What is objectivity in research?

A brief introduction to objectivity

For more best practices see our method overview

Definition of objectivity

Objectivity is the extent, to which the results are free from Researcher Bias (Guba, 1981; Frambach et al., 2013). Objectivity is also a prerequisite to statistical conclusion validity, since a biased research design may confound the observed correlation between the independent and dependent variable.
Decoration image for objectivity in qualitative research
Practices, such as strict adherence to methods, triangulation, and randomization, play a vital role in ensuring objectivity. Still, Sandelowski et al. write about objectivity in quantitative research synthesis, that “objectivity continues to reside in the defense and documentation of largely subjective judgments” (Sandelowski et al., 2006).

The other dimensions of research rigor that correspond to objectivity are:On our page on rigor you can get an overview for judging whether these are the dimensions to evaluate for your research or if (for qualitative research) you should use framework of trustworthiness instead.

Strategies to improve objectivity.

Attaining true objectivity is a complex endeavor, but you can implement various strategies to enhance the objectivity of your work:
  • Clearly Define Research Questions and Hypotheses: A well-defined research question or hypothesis helps you focus on specific aspects of their study, reducing the likelihood of drifting into subjective interpretations or pursuing tangential avenues.
  • Utilize Standardized Procedures: Standardized procedures and protocols provide consistency in data collection and analysis. Following established methodologies reduces the room for individual interpretation and ensures that different researchers would likely arrive at similar conclusions when following the same procedures. You should protocol all chosen procedures in an Audit Trail.
  • Maintain Transparency: Transparency in research processes is essential for objectivity. Documenting every step, from data collection methods to analytical decisions, enables others to scrutinize and replicate the study, thereby minimizing the influence of any hidden biases.
  • Engage in Peer Review: Incorporating peer review (for example through a Peer Debriefing) allows other experts to critically evaluate the research methodology, analysis, and conclusions. This external input helps identify potential biases or oversights that the original researchers might have missed.
  • Employ Diverse Research Teams: Diversity within the research team, encompassing different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, can help counteract individual biases. Collaborative discussions challenge assumptions and promote a more comprehensive understanding of the research topic. You can also measure Intercoder Agreement within your team.
  • Check Assumptions and Preconceptions: Regularly revisiting and questioning one's assumptions and preconceptions during the research process can mitigate the inadvertent influence of personal biases. Rigorous self-reflection is a powerful tool for fostering objectivity.

Conclusion on objectivity

Objectivity safeguards research from falling victim to the pitfalls of confirmation bias, Researcher Bias, and cultural distortion. It enables you to present a faithful representation of reality, irrespective of personal beliefs or vested interests. While complete objectivity might be an elusive goal due to the inherent subjectivity of human perception, continuous efforts to enhance objectivity through transparent practices, rigorous methodologies, and diverse collaborations are imperative.
The pursuit of objectivity is an ongoing journey rather than a destination. As you strive to uncover truths about the world, you must remain vigilant in identifying and minimizing potential sources of bias. The commitment to objectivity not only upholds the integrity of individual studies but also reinforces the foundation upon which scientific progress is built.

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