Trustworthiness and reliability allow the observer to answer questions like what can be identified as reality?


Trustworthiness measures the degree of truth in a study, or how close to reality is the conclusion of the study (Burkholder,2016). It is difficult to speak about relating the exact reality when the researchers are humans and are formulating what they are observing. Indeed, even though the observers try to express the situation of their studies like they are presented to them, being humans, they might omit aspects that, after reflection, could prove to be important parameters for the study.

Reliability measures the possibility to standardize a conclusion’s study to a bigger community than the sample observed. The reliability of a study depends, among others, on the data collection and analyses (Burkholder, 2016).

Burkholder (2016) states that “qualitative data are often products of the researcher’s filtering and interpreting of information during data collection via observation and interview notes”. This citation highlights the impact of subjectivity in a study. In order to avoid or to minimize the bias of the observer’s subjectivity, it can be interesting to have at least three observers of a phenomenon at the same time. The aim is to have three points of view about the same observation, which means three field notes. Besides having multiple researchers for the same study, Burkholder (2016) suggests using members checks to confirm or affirm the observer’s field notes.

Trustworthiness and reliability allow the observer to answer questions like what can be identified as reality? And this type of questions goes together with the ontological definition (Burkholder, 2016). Besides, the level of trust in a researcher’s study allows the researcher to be confident about the knowledge he gains thanks to his study. This point constitutes the epistemological aspect of qualitative research.

One of the ethical issues of qualitative research is the deception. Indeed, the purpose of a study can push the researcher to decide not to divulge its real aim. The research design can also let the observer pretend to be someone else than a researcher. Indeed, and like well mentioned by Babbie (2017), the aim isn’t to deceive, but somewhat because of the researcher’s beliefs that this will bring more accurate data.


Babbie, E. (2017). Basics of social research (7th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Burkholder, G. J., Cox, K. A., & Crawford, L. M. (2016). The scholar-practitioners guide to research design. Baltimore, MD: Laureate Publishing.

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