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What is Qualitative Research? - Open Education Online

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research can be defined as a research method that focused on collecting information through conversational and open-minded communication. It is not focused only on what people think but also why they think in a certain way. Therefore, this type of research method is usually used in disciplines of social sciences such as political science, sociology, anthropology, and psychology since it allows and in-depth probing and questioning of people and to researcher or an interviewer to understand their feelings and motivation. There are several characteristics of qualitative research:

  • It used to collect information at the sight where people are experiencing problems or issues. The information collected is real-time data and rarely brings those participating out of the geographic areas to collect information.
  • Rather than relying on a single source of information, researchers collect multiple sources and forms of information through observations, documents and interviews.
  • Qualitative research is used to solve complex issues by breaking them down into meaningful inferences that are easily readable and understood by all.
  • Qualitative research methods are more communicative in nature and because of this people are able to build their trust on the researcher, which produces more raw results.

There are several different methods of qualitative research methods that assist researches in revealing a pattern of behavior and perception of target population in connection to a subject or topic. Types of qualitative research methods include in-depth interviews, focus groups, content analysis, case studies and ethnographic research. These methods produce descriptive results and conclusions that are easily obtained from collected information. Qualitative methods are used to understand the complexities in today’s world and what people think and perceive about events and occurrences that are happening. Here are several qualitative research methods that are frequently used and that help researchers to better understand people’s thoughts.

One on One Interviews

Interviews are the most commonly used qualitative research method. It can be described as ‘’a personal interview that is carried out with one respondent at a time’’. It is a completely conversational method that collects in depth details from a certain person and provides a good opportunity for a researcher to gather precise information about people’s motivations and beliefs. If the researcher is well experienced in conducting interviews, this can help him or her to collect some valuable information. In cases where researchers need more information, they usually as some follow up questions that will help them collect more information.

Interviews can be conducted face to face or on phone and usually last between 30 minutes to an hour or two. Sometimes they last even more. Researchers prefer using face to face interviewing method since this gives them a better opportunity to read the body language of persons and match their responses.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are also one of the commonly used qualitative research methods. A focus group usually gathers a limited number of participants in groups from 6 to 10, with a main goal to find answers to questions ‘’why, what and how’’. One of the advantages that this method provides is that a researcher does not necessarily need to interact with the group in person. This is because, for example, at present times focus groups can be sent questions only and their responses can be collected quickly.

Compared to other qualitative research methods, focus groups are expensive since they are usually used to explain complex processes and events. However, this type of method is particularly useful in market research as well as testing of new concepts.

Ethnographic Research

This is the most in depth research method that is used to study people in their natural environments and settings. It usually requires from researchers to adapt to people’s environments ranging from an organization to a city or any other location. In some cases, there are constraints when it comes to collecting information in large geographical locations.

This method is mainly used to understand and collect information on cultures, motivations, challenges, and settings that happened. It is used by researchers to experience the first hand natural settings rather than using the methods of interviewing. Ethnographic research can be conducted in just a few days or even several years depending on the circumstances, since it involves an in-depth collection of information and observations. It is a rather time consuming and challenging methods which mostly depends on researcher’s analytical and observation skills.

Case Study Research

Over the years the case study research has become a valuable qualitative research method used for collection of information on a certain organization or entity. It is mostly used in the areas of education and social sciences. Even though it might seem as a rather difficult method or research, it is actually one of the simplest ways of conducting a qualitative research since it includes a detailed understanding of information collection methods.

Record Keeping

By deploying this method, researchers already use existing reliable documents and similar sources of information as their source. These data and information can be used in new research. This method is somewhat similar as going to a library where you can go over books and other materials to collect important and relevant information that you can use in your research.

Process of Observation

This qualitative method uses subjective methodologies to collect systematic information or data. It is mainly used to equate quality differences and deal with the 5 main sensory organs and the ways they function – sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing. The method does not involve measurements or numbers but rather characteristics.