Mostly numbers-driven, so the data can easily be incorporated into statistical or mathematical analysis.
- The aim of this type of research is to classify features and organize the data into groups. This helps construct visual models (tables, graphs) to illustrate what is observed.
- Very valuable for decision making, but is limited. It cannot predict a problem or tell us what solution is needed.
- Describes, explains, and characterizes the subject of investigation by focusing on words rather than numbers.
- Mainly involves the collection of non-numerical data to define a problem and helps generate ideas for further research.
- Utilizes focus groups, interviews, direct observation, or evaluation of archival material such as newspapers.
- Relies on background and context to analyze data.
- All research has a qualitative dimension.
It is important to note that one approach is not superior to the other. The researcher must consider practical issues such as time or money for which method is most appropriate. In fact, these two methods are commonly used together in a mixed-methods approach, since qualitative research provides a depth of understanding to quantitative results.
Quoted Definitions of Qualitative Research:
Qualitative researchers are interested in understanding the meaning people have constructed, that is, how people make sense of their world and the experiences they have in the world. (Merriam, S. (2009). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass).
Through qualitative research we can explore a wide array of dimensions of the social world, including the texture and weave of everyday life, the understandings, experiences and imaginings or our research participants, the ways that social processes, institutions, discourses or relationships work, and the significance of the meanings that they generate. (Mason, J. Qualitative Researching. London: Sage, 2002, 1).
[Qualitative research is] research using methods such as participant observation or case studies which result in a narrative, descriptive account of a setting or practice. Sociologists using these methods typically reject positivism and adopt a form of interpretive sociology. (Parkinson, G., & Drislane, R. (2011). Qualitative research. In Online dictionary of the social sciences. Retrieved from http://bitbucket.icaap.org/dict.pl)
Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. It consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that makes the world visible. These practices transform the world. They turn the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self. At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or to interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. (Denzin, N., & Lincoln, Y. (Eds.). (2005). Handbook of qualitative research (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage)
Qualitative research involves any research that uses data that do not indicate ordinal values. (Nkwi, P., Nyamongo, I., & Ryan, G. (2001). Field research into socio-cultural issues: Methodological guidelines. Yaounde, Cameroon, Africa: International Center for Applied Social Sciences, Research, and Training/UNFPA.)
Common Qualitative Research Terms Defined
Coding is an interpretive technique that organizes data in order to analyze it quantitatively. An analyst reads the data and defines segments within it. Each segment is labeled with a “code,” a word or phrase that suggests how it informs the research objectives. When coding is complete, the coding report will summarize the similarities and differences in related codes or compare the relationship between codes.
This is a qualitative research methodology that generates a detailed description and interpretation of a cultural or social group. Data is collected primarily through participant observation or interviews.
Focus groups are a method of data collection that involves a semi-structured group interview process. The sessions are led by an experienced moderator and group members are asked about their attitudes and experiences on a given topic.
A qualitative data collection strategy in which participants are asked questions about the area under consideration.
Unstructured Interview (Non-directive interview)
A type of interview in which questions are not prearranged in a set format. However, some key questions may be prepared in advance. This allows for questions to develop spontaneously based on the interviewee’s responses throughout the interview.
A type of interview in which the interviewer creates and uses a framework of topics to explore. This consists of a list of questions and topics that need to be covered during the interview in a particular order.
A type of interview in which all questions are pre-determined and asked to all participants. The interviewer uses closed questions with limited responses.
Cohen’s Kappa Coefficient
This is a statistical measure of inter-rater or inter-annotator agreement for qualitative items. It is intended to reduce the effect of coincidental agreement that is sometimes observed with percent-agreement calculations. This conservative approach risks understating, rather than overstating, agreement between two data points.
Saturation is the point in data collection when no new or relevant information emerges. It ensures that an adequate amount of quality data is collected to support the study. This allows the researcher to determine the point at which no more data collection is necessary.
A strategy for qualitative data collection which involves watching participants directly in their natural setting. The observer may be participative (taking part in the study), or non-participative (watching from the outside.)