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As the use of qualitative methods in health research proliferates, it becomes increasingly necessary to consider how the value of a piece of qualitative research should be assessed. This article discusses the problem posed by the novelty and diversity of qualitative approaches within health psychology and considers the question of what criteria are appropriate for assessing the validity of a qualitative analysis. In keeping with the ethos of much qualitative research, some open-ended, flexible principles are suggested as a guide to the quality of a qualitative study: sensitivity to context; commitment and rigour; transparency and coherence; impact and importance. Examples are given of the very different ways in which various forms of qualitative research can meet these criteria.


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