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Research Methods Information : Scientific Method and Scientific Rigor

Research Methods Information

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Selected Articles on Scientific Rigor

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Research: The Basics

Research cycle model

Good quality research requires a solid understanding of what research is.

See the page on Methods/ Methodologies  on this guide for more information.

Research Design Information


Scientific method and scientific rigor are served by good research design. 

See the page of Research Study Design on this guide for more detailed information.

What is Science?

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“Science is a systematic and logical approach to discovering how things in the universe work.”

Zimmerman, K.A. & Britt, R.R. (2012). 
What is Science and the Scientific Method?

 The practice of scientific research -- whether quantitative, qualitative, or mixed methods -- demands that the researcher's work is intellectually rigorous, accurate on all points, ethical, and dispassionately executed. 

What is Meant by Scientific Method?

scientific instruments

Scientifc Method

"A method of procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses." (Oxford Dictionaries)

The steps of the scientific method vary slightly according to field (see the 1st video below) but the list below outlines the general approach.

  • Make an observation or observations.
  • Ask questions about the observations and gather information.
  • Form a hypothesis -- a tentative description of what's been observed, and make predictions based on that hypothesis.
  • Test the hypothesis and predictions in an experiment that can be reporduced.
  • Analyze the data and draw conclusions; accept or reject the hypothesis or modify hypothesis as necessary.
  • Reproduce the experiment until there are no discrepancies between observations and theory.


List of steps from Zimmerman, K.A. & Britt, R.R. (2012). What is Science and the Scientific Method?

What is Meant by Scientific Rigor?


Scientifc Rigor

"Rigor in quantitative research is judged by how narrow, concise, and objective the design and analysis techniques are and how scrupulously the rules have been adhered to and applied to all decisions.

Rigor in qualitative research is defined by quite the opposite set of criteria and is associated with being open to the data, scrupulously adhering to a specific philosophical perspective, and thoroughness in collecting data.

Rigor is also judged by the logic of the emerging theory and whether the results are adding to what is known about a phenomenon.”

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Scientific rigor is the concept more typically applied to qualitiative research because this type of research is not experimental in nature. The steps of a qualitative study must comply with the fundamental trustworthiness of the investigation. The criteria for this have been outlined by Guba, E.G.(1981). Criteria for assessing the trustworthiness of naturalistic inquiries. Educational Resources Information Center Annual Review Paper, 29, 75-91.

  • Truth value/credibility of the study: degree to which researcher has established "confidence in the truth of the findings for the subjects and the context in which the study was undertaken"
  • Applicability: degree to which the findings can be applied to other contexts, settings or groups
  • Consistency: extent to which the findings would be consistent if inquiry were replicated with same subjects or similar context
  • Neutrality: degree to which the findings are a function of the subjects/informants and condition of the research and not of other biases, motivations, and perspectives.

Above list text from Krefting, L. (1991). Rigor in Qualitative Research: The Assessment of Trustworthiness. The American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45(3), 214-222.

Definitions from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, School of Nursing: Course site for Research for Nursing Practice: Introduction to Qualitative Research. URL:

VIDEO: The Scientific Method: Steps, Terms and Examples

Presented  by Education Portal.

Published on Dec 31, 2013 | Runtime: 8:54 min.

VIDEO: Research Quality - Part 1: Reliability, Validity, Generalizability and Credibility

A lecture on the quality of research and the research process taken from a series on research methods and research design given to masters (graduate) students by Graham R Gibbs at the University of Huddersfield.

This is part 1 of three, and deals with ideas of reliability, validity, generalizability and credibility, especially as applied to quantitative research.

Runtime: 39:23 mins.

VIDEO: Research Quality - Part 2: The Quality of Qualitative Research

A lecture on the quality of research and the research process taken from a series on research methods and research design given to masters (graduate) students by Graham R Gibbs at the University of Huddersfield.

This is part 2 of three, and deals with adapting the ideas of reliability, validity, generalizability to the field of qualitative research.

Runtime: 9:10 mins.

Selected Articles on Reliability and Validity

measurement gauge

Selected Books on Research Quality

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