Qualitative Research - A Complete Guide with Examples (2023)

There are various methods for conducting scientific research. The two broad approaches of data collection include qualitative and quantitative research methods. However, it is not easy to decide which one to choose while writing aresearch paper.

If you know the basic difference between both methods, you will produce a well-written and structured paper.

In recent times, the qualitative research methodology has gained momentum among researchers. It focuses on understanding a research question by involving people’s beliefs, experiences, and attitudes.

Similarly, this scientific method also aims to gather, analyze, and interpret non-numerical data. In this blog, we have explored what is qualitative research, its nature, purpose, and methods of data collection.

Qualitative Research Definition

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

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

Similarly, the research process also involves different methods to study a human and social phenomenon. These methods include interviews, observations, case study, ethnography, and grounded theory.

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

Purpose of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research has a long history in the social sciences. The primary purpose is to obtain non-numerical information through open-ended questions.

Similarly, this research also appeals to social scientists as it can identify the relationship between the variables. Qualitative researchers can also understand the meanings, interpretations, and processes of social life.

It closely studies human behavior and its interaction with society and with other individuals. Moreover, it produces detailed and descriptive data by creating new theories that can be used for further research.

It also involves studying a topic in a way that reveals the entire truth and meaning of the subject under observation. Moreover, it further suggests the answer to an outcome that is measured and studied by quantitative research.

Broadly, this research assesses all the symbols, meanings, and the process of social life where a human element is involved.

(Video) Qualitative Research - A Complete Guide - Basics (Part 1/4) #qualitativeresearch #research #thematic

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

The following are the main characteristics of qualitative research.

  • The real-world setting is the first important characteristic. It involves various qualitative research methods to study the behavior of participants.
  • Researchers play an essential role in choosing a method and making a plan for conducting research.
  • All qualitative methods have their significance and are used for different scenarios.
  • Qualitative research questions are beneficial for complex reasoning to get the right results.
  • It is also used to explain the outcome of quantitative research methods.
  • The role of participants is essential as it brings meaning to the study.
  • Qualitative research is flexible and can be changed at any stage of the research work.
  • It also describes the research problem by developing a complex cause and effect relationship between the variables.
  • Data analysis is an ongoing process in qualitative research methods.
  • Conclusions can be drawn based on the outcomes of the research process.
  • Participants are selected from a particular and relevant group.

Advantages of Qualitative Research

Here are some of the advantages of qualitative research.

  • It can identify the changing attitude within a group.
  • It records and analyzes the behaviors and feelings of the respondents.
  • It is a more flexible approach and can be modified and adapt to changes at any stage.
  • It is useful in the early stages of the research when the writer is unsure what to study.
  • It does not require a strict design that allows the work to unfold naturally.
  • It helps to get detailed data in the form of written descriptions and strong evidence.
  • It focuses on the real context of the literature.
  • It allows people to expand their choices and opinions on a topic.
  • It strengthens the idea of teamwork and collaboration among the respondents.
  • The pattern of interviews and discussion helps in bringing together the respondents.
  • The information can also be taken non verbally by participant observation.

Qualitative Research Limitations

The following discussed are the qualitative research limitations.

  • The qualitative research data involve fewer expenses and time.
  • It does not have large-scale data.
  • It requires a lot of time to manage, gather, and analyze data.
  • It is not possible to verify the results as it is open-ended research.
  • It is difficult to analyze the credibility and validity of data because of its subjective nature.
  • Expert knowledge of the area is necessary to understand the collected information.

Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative Research - A Complete Guide with Examples (1)

A detailed description of the major qualitative research methods is given below.

In-depth Interview

Conducting an in-depth interview is the most common type of qualitative research method. It involves a personal interview or a casual conversation with a single person at a time. This method is done to gather information about a topic or an issue.

It may sound like an ineffective method of gathering information. But in fact, you can gather a lot of data that will help you craft a detailed research paper.

In this method, a researcher discusses with the respondent his motivations and inspirations about the topic. Similarly, it also allows reading the body language of the participants.

Moreover, interviews can be conducted effortlessly. You can interview a person face to face, in email, or via phone. It makes this method easier than others.

Focus Groups

The focus group includes a fixed number of respondents from the target market. Moreover, it involves a group discussion between 5 to 15 people on a specific topic.

This research method is used in answering ‘what,’ ‘why,’ and ‘how’ questions about society and the environment. While using this method, you are not just bound to have a face-to-face discussion. Instead, you can collect data through an online survey.

Social scientists usually use this method to examine an event that occurs within a specific community.

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Direct Observation

Direct observation is a research method that includes subjective methodologies to gather relevant data. It is based on the five sensory organs of a human being, i.e., sight, smell, hear, touch, and taste.

Here, a researcher studies people without participating or interfering in their lives. This research type is often unknown to those under qualitative study. Thus, it is conducted in public settings where people do not have any privacy issues.

Lastly, it does not include measurements or numbers but is based on characteristics.

Open-Ended Surveys

Open-ended surveys with structured or unstructured questions are designed to gather information. The answers will help in knowing the opinions and beliefs of the respondents.

Participant Observation

This method is similar to observation. However, here the researcher will also participate in the events. This technique helps in observing people by also getting the first-hand experience in natural settings.

Literature Review

The literature review method analyzes social life by interpreting the words and images from published work. The researcher analyzed how the words are used in the context and draw possible inferences and meanings.

Types of Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research - A Complete Guide with Examples (2)

The following is a comprehensive overview of the types of qualitative research methods.

Case Study

The case study research method has now become the most valuable method of conducting research. It has evolved in recent years and is used to explain an entity in detail.

Moreover, it also involves a thorough understanding of different types of data sources. These include interviews, documents, reports, and observations.

Mainly this research type is used in different areas like education, social sciences, etc.

Ethnographic Research

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

(Video) Qualitative Research: A Step by Step Example

Here, a researcher needs to adapt to the environment and society of the target audience to conduct better research. It helps to get the first-hand experience of the natural setting, including the customs, traditions, and culture of the subjects.

This type of research is a challenging and time-taking process as it can last from days to years. However, geographical constraints can be an issue while collecting data.

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 the event.

It requires the researcher to observe the interviews and documents to build a theory. Moreover, it usually starts with a question or collection of data.

However, the sample sizes in this method are usually larger than in other methods.

Phenomenological Method

This type is used in the description of an event, phenomenon, and activity. Here, methods like interviews, reading documents, visiting places, and watching videos are used.

This will help to add new insights to the existing data analysis by checking its reliability and validity.

Narrative Method

The narrative method is used to gather data from subjects through interviews or documents. Later the gathered information is used to derive answers and suggestions for future research.

Historical Method

The historical method involves the examination of past events to draw conclusions and predictions about the future. The steps included in the method are formulating a plan, gathering data, and analyzing the sources.

Data Analysis in Qualitative Research

Qualitative data can be in the form of interviews, transcripts, surveys, videos, audios, etc. The steps involved in qualitative data analysis are given below.

  • Organize the Data:This can be done by transcribing interviews or making detailed notes.
  • Review the Data:Examine the data, ideas, and patterns.
  • Establish a Data Coding System:Generate a set of codes that you can apply to classify your data.
  • Assign Codes to the Data:For qualitative survey analysis, create codes, and add to your system.
  • Identify Themes:Link the codes together into cohesive themes.

Similarly, the following are different approaches to analyze qualitative data.

  • Content Analysis –It is used to categorize common words and ideas.
  • Thematic Analysis –It is used to identify and interpret different themes and patterns.
  • Textual Analysis –This type of analysis is used to examine the structure, content, and design of text.
  • Discourse Analysis –It is used to study how a language is used to achieve specific results.

Qualitative vs Quantitative Research

A researcher should know the difference between quantitative and qualitative research. Similarly, he should also be aware of how to use a combination of both methods for conducting ideal research.

In many cases, a researcher is asked to use any one of the research methods specifically. Depending on the topic, it can be a qualitative method that is an interpretative or quantitative method that is concrete.

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In simple words, quantitative studies are all about numbers and measurements. In contrast, qualitative approaches talk about the understanding of words.

Similarly, qualitative research allows the researcher to take into consideration a selected issue. In contrast, quantitative methods require the use of measurements to understand different ideas and experiences of people.

Moreover, qualitative data is holistic in nature, while quantitative data is particularistic. Lastly, quantitative research suggests a final course of action, while qualitative develops the initial understanding.

Here are the main differences betweenqualitative vs. quantitative research.

Research TypeExplanatoryConclusive
ResultCreates initial understandingSuggests a course of action

Qualitative Research Topics

To write an amazing qualitative research paper, here are some interesting topics for you.

  • Why have the goals of feminists changed over the decades?
  • Which factors have contributed to the rising rate of unemployment?
  • How has China become an economic power?
  • What are the ways to reduce human trafficking?
  • How can depression affect our bodies?
  • What are the impacts of climate change?
  • How have smartphones increased workplace productivity?
  • How are minorities in social media portrayed?
  • Why is it necessary to abolish child abuse?
  • How can gender discrimination be avoided?

We have also compiled a list ofresearch paper topicsin case you need more unique ideas.

Qualitative Research Examples

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

At-Risk Students and Technology Education: A Qualitative Study
An Overview of Qualitative Research

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(Video) Qualitative research methodology I qualitative research methods an overview


What are 5 examples of qualitative research? ›

Types of qualitative research methods with examples
  • One-on-one interview: Conducting in-depth interviews is one of the most common qualitative research methods. ...
  • Focus groups: ...
  • Ethnographic research: ...
  • Case study research: ...
  • Record keeping:
  • Process of observation:

How do you write a guide question in qualitative research? ›

Use good qualitative wording for these questions.
  1. Begin with words such as “how” or “what”
  2. Tell the reader what you are attempting to “discover,” “generate,” “explore,” “identify,” or “describe”
  3. Ask “what happened?” ...
  4. Ask “what was the meaning to people of what happened?” ...
  5. Ask “what happened over time?”
May 5, 2011

What is an example of a qualitative research question? ›

Qualitative questions often produce rich data that can help researchers develop hypotheses for further quantitative study. For example: What are people's thoughts on the new library? How does it feel to be a first-generation student at our school?

What is qualitative research answers? ›

The focus of qualitative research is on finding the answers to questions which begin with: why? how? in what way?
  • Why people behave the way they do.
  • How opinions and attitudes are formed.
  • How people are affected by the events that go on around them.
  • How and why cultures have developed in the way they have.

What are 10 examples of qualitative data? ›

10 Examples of Qualitative Data
  • Observation Notes.
  • Semi-structured interviews. ...
  • Open-ended survey.
  • Participant diaries or journals. ...
  • Portfolios of evidence. ...
  • Concept Maps. ...
  • Case Studies. ...
  • Focus Groups.

What are the 4 main types of qualitative research? ›

Qualitative research focuses on gaining insight and understanding about an individual's perception of events and circumstances. Six common types of qualitative research are phenomenological, ethnographic, grounded theory, historical, case study, and action research.

What does a qualitative interview guide look like? ›

In a qualitative interview, the researcher usually develops a guide in advance that they can refer to during the interview or memorize the interview takes place. An interview guide is a list of topics or questions that the interviewer hopes to cover during the course of an interview.

What are the examples of guide questions? ›

Third, good guiding questions contain emotive force and intellectual bite. Questions like "Whose America is it?" "Who will survive?" "Where does money go?" "What is waste?" and "When are laws fair?" have import. As students, educators, and world citizens, we must try to answer them.

What is an example of a guide question in research? ›

Here's another example of an open-ended guiding question: "During that conflict, how did you manage your anger?" Notice that, this time, rather than simply identifying the topic and asking whatever the respondent wants to tell you, you specifically guide the respondent into a particular aspect of the topic.

What are the types of qualitative research and its example? ›

Types of Qualitative Research Methods With Examples

Qualitative research methods include observations, one-on-one interviews, case study research, focus groups, ethnographic research, phenomenology, and grounded theory.

What is an example of a qualitative statement? ›

Gender, country name, animal species, and emotional state are examples of qualitative information.

What is the summary of qualitative research? ›

Qualitative research refers to, a range of methodological approaches which aim to generate an in-depth and interpreted understanding of the social world, by learning about people's social and material circumstances, their experiences, perspectives, and histories.

What are the 7 qualitative research? ›

Grounded theory, ethnographic, narrative research, historical, case studies, and phenomenology are several types of qualitative research designs. The proceeding paragraphs give a brief over view several of these qualitative methods.

What are the 5 common ways to analyze qualitative data? ›

Five popular qualitative data analysis methods are:
  • Content analysis.
  • Thematic analysis.
  • Narrative analysis.
  • Grounded theory analysis.
  • Discourse analysis.
Aug 9, 2022

What are the two key types of qualitative methods? ›

Qualitative Methods
  • Participant Observation. One of the most common methods for qualitative data collection, participant observation is also one of the most demanding. ...
  • Direct Observation. Direct observation is distinguished from participant observation in a number of ways. ...
  • Unstructured Interviewing. ...
  • Case Studies.

What are the 3 characteristics of qualitative research? ›

The three dominant attributes – associated with context, meaning, and the participant-researcher relationship – are deeply entangled with each other and together cast an effect on the entire array of distinctive qualities in qualitative research.

What are the 3 methods used in qualitative approach? ›

The three most common qualitative methods, explained in detail in their respective modules, are participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. Each method is particularly suited for obtaining a specific type of data.

What are the 6 types of qualitative research? ›

The Names of the Six Types of Qualitative Market Research
  • Phenomenological Method (deriving from phenomena)
  • Ethnographic Model.
  • Grounded Theory Method.
  • Case Study Model.
  • Historical Model.
  • Narrative Model.

What are 2 examples of qualitative? ›

Qualitative Information – Involves a descriptive judgment using concept words instead of numbers. Gender, country name, animal species, and emotional state are examples of qualitative information.

What are the five basic qualitative methods? ›

A popular and helpful categorization separate qualitative methods into five groups: ethnography, narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, and case study.

What are the most common qualitative research tools? ›

However, the three most commonly used qualitative research methods are in-depth interviews, focus group discussions (FGDs) and observation.

What are the three elements of qualitative? ›

The three most common qualitative methods, explained in detail in their respective modules, are participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups. Each method is particularly suited for obtaining a specific type of data.

What are 3 types of qualitative data? ›

The three main types of qualitative data are binary, nominal, and ordinal. There are many different types of qualitative data, like data in research, work, and statistics. Both qualitative and quantitative research are conducted through surveys and interviews, among other methods.

How do you collect qualitative data? ›

The three core approaches to data collection in qualitative research—interviews, focus groups and observation—provide researchers with rich and deep insights. All methods require skill on the part of the researcher, and all produce a large amount of raw data.

What makes a good qualitative researcher? ›

Empathetic and patient . You need to be able to connect and bond with different types of personalities for effective communication. Make every participant feel special — listen to them, and make them see, by the way you interact with them, that they are being listened to. Using multiple research methods.

How to analyze qualitative data? ›

Qualitative data analysis requires a 5-step process:
  1. Prepare and organize your data. Print out your transcripts, gather your notes, documents, or other materials. ...
  2. Review and explore the data. ...
  3. Create initial codes. ...
  4. Review those codes and revise or combine into themes. ...
  5. Present themes in a cohesive manner.

What are 4 examples of qualitative data? ›

The definition of qualitative data
  • Research and observation.
  • Interviews.
  • Surveys or questionnaires.
  • Focus groups, online forums, or communities.
  • Case studies.
Nov 29, 2021


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