rigor in research

Rigor in a Research

Rigor in a research means quality control, there is no science without rigor. You need rigor to make your research valid, reliable, generalizable, and authentic. So, in a sense rigor comes first and then you can say that your research has all other characteristics. While rigor improves validity, reliability, and reproducibility of a research but of course it is not the absolute criterion.

Rigor is also called control and this word is used in science as well as in our day-to-day life. Wikipedia defines rigor as “a process of adhering absolutely to certain constraints, or the practice of maintaining strict consistency with certain predefined parameters.” In science and research  rigor means to be exact, careful, precise, and controlled. Along with that rigor requires honesty and an unbiased approach to performing research.

How can one achieve rigor in a qualitative or quantitative research? Broadly, rigor comes with the researcher’s understanding and application of rigor in two ways: scientifically and ethically. Once the research is published it is scrutinized by the readers but the responsibility to conduct a rigorous research lies only on the researcher.

Scientific rigor

You need rigor in each step of your research process. Ensure that you have developed a robust design, methodology, analysis techniques, interpretation and conclusions, bibliography, and lastly research writing.

Rigor in quantitative studies

The type of control you need in an experimental or quantitative study is different from what you need in a qualitative or survey based research design. Quantitative research can follow a strict, rigid, and pre-designed format. This type of pre-determined design helps in getting control of your research. All you have to do is stay accurate and precise and follow the pre-designed plan. Also quantitative research is objective in nature so if you did the right testing and repeated it severla times and then applied the right statistical test there is least chances of bias or subjectivity introduced to your research. For example, in an experiment, you have to apply control, repetition, randomization, blinding, bias control measures, robust and accurate statistical methods, appropriate and accurate experimental design, and suitable and authentic models. And the resultant research will be objective, rigorous, and controlled.

Rigor in qualitative studies

On the other hand, qualitative research is different from quantitative research in many ways. The definition of rigor states that it is a quality of being exact, stiff, and precise. Rigor also means being thorough and accurate and staying within boundaries. When we look at the qualitative research it mostly does not lends itself to stiff boundaries. In a qualitative research the researcher has minimal control and as the research advances the researcher also evolves so does the research. Therefore, the researcher and the research needs to be flexible to evolve with the development of the research. This makes it difficult to abide to some stiff boundaries.

So when rigor is difficult to achieve qualitative researcher switch rigor to trustworthiness in their research. Since whatever methods, methodology, and statistical techniques you apply in a qualitative research the researcher can always influence the research. The researcher can always bring his subjectivity or bias in the research, therefore, it is more about trustworthiness than rigor and control. Generally, the researcher uses techniques like peer debriefing, corroboration, prolonged engagement, disclosure, auditability, and negative case analysis etc.

While you develop a robust and controlled design you also need to report it clearly in your research. This will show the readers the transparency of your research and will also help other sin reproducing the research.

Ethical rigor

Ethically rigor is more important because here lack of rigor means bias, fabrication, carelessness, or other purposeful deceit in research. The researcher has a responsibility to put forward only the truth that he knows. Following is a table showing some of the ways in which the researcher can deceive the readers by introducing false rigor in his research.

Table showing types of rigor

Type of rigorDescriptionResearcher’s intentOutcomes
Purposefully misleading rigorThe researcher purposefully changes data, modifies results, changes statistical analysis etc.Purposefully mislead Totally fake research and possibly there will be Criminal charges
Creative or crafty rigorThe researcher applies rigor where he wants to but does not apply it where there are some loopholes in research. For example, to prove the hypothesis true.To purposefully misleadPlagiarized research and criminal charges can apply depending on the extent of deceit.
Careless rigorThe researcher applies rigor to some part of the research but avoids on other areas because of carelessness.To achieve desired results without real effortsThe research will most likely lack reliability and will not be valid
Careful rigorThe researcher carefully applies rigor to every part of researchTo conduct ethical and scientific researchReliable and valid research
Enduring rigorThe researcher carefully applies rigor to every part of research and repeats results to get enduring data.To conduct reliable and valid researchReliable, reproducible, and valid research
Table 1: Types of rigor in research

So, as the above table describes the researcher has a greater responsibility to conduct a rigorous research. When the researcher does not have rigor and control in the research the final research lacks validity and reliability. There are loopholes that are sometimes easy and sometimes not that easy to identify. Particularly, some researcher are so crafty in the way they alter or fabricate data that it is difficult to identify it.

Purposefully misleading rigor

Here the researcher purposefully misleads the readers. There are many ways in which the researcher can mislead, for example, he can fabricate data, results, or statistical analysis. The researcher can provide false data that he does not gather in reality.

This kind of lack of rigor is considered a research misconduct, fraud and a criminal act. The researcher may have to suffer punishment for providing misinformation. The charges on the researcher for this type of purposeful deceit are severe. Because, this kind of deceit can cause potential harm to science, knowledge, and society.

Creative or crafty rigor

Again this is a kind of lack of rigor where the researcher deceives the audience by showing that the research has followed rigorous research standards. Here, the researcher applies rigor to only some parts of the research and it can produce erroneous research. Sometimes, even if you conduct one part of the research inattentively the whole research outcomes are wrong.

This is not as serious as the purposefully misleading rigor but it is still a serious scientific offence. The researcher is putting the integrity of science at stake by doing so.

Careless rigor

We all commit carelessness to some degree sometimes in our life. Carelessness become offensive when it is exercised in a great extent. In a research the researcher sometimes become careless for one or more of the following reasons. One, to complete the research in less time; two, due to boredom or fatigue that results form tedious work; and or, three, due to some external pressures.

In todays world, everyone is in a hurry and that hurriedness or haste convinces us that it is ok to be a little careless. Sometimes, we do not consider it carelessness rather we think that we will get the results quick or publish our research on time, which will benefit us and others. But in reality we are compromising the rigor and control that we should have applied. For example, some researcher do not wait to repeat the results two or three times to be sure that the results are reliable. This kind of lack of rigor can have long lasting outcomes but we do not anticipate it that time.

Careful rigor

Carefully applied rigor to every step of the research helps in producing a reliable and valid research. Such a researcher knows that the integrity of science and research is beyond any other benefits. Therefore the researcher conducts a transparent research while following all the rules established by the scientific and research community.

Enduring rigor

As the name suggests it is a long lasting rigor. Research that has enduring rigor is most reliable, valid, and reproducible. Though to produce such a research the researcher needs to spend more time, hard work, energy and some times even more financial resources. But, in no way the researcher compromises on the accuracy and authenticity of his research.


  • İlknur Dolu, Mehmet İlkin Naharcı, Patricia A. Logan, Piret Paal, Mojtaba Vaismoradi, Transitional ‘hospital to home’ care of older patients: healthcare professionals’ perspectives, Scandinavian Journal of Caring Sciences, 10.1111/scs.12904, 0, 0, (undefined).
  • Hofseth L. J. (2018). Getting rigorous with scientific rigor. Carcinogenesis39(1), 21–25. https://doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgx085



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