External Audits


External audits involve having a researcher not involved in the research process examine both the process and product of the research study.  The purpose is to evaluate the accuracy and evaluate whether or not the findings, interpretations and conclusions are supported by the data.

The Positive Aspects of External Auditing

External audits are conducted to foster the accuracy or validity of a research study.

External audits provide an opportunity for an outsider to challenge the process and findings of a research study.  This can provide:

  • an opportunity to summarize preliminary findings
  • an opportunity to assess adequacy of data and preliminary results
  • important feedback that can lead to additional data gathering and the development of stronger and better articulated findings

The Drawbacks with External Auditing

External audits share many of the same problems as member-checking. 

  • External auditing relies on the assumption that there is a fixed truth or reality that can be accounted for by a researcher and confirmed by an outside auditor
    • From an interpretive perspective, understanding is co-created and there is no objective truth or reality to which the results of a study can be compared
    • This process may lead to confusion rather than confirmation. An external auditor cannot know the data as well as researchers immersed in the study and may not share the same point of view. This may lead to different understandings of the data.  How to manage these different ways of seeing can be problematic.
  • An external auditor may disagree with researchers' interpretations. Then the question of whose interpretation should stand becomes an issue.


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Lincoln, YS. & Guba, EG. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Miles, MB. & Huberman, AM. (1994). Qualitative Data Analysis (2nd edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Merriam, S. (1988). Case study research in education: A qualitative approach. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.