Caleb S.
Caleb S.

What Is Qualitative Research? | Definition, Uses, and Methods

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Published on: May 19, 2020

Last updated on: Apr 15, 2023

Qualitative Research

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The two broad approaches to conducting scientific research are qualitative and quantitative. However, it can be difficult to choose if there isn't a clear distinction between the two methods.

To write a well-structured research paper, you must understand these two methods.

The qualitative research methodology focuses on understanding people's beliefs, experiences, and attitudes. This new approach has gained momentum in recent years because it yields more honest results than traditional quantitative methods.

The qualitative research methodology is an innovative way to understand better what people think and feel. This scientific method is a centuries-old practice that aims to gather, analyze and interpret data.

This blog explored qualitative research--its nature, purpose, and data collection methods. So let’s get this started!

Qualitative Research Definition

Qualitative research is a type of study that looks for an in-depth understanding of the social aspects within its natural setting. Of people’s

This type of research also focuses on the definition, reasons, and concepts. It not only talks about 'what' or 'why' a social aspect occurs, but it goes into detail to provide insight.

In qualitative research, mixed-methods study human and social phenomena. This research process involves interviewing, observation, and case studies.

This type of research can be found in a variety of different areas. It includes individuals and their behavior, cultures, and societies at large.

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Purpose of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research has been used for many years in the social sciences. It focuses on obtaining information that cannot be measured. One of its most important purposes is to interview individuals without any numerical values so everyone can give their thoughts freely.

Sociologists have been drawn to this study because it provides insights into the relationship between variables. Qualitative researchers can grasp the meanings, interpretations, and processes of social life.

The social sciences are a complex and interesting field that studies human behavior. The tools developed from this research can create new theories about how people interact or their surroundings.

This technique involves understanding a subject thoroughly and accurately to arrive at the truth about it. Furthermore, quantitative research is used in measuring outcomes which can be studied by this method.

This process suggests answers based on careful observations and combined with intellectual inquiry.

In general, this study evaluates all of the symbols and meanings in social life that involve humans.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

The main characteristics of qualitative research are as follows.

  • One of the most important characteristics is that this research is used in real-world settings. This means there's no lab experiment; you’re observing people behave and interact with their environment on an everyday basis.
  • Researchers are the backbone of any research project. They help choose a method and plan for conducting it.
  • All qualitative approaches have value and can be useful in several situations.
  • Qualitative research is adaptable and can be altered during the research process.
  • Qualitative research questions are useful for complex reasoning to obtain accurate results.
  • The role of participants is critical because it gives meaning to the research.
  • Participants are chosen from a specific and relevant group.
  • It can also be used to explain the results of quantitative research methods.
  • It also describes the research problem by establishing a complex cause and effect relationship among the variables.
  • Based on the findings of the research, conclusions can be drawn.
  • In qualitative research methods, data analysis is a continuous process.

Benefits of Qualitative Research

Here are some of the benefits of conducting qualitative research.

  • It supports the idea of teamwork among the respondents.
  • It emphasizes the literature's actual context.
  • It can detect a shift in a group's attitude.
  • It enables people to broaden their options and opinions on a subject.
  • It records and analyzes the respondents' behaviors and emotions.
  • It is a more adaptable approach that can be changed and adapted at any stage.
  • It is helpful in the early stages of research when the writer is unsure what to investigate.
  • It does not follow a rigid research design that allows the work to develop naturally.
  • It is beneficial to obtain detailed data in written descriptions and strong evidence.
  • The pattern of interviews and discussions aids in bringing the respondents together.
  • Nonverbal information can also be gathered through participant observation.

Qualitative Research Limitations

The qualitative research limitations are discussed below.

  • There is no large-scale data.
  • Because this is an open-ended study, it is impossible to verify the findings.
  • It takes a long time to manage, collect, and analyze data.
  • Because data is subjective, it is difficult to assess its credibility and validity.
  • The qualitative research data requires less money and time.
  • To comprehend the information gathered, expert knowledge of the subject is required.

Qualitative Research Methods

The major qualitative research methods are described in detail below.

In-depth Interview

The most common type of qualitative research method is an in-depth interview. This approach aims to get a more personal and detailed account from people about their experiences. This method is used to collect data on any certain issue or topic.

You may think this is a waste of time and resources. But in fact, you can gather lots of data to help craft your research paper.

In this approach, a researcher talks with respondents about his motivations and inspirations for researching the topic. It also enables you to read participants’ body language to gain a clear understanding.

In addition, interviews can be conducted with ease. You can interview the person in person, via email, or over the phone, making this method more convenient than others.

Direct Observation

Direct observation is a subjective research method, but it's also based on the human senses of sight and touch.

One of the most interesting types of research is a qualitative study. This research provides deep insights into people's lives without any interference. This type often occurs in public places where people have no privacy concerns.

At last, it is focused on an organization's characteristics.

Focus Groups

The focus group gathers information about how many people feel about a specific topic. The number of participants varies depending upon the preferences, but 5 to15 can give you an accurate idea.

This method is used to answer the "what," "why," and "how" questions about society and the environment. It collects data for an online survey where you can talk with people in real-time rather than in-person.

Social scientists typically use it to analyze an event within a particular community.

Open-Ended Surveys

Open-ended surveys are great for gathering information and understanding the opinions of your respondents. This type of question can be unstructured or structured, depending on what you need from it.

Literature Review

The literature review method is an important analysis tool that lets you draw inferences and meanings from published work. The researcher analyzed how words are used in their context. It gives insight into what they are saying about society as a whole.

Participant Observation

This is a great way to get an inside look at what's happening in any setting. In this case, you'll be able to see how people react when they're faced with new and interesting situations.

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Types of Qualitative Research

Here is an in-depth look at the various types of qualitative research methods.

Case Study

The case study research method is the most valuable way to conduct a thorough, in-depth investigation. In recent years it's evolved into one that captures entities very well and explains them in detail.

It is critical to have a thorough understanding of various data sources. It involves interviews, documents, reports, and observations.

This research method is commonly used in fields such as education, social sciences, etc.

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory is the most comprehensive and detailed method of them all. It focuses on why an event or activity takes place, what makes it happen in the first place.

The core of any good study is research. It must begin with a question or series of questions answered through interviews and observation. Then it builds into an interesting theory about what happened due to these events.

Moreover, the size of this method sample is typically bigger than other methods.

Narrative Method

The narrative method is an old-fashioned but effective approach to getting answers. This means that you ask questions, gather data from subjects, and then use it all up in research.

Ethnographic Research

The ethnographic research method is a series of observations. It is designed to understand people and their behaviors in the natural environment.

The best way to do this research is by getting first-hand experience of what it feels like in that society. You need to adapt and let your empathy guide you. This will conduct better research and make more meaningful connections with those around you!

The data collection methods are time-consuming, but it can be quicker if your audience is located in one place.

Historical Method

The historical method is a great way to gain insight into the past and use it as evidence for future predictions. The process includes formulating a plan, gathering data, and analyzing sources to conclude.

Phenomenological Method

This type of inquiry describes an event, phenomenon, and activity. Methods such as interviews or reading documents will be used here. This method gets all the necessary information on what happened during that period.

It is important to check the reliability and validity of existing data analysis, as this will help include new insights.

Data Analysis in Qualitative Research

Quantitative data is gathered through surveys, interviews, and other sources. The steps in qualitative data analysis are outlined below.

  • Structure the Data: You can do this by transcribing interviews or taking detailed notes.
  • Examine Data: Examine the data, ideas, and patterns.
  • Set up a Data Coding System: Create a set of codes that you can use to categorize your data.
  • Provide Codes to the Data: Create codes for qualitative survey analysis and add them to your system.
  • Determine Themes: Connect the codes to form cohesive themes.

Likewise, the approaches to analyzing qualitative data listed below are diverse.

  • Content Analysis – It is used to classify common words and concepts.
  • Thematic Analysis – It is used to recognize and interpret various themes and patterns.
  • Textual Analysis – This type of analysis is used to investigate the structure, content, and design of a piece of text.
  • Discourse Analysis – It is used to investigate how a language is used to achieve specific outcomes.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

Researchers should know when to use quantitative and qualitative research. They must also be aware of the benefits of using both methods for conducting ideal inquiries.

Quantitative research focuses on numbers and measurements, whereas qualitative research focuses on word understanding.

Qualitative research allows the researcher to consider a selected issue in greater depth. On the other hand, quantitative methods require measurements of people's ideas and experiences.

Furthermore, qualitative data is holistic in nature, while quantitative data is particularistic. Finally, quantitative research suggests a final course of action, whereas qualitative research develops preliminary knowledge.

Here are the key distinctions between qualitative and quantitative research.

Research TypeExplanatoryConclusive
ResultCreates initial understandingSuggests a course of action

Qualitative Research Examples

Check out the qualitative research examples to get a better idea of how to write a qualitative research study.

Qualitative Research Topics

Here are some interesting topics to consider when writing a qualitative research paper.

  • How can we avoid gender discrimination?
  • What factors have contributed to the rising unemployment rate?
  • What are the methods for reducing human trafficking?
  • How did China become a global economic power?
  • What effects does depression have on our bodies?
  • What role have smartphones played in increasing workplace productivity?
  • What are the consequences of climate change?
  • Why is it necessary to put an end to child abuse?
  • How are minorities portrayed on social media?
  • Why have feminist goals shifted over the years?

The key to being a successful researcher is knowing how your audience will perceive the findings of your study. Qualitative methods allow for exploring these thoughts and perceptions, but not every student can do this themselves. They need an understanding of qualitative and quantitative research techniques.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is qualitative research better?

Because qualitative research contains the ability to gain unique insights through in-depth investigation. Respondents in surveys are free to share their experiences, thoughts, and feelings without fear of being judged or influenced by others.

Caleb S.


Caleb S., Literature, Marketing

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

Caleb S. has been providing writing services for over five years and has a Masters degree from Oxford University. He is an expert in his craft and takes great pride in helping students achieve their academic goals. Caleb is a dedicated professional who always puts his clients first.

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