When referring to auditing within qualitative research, numerous definitions exist. In short, auditing refers to a transparent research process where each step of inquiry is clearly presented and analyzed. Auditing is often represented through an audit trail where the data are essentially tracked from the raw form to the ultimate finished product, which could range from a narrative of rich description to a more formalized research instrument or scale. The use of the term and process of auditing have similarities to the concepts of reliability, generalizability, and validity (what Steinar Kvale calls the “scientific holy trinity”)—terms more popular in quantitative or postpositivist analysis arenas. This entry describes audit trails for qualitative inquiry and the debate over the use of auditing strategies in qualitative research.
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