Achieving Corroboration in Qualitative Research

The aim behind corroboration in qualitative research is to enhance validity, reliability, authenticity, replicability, and accuracy of the research. The researcher uses several tools to achieve corroboration and to reduce faulty observations, biased analysis, and inaccurate conclusions. Corroboration is necessary to maintain standards in conducting surveys, data analysis, and interpretation. The chances of bias and error is higher in survey research than in any other type of research. In survey research corroboration can help reduce interviewer or researcher bias as well as the respondent bias. In this article we will explore how to achieve the corroboration in qualitative research; what techniques the researcher can employ and how to do that.

Definition of corroboration

Stainback & Stainback, (1988) define corroboration in the following words, “the purpose of corroboration is not to confirm whether people’s perceptions are accurate or true reflections of a situation but rather to ensure that the research findings accurately reflect people’s perceptions, whatever they may be. The purpose of corroboration is to help researchers increase their understanding of the probability that their findings will be seen as credible or worthy of consideration by others.”

It is evident from above definition that corroboration can help the researcher from making biased/prejudiced or inaccurate assumptions. The accuracy of qualitative research can be at stake during three stages of research, i.e., data collection, data analysis, and data interpretation. Corroboration is one of the techniques a researcher can use during all of the three stages of data handling to reduce inaccuracy.

Approaches to corroboration in qualitative research

Here we will explore some of the ways the researcher can use to corroborate in qualitative research. The use of these corroborating techniques is highly valuable in studying problems where the risk of inaccuracy is higher. The researcher should know that a single technique of corroboration is not enough to yield accurate data in qualitative research. The researcher should use a combination of techniques to make sure the results of the data are accurate and trustworthy.

Supporting documents/proofs

The researcher might ask the respondents to provide supporting documents or proofs where necessary. For example, medical records sometimes help in corroborating the information received from the respondents. The use of supporting documents or other proofs in corroborating data gives the reader an idea about the authenticity of research.

Other data sources

Other data sources can be books, government records, other form of recorded data, or reports that can be used to corroborate the findings of the interview or questionnaire. The researcher often knows about other sources that help him corroborate the data through the interview. The interviewee can help the researcher know about the sources and where to locate them. Corroborating data with other sources makes a research worthy of considerations as it has been verified using different sources.

Consistency check

Consistency check is a very useful tool that researchers use in interviews and questionnaires. The researcher ask two similar questions from the respondents with different wordings and phrasing. The aim is to know whether the answers are consistent or not. The researchers usually use this technique for important questions. They also use this techniques for questions that are sensitive or have personal meanings. The use of consistency check should be done with caution if the respondent knows that there are questions like that they might get offended or they might not show the real self in the answers.

Comparing results to similar studies

There might be similar studies conducted by other researcher if you are not sure about the validity and accuracy of the data and its results you can compare the results with other such studies. The researchers can provide references of the useful and relevant sources in their own research. These references add more weight to the research outcomes.

Background knowledge

The researchers should also make sure that they have sufficient background knowledge of the topic before conducting interviews or administering surveys. This will enable them to better understand the situation, to make analysis, and interpretation of the data. When you are not sure about the topic first give some time to study it so that you can make better research instrument, administer it properly, and analyze it accurately.

Results review by an expert

If you are not sure about the results of the data you can ask an expert to check the result for its consistency and accuracy. The expert can be any person who has knowledge about the research problem and statistical techniques. He should be one who has enough experience to understand any errors in results.

For further reading:

How to present, analyze, and interpret interview data

Principles of research ethics

Trustworthiness in qualitative research




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