Trustworthiness. An interesting topic.

Today is November 9, 2016. An auspicious day, to be sure. (No, I’m not going to rant about November 8, 2016; just post this and move on with my living.) Keep in mind trustworthiness, I remind myself.

I had the interesting opportunity to review a paper recently that talked about trustworthiness. This caused me much thought as I was troubled by what was written. I decided to go to my source on “Naturalistic Inquiry”lincoln book . Given that the paper used a qualitative design, employed a case study method, and talked about trustworthiness, I wanted to find out more. This book was written by two of my long time evaluation guides, Yvonna Lincoln yvonna lincolnand Egon Gubaegon guba bw. (Lincoln’s name may be familiar to you from the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research which she co-edited with Norman Denzin.)


On page 218, they talk about trustworthiness. About the conventional criteria for trustworthiness (internal validity, external validity, reliability, and objectivity). They talk about the questions underlying those criteria (see page 218).

They talk about how the criteria formulated by conventional inquirers are not appropriate for naturalistic inquiry. Guba (1981a) offers four new terms as they have “…a better fit with naturalistic epistemology.” These four terms and the terms they propose to replace are:

  1. credibility (rather than internal validity);
  2. transferability (rather than external validity);
  3. dependability (rather than reliability);
  4. confirmability (rather than objectivity).

They refer the reader to Chapter 11 (which begins on page 289 of the above mentioned book [also cited below]).

Guba (1981) proposed “…certain operational techniques that a naturalist can use to establish credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability.”

He (Guba, 1981) specifically talks about “…prolonged engagement and persistent observations, triangulation, peer debriefing, negative case analysis, and member checking…thick description…auditing…and confirmability.”

my two cents.




Guba, E. G. (1981). Criteria for assessing trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Communication and Technology Journal, 29, 75-92.

Lincoln, Y. S. & Guba, E. G. (1985). Naturalistic Inquiry. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 thoughts on “Trustworthiness

  1. Hi Molly, this is an interesting post. I’m glad that Yvonna and Egon came up with these four new terms, since I personally was never a big fan of internal and external validity.

    Their stance on catalytic and ontological authenticity is very interesting too.

  2. I’m an avid reader of you blog and even helped my fellow researchers on different topics. Trustworthiness is one such great topic you’ve chosen.

    In my view, conventional inquirers often claim of doing internal validity, in case the entire study carries out under the conditions of probability sampling.

    But here is an obvious question. Like if sampling is done quite purposively and also at the time when an axiom of naturalistic ontology has to deny the probability of generalization, then what can such a criterion mean?

  3. Generalization as a criterion applies to positivism, which is often represented by quantitative inquiry. Much research is discussed from the positivist paradigm. Qualitative or naturalistic inquiry doesn’t necessarily look at the whether the inquiry is generalizable. Rather, naturalistic inquiry looks at transferability. Can the same question be asked in a situation that is similar to and different from the original situation. How much will the program need to be changed to accommodate the new situation? If it were a quantitative inquiry, then talk about generalizability; if not, talk about transferability. Both terms talk about representativeness of the inquiry.

  4. I was fortunate to have Yvonna and Egon as mentors early in my career. That this volume discusses at length the various criteria for a sound inquiry was a blessing for me. If you are doing quantitative inquiry then internal and external validity apply; if not, these criteria apply.

Comments are closed.