What is the length of Chapter 1 (how many pages?) On a qualitative study, do I need to address validity and reliability? How about credibility and transferability (remember…qualitative). On terms, should I have a scholarly citation for EVERY term?

– Working on dissertation

Dear Working on dissertation,

The length of chapter 1 depends on your specific university requirements for the contents of chapter 1, and can also depend on your dissertation committee’s preferences. Some university guidelines have page number lengths specified, while others do not. Make sure to adhere closely to your university guidelines, and if you are still unsure, check with your committee chair.

The terms “validity” and “reliability” are usually used in quantitative studies. Qualitative research addresses non-numerical data that does not align with those terms. Rigor and/or trustworthiness refer to the quality of your research and are the concepts that explain that your data captures your focus in a qualitative study. Credibility and transferability are components of addressing qualitative rigor (Guba, 1981).

  • Credibility is similar to internal validity in quantitative research. The purpose is to represent data accurately and fairly, e.g. member checking
  • Transferability is also referred to as applicability or comparability. It addresses the extent to which the parts of you study are described, so that the study can be compared with other studies investigating similar phenomena, e.g. transparency in description of research process.

Here are some useful references for explaining trustworthiness or rigor in qualitative research:

  • Given, L. M. & Saumure, K. (2008). Rigor in qualitative research. In L.M. Given (Ed.), The Sage encyclopedia of qualitative research methods (pp. 795-796). Sage Publications.
  • Guba, E. G. (1981). Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Resources Information Center Annual Review Paper, 29, 75-91. doi:10.1007/BF02766777
  • Krefting, L. (1991). Rigor in qualitative research: The assessment of trustworthiness. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45(3), 214–222. doi:10.5014/ajot.45.3.214

Including a scholarly citation for every defined term under your definition of terms section can depend on your dissertation committee members’ preferences. Some committee members may want to see every term include a scholarly citation, while others may not require it.

Hope this information helpful and best luck to you!

—Ryan Krone, PhD


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