Validity in Research Studies

Discussion post I submitted for my Atlantic University TP5015 Course – November 29, 2019

Describe the structural and contextual differences between the two types of approaches.  Reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of both. 

The research study on spiritual emergencies ran a newspaper ad to secure 109 participants and most were “members of the local community” (2009, p. 83).  The aura study had significantly fewer participants with a total of 38 divided into those who reported seeing auras and a control group who indicated no abilities in this area.  While the non-aura viewers were selected randomly as acquaintances of the authors, aura viewers replied to an ad in “newsletters related to psychic phenomena” and were also “referred by colleagues” (1994, p. 6).

The placement of ads is similar in both cases, although the aura study was much more targeted through the selection of smaller niche psychic phenomena outlets.  This most likely improved the quality and experience of the participants as opposed to spiritual emergencies study which relied simply on reaching readers of local newspapers.  The additional sample size of the latter study certainly improved the quality of the results, particularly considering that the non-control size of the aura study was only 19.  

However, the spiritual emergency study received zero affirmative responses to the “Experience of UFO” subscale (2009, pp. 90-91).  If they had utilized the targeting approach of the aura study and ran ads in smaller UFO-related outlets, this would have certainly improved the results of this subscale.  It would have improved the results of other subscales as well if they had targeted psychic publications as did the aura study.  Finally, the aura studies reliance on recommendations of colleagues, in addition to pulling targeted newsletter ads, also improves the quality of the participants since they are likely acquainted already of the topic area and come at the recommendation of another.  

Reflect on how you would discuss the validity of each questionnaire provided in the readings. Demonstrate your understanding of validity. 

After providing standard definitions of valid and validiity, such as “strength, worth, value, and price,” Braud & Anderson offer more non-conventional meanings of the word.  These include “authoritative, brave, bold, courageous, helpful, and encouraging,” and the authors suggest that they make up the “personal characteristics and inner experiences of everyone involved in a research endeavor” (2011, p. 281). Both studies, given their more esoteric topics, are “brave, bold, and courageous,” as many in “mainstream” science dismiss this type of research as not being “scientific enough.”

A key component of a study’s validity is its reliability, which the authors indicate, are closely interconnected.  One element of this identified by the authors is what they term as participant validation. This involves”fully honoring the views of the research participants themselves in establishing the validity or truth value of a study,” (2011, p. 293).

The proper design and delivery of a questionnaire is critical in establishing participant validation, and therefore the overall validity of a study.  One element that both the aura and the spiritual emergencies questionnaires lacked is open-ended questions where the participants can provide their own experiences.  Such an approach would clearly add to the concept of “honoring the views of the research participants themselves.”  

Instead, the research participants were confined to answering only the study designers’ questions and were not able to leave their personal imprint on the research. Also, a study’s validity is enhanced when verbatims of the participants are weaved through the research study’s write-up.

In both studies, the questions were very detailed and left little room for interpretation.  This may have led to participants discounting experiences they had since it didn’t fit into the narrow confines of the question provided.  Without the questionnaire providing an opportunity for the participants to expand or explain their answers, the researchers in both studies may have left valuable information “on the table.”

Reflect on how your research method will stand the test of validity, from both conventional and/or transpersonal points of view. To address this last point, my research method will include interview questions that are open-ended.  I will seek to elicit information I need regarding my topic, which again is: spirit Guides use synchronistic events as a means of getting our attention and helping us navigate our spiritual journey.  By allowing individuals to open up about their own experiences, I will improve the validity of my research by “honoring the views of the research participants themselves,” as discussed above.

This approach will also enable me to probe the participants’ experience as a means of eliciting how it impacted them from a transpersonal perspective.  While I plan to follow a script, my approach will be aimed at creating a relaxed conversational atmosphere.  This will hopefully enable the participants to feel more comfortable and therefore more able to relay how their experiences impacted them personally.

In terms of selecting participants, I plan to take the approach used in the aura study as opposed to spiritual emergencies study when it comes to identifying individuals.  Given the nature of my topic, which is more esoteric, it will be important for me to identify people who have legitimate experience with spirit guides and synchronicities.  By targeting individuals who are active psychics, and who have a reputation as such in this field, I am attempting to include “professionals” as opposed to simply those who might have an interest in the area and who happened to stumble across an ad in the newspaper.

Finally, like the aura and spiritual emergencies studies, as well as Linda Edge’s research into directed dissociation, my topic is “courageous” and “bold.”  Given that there isn’t a great deal of research in this area, I also hope it will be “helpful and encouraging” to those who read the results.  Striving for these characteristics will help me improve the validity of my research.


Alvarado, C. & Zingrone, N. (1994). “Individual differences in aura vision: relationships to visual imagery and imaginative-fantasy experiences,” European Journal of Parapscyhology, 10, pp. 1-30.

Anderson, R. & Braud, W. (2011), Transforming self and others through research: Transpersonal research methods and skills for the human sciences and humanities, University of New York Press: Albany, NY

Edge, L. W. (2004). “A Phenomenological Study of Directed Dissociation.” 

Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 44(2), pp. 155–181.Goretzki, M., Thalbourne, M., & Storm, L. (2009). “The Questionaire measurement of spiritual emergency,” The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 41-1, pp. 81-97.