Separating "Fact" from Fiction: Strategies to Improve Rigour in Historical Research

Keywords: historical method, historical research, qualitative research, rigour, trustworthiness

Abstract

Since the 1980s, many fields of qualitative research have adopted LINCOLN and GUBA's (1985) four criteria for determining rigour (credibility, confirmability, dependability and transferability) to evaluate the quality of research outputs. Historical research is one field of qualitative inquiry where this is not the case. While most historical researchers recognise the need to be rigorous in their methods in order to improve the trustworthiness of their results, ambiguity exists about how rigour is demonstrated in historical research. As a result, strategies to establish rigour remain focused on piecemeal activities (e.g., source criticism) rather than adopting a whole-of-study approach. Using a piecemeal approach makes it difficult for others to understand the researcher's rationale for the methods used and decisions made during the research process. Fragmenting approaches to rigour may contribute to questioning of the legitimacy of historical methods. In this article, we provide a critique of the challenges to achieving rigour that currently exist in historical research. We then offer practical strategies that can be incorporated into historical methods to address these challenges with the aim of producing a more transparent historical narrative.

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Author Biographies

Tanya Langtree, James Cook University

Tanya LANGTREE, MNSt is a PhD candidate in the College of Healthcare Sciences, Division of Tropical Health and Medicine, James Cook University, Australia. Her research interests include nursing education, simulation and history. Tanya's PhD project is using historical methods to conceptualise the development of nursing practice prior to professionalisation.

Melanie Birks, James Cook University

Melanie BIRKS, PhD, is professor and Head of Nursing and Midwifery at James Cook University, Australia. Her research interests are in the areas of accessibility, innovation, relevance and quality in nursing education.

Narelle Biedermann, James Cook University

Narelle BIEDERMANN, PhD, is a senior lecturer in Nursing and Midwifery at James Cook University, Australia. Her research interests are in the areas of nursing and military history and nursing education.

Published
2019-05-25
How to Cite
Langtree, T., Birks, M., & Biedermann, N. (2019). Separating "Fact" from Fiction: Strategies to Improve Rigour in Historical Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 20(2). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-20.2.3196