Nova A.
Nova A.

Qualitative Research - Methods, Types, and Examples

14 min read

Published on: Dec 25, 2017

Last updated on: Mar 16, 2023

Qualitative research

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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 a research 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.

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 methods

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.

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

types of qualitative research

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.

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.

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 between qualitative 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 of research paper topics in 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.

Hire Experts Writers For Your Qualitative Research Paper

The qualitative research method shows the idea and perception of your targeted audience. However, not every student is able to choose the right approach while writing a research paper. It requires a thorough understanding of both qualitative research and quantitative research methods.

This is where the professional help from comes in. We are a professional essay writing service that can provide reliable help with your academic assignments. 

You can hire expert writers with advanced degrees, knowledge, and years of experience to write exceptional papers. For this, you can also check out the sample papers available on our website. 

Contact our essay writer service and place your order today!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the two methods in research study?

There are two types of studies that involve observing people during a study, participant observation and non-participant observation. 

Why is qualitative research better?

Because qualitative research includes the ability to gain unique insights through deep exploration. Survey respondents are able to disclose their experiences, thoughts, and feelings without constraint or influence from an outside source. 

Nova A.


Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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