of validity is an informed judgment which, ideally, involves careful consideration of a variety of information which has been collected deliberately and systematically from a variety of sources using an assortment of strategies. Estimates of validity in qualitative inquiry are in the form of descriptive statements. Sometimes validity can be estimated with considerable confidence; at other times, it involves a great deal of complexity and uncertainty. Similar conditions exist in quantitative inquiry, where it is recommended that validity should be estimated by combining a variety of evidence judgmentally and that estimates of validity should be relative to intended use.
Issue Date:1980
Description:199 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 1980.
Other Identifier(s):(UMI)AAI8108479
Date Available in IDEALS:2014-12-12
Date Deposited:1980

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