The Quest for Rigor in Qualitative Studies

Strategies for Institutional Researchers

By Felice Billups, Ed.D., Professor in the Educational Leadership Doctoral Program, Johnson & Wales UniversityQuestForRigor.png

The ideas, opinions, and perspectives expressed are those of the author, and not necessarily AIR. All content is used with the permission of the author. AIR members are invited to share comments about the article in the comment box, below.

Author’s note: An earlier version of this article was printed in The NERA Researcher in 2014.


Institutional researchers devote considerable effort to ensure that their studies are rigorous, valid, reliable, and actionable. Clients (e.g. faculty, staff) expect these studies to be professionally accomplished with precision and objectivity, grounded in sound ethical practice. These expectations, however, are typically oriented towards quantitative designs; the concepts of rigor, validity, reliability, and generalizability are not applied to qualitative studies in the same ways. If different standards are applied to qualitative research to ensure quality and rigor, how can institutional researchers apply those standards to evaluate qualitative studies?  

In this brief overview, Billups outlines the definitions and descriptions of trustworthiness, followed by recommendations for ways in which institutional researchers can incorporate these strategies into their qualitative studies.



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