Criteria to Judge Qualitative Research

  • From
    Independent Advisory and Evaluation Service
  • Published on
    15.02.24

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There is a lot of uncertainty and confusion about how to judge the soundness and rigor of qualitative studies. Experienced researchers can read a report, article, or book based on qualitative evidence and conclude whether the work is of high quality, but such judgments are based less on a set of agreed-upon and standardized criteria among scholars, and more on vaguely articulated principles and an instinctual reading of the material. It is in this context that two U.S.-based sociologists – Mario L. Small and Jessica M. Calarco – have written a pathbreaking book, Qualitative Literacy: A Guide to Evaluating Ethnographic and Interview Research.

I read the book with a sense of relief and delight because finally I found a clear articulation of criteria that combines abstractions with practical tips, and ideas with excellent concrete examples. However, the guidance does not always apply in the context of development projects because academic timelines and constraints are different. Research funded by development agencies have to be completed in very short time windows, relative to the longer academic timelines for publishing articles and books.

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