Evaluative Criteria


There is a great deal of debate about what makes for 'rigorous' qualitative research.  There are a few issues to keep in mind:

  • One's epistemological standpoint or research paradigm (e.g. positivist, interpretivist) shapes how criteria for 'good' research are viewed.
  • There are a broad range of criteria precisely because standards of excellence are tied to a particular qualitative tradition, and there are a wide range of qualitative traditions.  For example, May's and Pope's criteria for good research emerge from Grounded Theory and these criteria do not apply broadly to other traditions, such as phenomenology and discourse analysis.
  • When preparing a grant or manuscript, knowing one's audience is crucial:
    • Standards or quality of research are negotiated by a community of researchers.  A researcher needs to know and understand these common or operational values.
    • Criteria for 'good' research vary across research traditions and methodologies.  In many cases, readers or reviewers may be unfamiliar with an approach and need to be educated about appropriate evaluative criteria and the rationale for them.

Literature Review of Criteria for Rigorous Qualitative Research

Our search of the literature identifed several authors who have contributed to a dialogue on criteria or standards for qualitative health care research. 

We have reviewed the following published works on the topic.  These publications were among the most cited publications on this subject in our review of the literature.

We do not commit ourselves to a particular set of criteria. This is because we feel that there cannot and should not be one set of criteria used to evaluate qualitative research.  Health sciences researchers need to recognize the need to use relevant evaluative criteria when evaluating a qualitative manuscript of grant proposal.  Relevant criteria are those that match or emerge from the same tradition, research approach (methods of data collection and analysis) that the researcher used or is proposing to use.

Researchers claiming to use a particular qualitative method (grounded theory, discourse analysis, phenomenological interviewing) should design their research to be consistent with the criteria for excellence articulated by the tradition.

Click on the author(s) names to see a brief discussion of the criteria for rigorous qualitative research proposed.