One of the common criticism which qualitative researchers frequently face is methodological rigor. Qualitative research uses a more naturalistic and human-centered approach that seeks to understand phenomena in context-specific settings rather than generalised facts based on scientific experiment. Quantitative researchers seek causal determination, prediction, and generalisation of the relevant research findings, whereas, qualitative researchers seek illumination, understanding, and extrapolation which is based on their immersed viewpoint. Whether qualitative or quantitative, it is important that researchers are able to test and demonstrate the credibility or trustworthiness. In qualitative research, usually the credibility is manifested by the statistical robustness within the instrument of data collection. This is known as the reliability and validity of the research. Although reliability and validity are treated separately in quantitative studies, these terms are not viewed separately in qualitative research. Moreover, in qualitative research, the researcher is considered as the instrument and the reliability and validity of the research to a large extent dependent on the researcher’s own ability to immerse into the research. This idea, however, is criticised for having a fundamental drawback known as multiple audience problem. It is believed that different audiences will have different beliefs about what constitutes good qualitative research. Besides, there are personal biases of the researchers which also can impact on what is viewed as credible in qualitative research. As such, there are various approaches adopted by qualitative researchers to ensure the ‘trustworthiness’ of the findings.
Frequency counting is considered as one of the widely used approaches by qualitative researchers to ensure the trustworthiness of qualitative findings. Though alternative perspectives can be used by researchers who counter any kind of counting or the use of numbers, frequency counting is quite popular in qualitative research. Frequency is a measure of the number of occurrences of a particular score in a given set of data. In a frequency table, the qualitative findings are summarised in a compact form by displaying a series of scores in ascending or descending order, together with their frequencies – the number of times each score occurs in the respective data set. Typically, there are four types of counting, which are – autonomous, supplementary, corroborative, and credentialing. Each type of counting techniques is applicable to specific research setting and largely dependent on the research design.
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