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While the evaluation of quantitative research frequently depends on judgements based on the “holy trinity” of objectivity, reliability and validity (Spencer, Ritchie, Lewis, & Dillon, 2003, p. 59), applying these traditional criteria to qualitative research is not always a “good fit” (Schofield, 2002). Instead, educational researchers who engage in qualitative research have suggested various sets of alternative criteria including: transferability, generalisability, ontological authenticity, reciprocity, dependability, confirmability, reflexivity, fittingness, vitality and, even, sacredness and goodness (Creswell, 2002; Garman, 1996; Guba & Lincoln, 1989; Patton, 2002; Spencer et al., 2003; Stige, Malterud, & Midtgarden, 2009). While over one hundred sets of qualitative research criteria have been identified (Stige et al., 2009), some researchers warn against the absolute application of any criteria to qualitative research which is, by its nature, wide‐ranging and varied, and does not necessarily lend itself to the straightforward application of any evaluation criteria. Nevertheless, whether or not criteria are applied at all in the research evaluation process, postgraduate students face a number of decisions associated with the process of evaluating qualitative research: 1) whether or not to adopt a set of appraisal criteria; 2) which criteria to select, if criteria are used; and 3) how to apply alternative approaches to criteria‐focused evaluation. These decisions often require a paradigm shift (Khun, 1962) in the way postgraduate students perceive and approach their research. The messiness and complexity associated with such decisions can be confronting. This paper examines a number of approaches used by researchers to evaluate qualitative investigations in educational research.

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