Validity and Reliability in Ethnographic Research (Essential Ethnographic Methods – SSL)

Reliability: “replicability of research results over time, different sites, and populations, with different researchers” (271)

Validity: “the degree to which researchers actually have discovered what they think their results show, and how applicable the results are to other populations” (271)

Ethnographers have long struggled with reliability and validity and reliability, as being the primary tool of interpretation and data collection, research is not easily replicable, nor can populations be fully analyzed for all indicators. The field is messy, and cannot be as sterile as a laboratory or pre-collected data.

Validity can be divided into types used here:
(1) Internal validity – “the correspondence between measures and the reality of the field situation” (275) – how well the observations match what is actually going on
(2) Construct validity – “whether instruments measure what they are are assumed to measure” (275) – or, how well your survey instrument or interview schedule addresses the thematic concepts
(3) External validity – “the applicability of representations to other groups” – or, how well the conclusions made by your observations relate to other groups

Reliability can be divided into types, too:
(1) Internal reliability – “the match between constructs and a data set” (275) – how well other researchers would match data sets to your own work, and to the researcher who initially compiled it
(2) External reliability – “comparability of results in repeat studies using the same methods” (275) – so, would other people find the same themes that you’re working with?


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