Activity 4

Validity

Before moving on to look in greater depth at four data-collection methodologies (i.e. observation, interview, documentary analysis and questionnaire), the twin questions of reliability and validity need to be considered.

Whatever methods are used to collect research evidence, the ensuing data needs to be RELIABLE so that findings and results can be judged as VALID.

VALIDITY refers to the degree to which a method, a test or a research tool actually measures what it is supposed to measure. Take the example of intelligence. Does the standard IQ test measure intelligence or does it simply measure our ability to do an IQ test?

Are we measuring what we think we are measuring? If you have chosen to use semi-structured interviews or questionnaires in your research project, for example, are you sure that they will do the job that you want them to do?

Whereas validity reflects the internal consistency of a research methodology, reliability reflects the generalisability of its findings.

REFLECT: Think about the following statement:

"If an item is unreliable, then it must also lack validity, but a reliable item is not necessarily also valid. It could produce the same or similar responses on all occasions, but not be measuring what it is supposed to measure".

WRITE: Explain the meaning of this quotation, using either the example of intelligence testing or some other research method which highlights the contrast.

(Allow 15 minutes)