Evaluative criteria for qualitative research in health care: Controversies and recommendations

Deborah J. Cohen, Benjamin F. Crabtree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

512 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: We wanted to review and synthesize published criteria for good qualitative research and develop a cogent set of evaluative criteria. METHODS: We identified published journal articles discussing criteria for rigorous research using standard search strategies then examined reference sections of relevant journal articles to identify books and book chapters on this topic. A cross-publication content analysis allowed us to identify criteria and understand the beliefs that shape them. RESULTS: Seven criteria for good qualitative research emerged: (1) carrying out ethical research; (2) importance of the research; (3) clarity and coherence of the research report; (4) use of appropriate and rigorous methods; (5) importance of reflexivity or attending to researcher bias; (6) importance of establishing validity or credibility; and (7) importance of verification or reliability. General agreement was observed across publications on the first 4 quality dimensions. On the last 3, important divergent perspectives were observed in how these criteria should be applied to qualitative research, with differences based on the paradigm embraced by the authors. CONCLUSION: Qualitative research is not a unified field. Most manuscript and grant reviewers are not qualitative experts and are likely to embrace a generic set of criteria rather than those relevant to the particular qualitative approach proposed or reported. Reviewers and researchers need to be aware of this tendency and educate health care researchers about the criteria appropriate for evaluating qualitative research from within the theoretical and methodological framework from which it emerges.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)331-339
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of family medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Health care research
  • Methodology
  • Qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Family Practice


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