Mays and Pope's Evaluative Criteria

Mays and Pope argue that rigor, in qualitaitve research, is ensured by engaging in systematic and self-conscious research design, data collection, interpretation and communication of findings.  This will, they suggest, protect against bias and enhance the reliability of one's findings. 

They suggest the following features are evident in rigorous qualitative research:

  • Did the researcher(s) create an adequate account of the methods and data analysis process?  This account should be able to stand independently such that another trained researcher could analyze the data in the same way and reach the same conclusions (audit trail)?
  • Did the researcher(s) produce a coherent and plausible explanation of the phenomenon under investigation?
  • Is the the sampling process described adequately?  Is there a coherent rationale presented for the sampling strategy, and is the investigator identifying participants or examining circumstances that are relevent to the research question? 
  • Validity in qualitative research can be attained by appropriate use of some of the following strategies:
  • How well does the research account explain why people behave as they do?
  • How comprehendible is the account to someone in the setting?
  • How does the report correspond with and advance current knowledge?
  • Does the report have sufficient detail for an outsider to function in the setting that the investigator studied?
  • Can the reader distinguish data from interpretation?
  • Did the research reflect on how the methods chosen and used might have influenced or shaped the data collected and the interpretations made (reflexivity)?


Mays, N. & Pope, C. (2000). "Qualtative research in health care:  Assessing quality in qualitative research." BMJ. 320(7226), 50-52.

Mays, N. & Pope, C. (2000). "Quality in qualitative health research" in N. Mays and C. Pope (Eds.) Qualitative Research in Health Care (2nd edition). London: BMJ Books. pp. 89-102. 

Mays, N. & Pope, C. (1995). "Qualitative Research: Rigour and Qualitative Research."  BMJ. 311(6997), 109-112.

Click here to return to Evaluative Criteria page