Positivist and interpretivist researchers have different views on how their research outcomes may be evaluated. The issues of validity, reliability and generalisability, used in evaluating positivist studies, are regarded of relatively little significance by many qualitative researchers for judging the merits of their interpretive investigations. In confirming the research, those three canons need at least to be re-conceptualised in order to reflect the keys issues of concern for interpretivists. Some interpretivists address alternative issues such as credibility, dependability and transferability when determining the trustworthiness of their qualitative investigations. A strategy proposed by several authors for establishing the trustworthiness of the qualitative inquiry is the development of a research audit trail. The audit trail enables readers to trace through a researcher's logic and determine whether the study's findings may be relied upon as a platform for further enquiry. While recommended in theory, this strategy is rarely implemented in practice. This paper examines the role of the research audit trail in improving the trustworthiness of qualitative research. Further, it documents the development of an audit trail for an empirical qualitative research study that centred on an interpretive evaluation of a new Information and Communication Technology (ICT) student administrative system in the tertiary education sector in the Republic of Ireland. This research study examined the impact of system introduction across five Institutes of Technology (IoTs) through case study research that incorporated multiple evidence sources. The evidence collected was analysed using a grounded theory method, which was supported by qualitative data analysis software. The key concepts and categories that emerged from this process were synthesized into a cross case primary narrative; through reflection the primary narrative was reduced to a higher order narrative that presented the principle findings or key research themes. From this higher order narrative a theoretical conjecture was distilled. Both a physical and intellectual audit trail for this study are presented in this paper. The physical audit trail documents all keys stages of a research study and reflects the key research methodology decisions. The intellectual audit trail, on the other hand, outlines how a researcher's thinking evolved throughout all phases of the study.


You are watching: What is audit trail in qualitative research


See more: 'Say A L I Say A Little Prayer Glee Cast, I Say A Little Prayer

Hence, these audit trails make transparent the key decisions taken throughout the research process. The paper concludes by discussing the value of this audit trail process in confirming a qualitative study's findings.
*