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Qualitative Research - Different Methods & Types

Qualitative Research - Different Methods & Types

Have you been given a research paper to write and you have absolutely no clue which type of research to conduct for your topic? Well, you are in the right place then.

Research can be conducted through qualitative and quantitative studies. Although there are just two main types it is not easy to decide which one to choose; qualitative or quantitative methods.

If you know the basic difference between qualitative and quantitative research, it is most likely that your research paper will be well written and structured.

In this blog, we have provided everything that you should know about qualitative research, its type, examples, methodology, and the contrast between the quantitative research method.

1. What is Qualitative Research?

The qualitative research is a type of research that focuses on gathering and analyzing data and information that is natural and more interpretive in nature. In other words, qualitative research looks for an in-depth understanding of the social aspect within its natural setting.

This type of research focuses on the definition, reasons, and its concepts. It not only talks about “what” but also the “why” of a social aspect.

In this research process, multiple inquiry systems of study for a human and social phenomenon like a case study, historical analysis, ethnography, grounded theory, biography, and discourse analysis are used.

For people's guide, Oxford University Press has published a book named “Approaches of Qualitative Research”. SAGE publications have also published a book that has detailed information about qualitative research.

The major areas where this type of research takes place is the individuals, cultures and societies, and communication and language.

1.1 Types of Qualitative Research Method

The qualitative research method is formed in a way that can show the idea and perception of your targeted audience.

The results drawn by the qualitative research method are detailed and descriptive. This gives a better understanding of the issue and situation. A qualitative researcher is always eager to look at the negative cases in society because the respondent's get different experiences and viewpoints for the body of evidence.

Generally, there are six types of qualitative research method types that are widely used in governmental models, education, and business.

1.1.1 In-depth Interview

It is a qualitative research method in which a personal and detailed interview is conducted with a single person at a time. This casual conversation between the two people is done to gather information about a topic or an issue.

This might sound like an ineffective method of gathering information and data but in fact, you can gather a lot of information that will help you craft an amazing and detailed research paper.

In this method, what a researcher can do is talk to the respondent about his motivations and inspirations about the topic.

What makes this method easier that, interviews can be conducted effortlessly. You can interview a person face to face, or in email, or via phone anywhere you are.

1.1.2 Focus Groups

The focus group is the most commonly used method of collecting data for qualitative research. This method of research includes a fixed number of individuals who are basically respondents from the target market.

In simpler terms, the focus group method is a group discussion between people on a specific topic.

This research method is used in answering questions like what, why, and how in society and the environment. While using this method you are not bound to just have a discussion face to face, rather you can get into a discussion online as well and look for your answers.

1.1.3 Case Study Research

The case study research method has now become the most valuable method of conducting research. This method of research has evolved in recent years but the significance of it is exceptional.

This research method is used to explain a company or an entity in detail. Mainly this method is used in different areas like education, social sciences, etc.

The case study method involves a thorough understanding through different types of data sources. These methods can be explanatory, expository, or just a description of an event.

In other words, the sources of data in this method are interviews, documents, reports, and observations.

1.1.4 Ethnographic Research

The ethnographic research method is the most familiar and in-depth observational method of research that focuses on people and their behaviors in the natural environment.

According to this method, a researcher is to adapt to the environment and society that is his audience's, to conduct better research.

What makes this method different from other methods is that the audience can be from anywhere and like an organization, or a city on the outskirts. Here an issue can be raised of the geographical constraints while gathering and collecting data.

This research design intent to describe in detail the challenges, cultures, motivations, and different settings. Ethnographic research includes the first-hand experience of natural settings and not only rely on interviews and discussions.

1.1.5 Grounded Theory

While other methods discuss and focus on an event or activity, the grounded theory method deeply looks into the explanation and the main theory behind that event or activity.

In this method, you initially observe the interviews and documents to build a theory. The sample sizes in this method are usually larger than other methods.

1.1.6 Observation Process

Qualitative observation is a method of research that includes subjective methodologies to gather all the relevant information and data. This method is used to compare the quality difference of a product.

The qualitative research is based on the 5 sensory organs of a human being, i.e. sight, smell, hear, touch, and taste. This process doesn't include measurements or numbers and is based on characteristics.

1.1.7 Phenomenological

This method is used in the description of an event, phenomenon, and an activity. In this type of study, a combination of methods is used like interviews, reading documents, visiting places, and watching videos.

In this method, you don't start with a hypothesis. In a phenomenological study of qualitative research, you conduct a number of interviews to check the reliability and validity of the gathered data.

2. Difference Between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Putting in simple words, quantitative research is all about numbers and measurements while qualitative research talks about understanding and words. Qualitative research grants permission to the researcher to take into consideration a selected issue and without constraining himself by already determined categories of analysis.

In contrast, quantitative methods require the use of measurements in order to go with the different ideas and experiences of people into a certain limit of numbers of already determined responses.

The quantitative data research, in broader terms, is particularistic in nature while on the other hand, qualitative research is holistic. To sum up, quantitative research suggests a final course of action while qualitative develops the initial understanding.

If you want ideal research, you should know how to use a combination of both the research methods. In many cases, a researcher is asked to specifically use any one of the types of research methods depending on the topic of its research. It is up to the researcher to use a qualitative method that is an interpretative or quantitative method that is concrete.

The main differences between the qualitative vs quantitative research can be drawn clearly from the following table.


















Research Type




Creates initial understanding

Suggests a course of action

3. Purpose of Qualitative Research

Many students confuse the purpose of the qualitative research type. To begin with, the origin of the qualitative research method is associated with the sociology subject and is considered as old as the sociology field itself.

The qualitative research type is also used by many scientists like social ones. These social scientists use this method to closely study the human behavior and its interaction with society and with other individuals.

Now the important thing to think about is what's the purpose of the qualitative research anyway? Well, the answer to this question is that qualitative research studies a topic in a way that gives and reveals the entire truth and meaning of the subject under observation.

It suggests and recommends the answer about an outcome or an action that is measured and studied by quantitative research.

Broadly, the qualitative research assesses all the symbols, meanings, and the process of social life in which a person is intentionally or unintentionally involved. As this research type acknowledges the day to day life of a person, it creates new theories that have room to be further tested and assessed.

In a nutshell, qualitative research generated descriptive data that can easily be interpreted using different transcribing techniques.

3.1 Why Qualitative Research works?

There are several attributes that make qualitative research work and lead to the insightful outcomes of the research conducted.

  • Qualitative research strengthens the idea of teamwork and collaboration among the respondents as they rely on each other's comments and understanding.
  • The pattern of interviews and discussion in the qualitative research helps in bringing together the respondents which are effective and a very structured way of gathering data for your research.
  • Another quality of qualitative research is that nonverbal communication can be done. And information can be taken non verbally by participant observation in face to face interviews and in the discussion process.

4. Data Collection and Analysis

Data Collection is the initial step of your research process. The data that is initially collected is in raw form and cannot be understood by a normal person which is not a researcher. To make this data readable and meaningful, the researchers refine and reform them to use it while writing a research paper.

Data is collected in two types mainly. Quantitative and qualitative research and is then analyzed. A researcher decides which form to choose for which research topic.

Let's look at how the qualitative data is collected, presented and analyzed making sense and meaning.

4.1 Qualitative Data Collection

Qualitative data collection helps in collecting the data in the non-numeric form and helps us to explore how decisions are made on the data collected and present detailed and structured information.

To reach the result and conclusion, the information gathered should be holistic, resulting in a careful and detailed analysis.

No matter what method a researcher chooses to gather data for qualitative research, the amount of the information gathered will be huge. Just like the different variety of methods are available, there are distinctive ways of collecting and gathering data as well. It totally depends on the person which one to select for his research.

For example, if the data is collected by the focus group method or one-on-one interview method, there can be handwritten notes as well as videotaped notes and conversations. If you have it on your tape, you know you first have to transcribe before the whole data analysis process starts.

Casually speaking, it can take about 8 to 10 hours to transcribe the recordings of your interview which will result in 20 - 30 pages of dialogue. Many people like to maintain separate folders to organize the recordings from the focus groups. In this way, there collected data is compartmentalized.

In case you have taken or written running notes, also known as field notes, help you in managing comments, maintaining environmental contexts, nonverbal cues, etc. These running notes are very important, helpful, and can be used while transcribing the recorded tapes.

These notes are informal but should be handled with care just like you take care of and give importance to your recordings.

4.2 Qualitative Data Analysis

Qualitative data analysis includes images, text documents, notes, audio, and video recording. The most famous and used method of qualitative data analysis is the analysis of the text.

The qualitative analysis can be divided into four main categories:

  1. Content Analysis - This process categorizes Behavioral or verbal data to classify and summarize it.
  2. Narrative Analysis - This method includes the reformulation of the conversations and stories by the respondents which are used as the data for the research. In short, narrative analysis is the rewriting of initially collected qualitative data by research.
  3. Discourse Analysis - This method of analysis includes all the naturally occurring talks and written texts.
  4. Framework Analysis - this is an advanced method of analysis in which several stages like identifies a thematic framework, coding, mapping, familiarization, charting, and interpretation are used to treat data.

5. Qualitative Research Question

In qualitative research, there is usually one central question and sub-questions to narrow the phenomenon researched. The sub-questions are generally precise and specific.

Generally, qualitative research lacks assumptions and hypotheses. According to this, the research question depends on the research design.

If you are choosing to conduct a qualitative study on your research topic following are the guidelines for you to develop the right question:

  • Keep in mind the qualitative research question start with what, why, or how.
  • The question looks for the main phenomenon that you are deciding to conduct your research on
  • Words like influence, effect, relate and cause should be avoided.
  • It can contain words like experience, meaning, personal experience, understanding, and stories.

Examples of some qualitative research questions are:

  • How often does do teenagers visit their grandparents?
  • How does stress at work relate to the quality of work?
  • Why do teenagers prefer to listen to rock music more than classical music?
  • What are the most important factors in the life of a mother?

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