How do we know that something we saw or heard or read is true?


In order to determine if something we have seen or heard is true, there needs to be a reliable trusted source or resource for the validation of that information.  A key factor to consider is the validity of what we experience. In a qualitative research the researcher must have a basis to determine the trustworthiness of the study. In order to determine the truth of this experience the researcher needs to wade through many terms such as (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 185): authenticity, goodness, verisimilitude, adequacy, trustworthiness, plausibility, validity, validation, and credibility. Although similar in nature, the researcher must have a clear understating of each of these individual meanings. The terms and approaches must be defined and clarified as part of the research study.

The approaches to qualitative research is much different than quantitative research. In qualitative research validity is “understood as a central, complicated, and challenging goal that should be met with and shaped by a set of systematic, methodological processes that seek to reach that goal, yet with an understanding that it is imperfect” (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 185). When the researcher approaches the concepts of truth, they must provide a descriptive basis of their research study validity and rigor.

One of the terms associated with qualitative research is Positivism.  Positivism is used to “view the world as comprising unchanging, universally applicable laws and belief that life events and social phenomena are/can be explained by knowledge of these universal laws and immutable truths” (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 5).  The researcher must approach their qualitative study carefully as they develop the content used to interact with each participant. The “understanding of these universal laws requires observation and recording of social events and phenomena in systematic ways that allow the ‘knower’ to define the underlying principle or ‘truth’ that is the ‘cause’ for the event(s) to occur (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 5).

The approach used for qualitative studies in the 1970’s is that “the positivist research paradigm was still regarded as the gold standard, and the standards of quantitative research were used to develop qualitative research constructs” (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 186). Later in the 1980’s the “naturalistic inquiry/constructivist paradigm were compared to the positivist paradigm based on the nature of reality, the nature of inquirer-‘subject’ relationship, and the nature of ‘truth statements’ (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 186). Hence, the use of validity and trustworthiness (objective truth) established and supported by “qualitative rigor, validity, and value” (Ravitch & Carl, 2016, p. 186).



Ravitch, S., Carl, N., (2016). Qualitative research: Bridging the conceptual, theoretical, and methodological. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.


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