4.4 Questions of trustworthiness
To make yourself a reliable and honest person in the eyes of the public, including your counterparts, remain the main quality to check your trustworthiness. According to Lincoln and Guba, the ability to stand – or fail – such test lies in the answer to the following question: “How can an inquirer persuade his or her audiences (including self) that the findings of an inquiry are worth paying attention to, worth taking into account?” The answer is not easy in coming, for the established practice requires the trial of research against the following standards: study-based coherence, general cogency, confidence level (degree of consistency and accuracy) and freedom from bias. Altogether these criteria help to shape the logical positivism and produce a clear example of research that corresponds to the emergence of impartial reality that absorbs a cause-effect relationship, which, in its turn, is independent of how human beings communicate and interact with each other.
Given that this assumption has a sound logical basis for natural sciences, it fails to be suited for qualitative studies that are carried out in the context of a constructive paradigm – that is meant to indicate the presence numerous realities that are built and based upon by the interaction involving the inquirer and relevant actors. When reality represents a combination of varied, therefore subjective, constructions, evaluation of trustworthiness against traditional criteria become a major issue often leading to the impossibility to evaluate at all. Thus, Lincoln and Guba (1985) propose another set of criteria, precisely the quality of gaining the trust of the others (credibility), the ability to convey (transferability), the state of being influential, i.e. carrying the weight with others (credibility), and the verification characteristics (confirmability). If conventional research is a question, these criteria could provide the necessary answer through logical soundness, confidence and freedom from bias. On the other side, they have a reflexive nature to shape trustworthiness in all forms.
What follows below is how trustworthiness of my study is examined against these criteria.
According to Lincoln and Guba (1985), there are certain techniques that ensure credibility of qualitative research. First, there are activities that are aimed at increasing the probability that credible findings will be produced. They include prolonged engagement (that is meant to be total immersion in the native culture of respondents through day-to-day communication with them), persistent observation (which enables the researcher to measure the extent of experience and understanding the context in which the studied culture evolves and is exposed to multiple influences), and triangulation (or the use of several methods in order to navigate the study by checking interim results and remaining compliant with the subject). Another tool is peer debriefing to provide a ‘side view’ to check up on the study. Negative case analysis, implying the calibration of the hypothesis in the course of research, is another useful instrument. The ‘toolkit’ is complemented with referential adequacy, a way to screen preliminary findings against historical source data. Finally, respondent validation provides scope for the findings to be checked with the informants. As far as the trustworthiness of my research goes, I will concentrate on the techniques which I deem most appropriate to my study: prolonged engagement, persistent observation, triangulation, and peer debriefing.
Prolonged engagement is a means to grasp the point of the research setting, understanding the context, its features and details, thereby minimizing distortions; it gets materialized with credibility that, in its turn, is gained diachronically. However, my study is based on a series of interviews, leaving smaller room for this technique to unleash its strength.
Despite having worked for Equinor for more than 10 years and engaged in the business environment in which cooperation between Azeris and Norwegians was clearly visible for observation at different angles, I have not been involved personally in all areas – and levels – of cooperation in my company. On the other side, my acquaintance with some Equinor staff members, who had built up long-lasting
4.4 Questions of trustworthiness