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An Overview of Qualitative Research Methods



Research Methods

Most people first encounter research as part of a school or college course.

A piece of research is usually included in any advanced degree course, and may also be integral to undergraduate degrees. Basic research, such as issuing questionnaires, may be undertaken in social science classes at school.

But there are many more applications for quality research.

These include market research to discover customer preferences, or to establish whether a new product will sell, and focus groups to discuss politics.

Our Research Methods pages are designed to help you choose and then use the right research method for your purposes.

They cover the whole process of research, from understanding the philosophical theory underpinning your choice of method, through choosing the methods that you will use to answer your research question, to collecting data and then analysing it.
Introducing Research Methods

Your research method depends on the question that you wish to answer, and the philosophy that underpins your view of research.

The best place to start is our page An Introduction to Research Methods. This sets out the basic principles of research design, and the role of the researcher.

Our page on Designing Research explains how to approach research, and what to think about in designing your research. It sets out some possible research approaches, including experimental and quasi-experimental designs, survey research, and ethnography.

Finally, you need to make a decision about whether your research will be Qualitative or Quantitative, or even mixed.


Qualitative Research Designs

Qualitative research is concerned with human behaviour, and why people act the way that they do.

Common methods used for qualitative research include Interviews and Focus Groups and Group Interviews. Both these methods allow researchers to explore a topic in depth with one or two people at a time, or within a small group. You can also collect Qualitative Data from Interactions, in research that recognises that the researcher is a key part of the situation, rather than an outside observer.


Quantitative Research Designs

Quantitative research always collects numerical data.

If you are not collecting numbers, then your research is qualitative, not quantitative. Quantitative research is usually used to get views from large numbers of people.

The first step in quantitative research is to determine your Sampling and Sample Design. You then need to gather data. Suitable methods include surveys (and our page on Surveys and Survey Design explains more about this surprisingly complex subject).

Other sources of data include Observational and Secondary Data.


Analysing Research Data

Your choice of analysis method will depend heavily on your choice of research method.

For example, for qualitative research, you may need an approach like content analysis, because you will have generated large amounts of data, often narrative in form. Our page on Analysing Qualitative Data explains more.

Quantitative data is often analysed using statistical methods, which may be both simple and more complex, depending on the question you are trying to answer. Our page on Simple Statistical Analysis suggests some suitable starting points, with more information available on Identifying Patterns and Multivariate Analysis.
Further Reading on Research

Research methods can be used alone to solve a problem, or explore a question as part of a piece of work. They can also be a key part of writing a thesis or dissertation.

For more about this, see our section on Writing a Dissertation, and particularly Writing Your Methodology.

You may also find our page on Writing a Research Proposal useful when developing your ideas for your research. Not everyone is required to write a research proposal for every piece of research. However, the process of preparing a proposal can be helpful in making sure that your ideas are coherent, and that you have considered each aspect of the research, even if there is no formal process of approval.

 

 

 

 

1 An Overview of Qualitative Research Methods

2 Introduction

3 Purpose of presentation
Provide an introduction to qualitative research methods Provide descriptions of the differences between qualitative research and quantitative research Provide a basis for further study and investigation of qualitative research Encourage the use of qualitative research methods

4 Learning objectives At the end of this presentation you should be able to: Distinguish between qualitative research and quantitative research in carrying out the following activities: Problem formation Research design development Selection of data sources Data collection Data analysis Conclusion and report writing Identify and distinguish the major types of qualitative research designs

5 What are the differences between qualitative research and quantitative research?

6 Qualitative research is research primarily involving the collection and analysis of non-numerical data On the other hand, quantitative research is research primarily involving the collection and analysis of numerical data

7 Both follow the same major steps in carrying out a research study
However, due to the nature of the data collected, important differences in how these steps are executed

8 Major Steps in Conducting Research
Problem formulation Research design development Data analysis Selection of data sources Data collection Conclusion / Report Writing

9 Quantitative Research
Problem formation: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Theory development Exploratory purpose Description of participants Comparison of participants Create in-depth descriptions and understandings of characteristics Hypothesis and theory testing Description of population Comparison of categories within the population Create in-depth descriptions and understanding of relationship among variables

10 Quantitative Research
Problem formation: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Elucidate findings of quantitative research Verify the presence of phenomena Purpose to research is to understand a problem Verify findings of qualitative research Identify the causes of phenomena Purpose of research is to explain and predict the existence of a problem

11 Quantitative Research
Problem formation: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Understand from the point of view of the participants Interpret experiences and meaning s Discover theme and relationships Provide words for closed questions Understand relationships among variables

12 Quantitative Research
Problem formation: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Discovery and identification of new thought and understandings Purpose to discover ideas Exploratory research Verification of theory, predictions Purpose to test hypotheses Conclusive research

13 Quantitative Research
Problem formation: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Program aims at individual outcomes Theory developed during study Data precede theory Complex patterns of interactions among variables not investigated Program aims at common outcomes Theory developed a priori Theory precedes data Complex patterns of interactions among variables may be investigated

14 Research design development:
Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Participant observation Focus group research Case studies In-depth interviews Typically no comparison groups Research design modified as it is implemented Survey Numerical databases Comparison groups Research design predetermined

15 Selection of data sources (study participants)
Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Nonprobability sampling Availability sampling Purposive sampling Small n Data saturation, sequential sampling Probability sampling Simple random sampling Stratified sampling Large n Sample size predetermined

16 Confirmatory sampling Judgment sampling
Major Types of Purposive Sampling Selection criteria: Elements’ fit or lack of fit with central tendency Selection criteria: Variability of elements Selection criteria: Theory, model development, and hypothesis testing Selection criteria: Judgment, reputation, or specialized knowledge Confirmatory sampling Judgment sampling Disconfirming sampling Subjective sampling Homogeneous Negative case sampling Bellwether case sampling Typical case sampling sampling Theoretical sampling Reputational sampling Modal instance sampling Critical case sampling Politically important cases Systematic matching sampling Expert sampling Case control sampling Informant sampling Consecutive sampling Deviant case sampling Maximum variation sampling Rare element sampling Heterogeneity sampling Extreme case sampling Diversity sampling Intensity case sampling Dichotomous case sampling Outlier sampling

17 Quantitative Research
Data collection: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Observation Asking primarily open- ended questions Scalar items seldom used Unobtrusive data collection Data: words, pictures, behavior Greater ethical issues Asking primarily closed- ended questions Scalar items primarily used Statistical databases Data: numbers Fewer ethical issues

18 Quantitative Research
Data collection: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Researcher interacts at personal level with respondents Personal values made explicit Flexible Unstructured Researcher seeks to keep personal values, beliefs, and biases separate Personal values avoided Not flexible Structured

19 Quantitative Research
Data collection: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Researcher must be able to fit-in with events/people studied Data collection environment not controlled Same questions not necessarily asked to all participants Data collector may improvise Researcher can be distant from events/people studied Data collection environment controlled Same questions asked to all participants Data collector should not improvise

20 Quantitative Research
Data collection: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Subjectivity focus Adaptive data collections Exact replication not possible Theory is “data driven” Probing Information per respondent is substantial Objectivity focus Predetermined data collection Exact replication possible Data are “theory driven” Limited probing Information per respondent varies

21 Quantitative Research
Data collection: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Hardware: tape recorders, video, cameras Training of researcher: psychology, sociology, consumer behavior Conversation, unstructured Hardware: computers, telephone Training of researcher: psychology, sociology, consumer behavior, statistics Structured observation, interviews, questionnaires

22 Quantitative Research
Data collection: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Contextual variables critical to study Collect verbatim responses More limited to collection of data on current patterns More flexible Contextual variables not necessarily critical to study Collect responses to structured items Less limited to collection of data on current patterns Less flexible

23 Quantitative Research
Data analysis: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Limited statistical analysis Inferential statistics are generally irrelevant Lack of ability to control for extraneous variables Results cannot be generalized Basic to advanced multivariate statistical analyses Inferential statistics are generally essential Results are generalizable based on inferential statistical analyses

24 Quantitative Research
Data analysis: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Lack of ability to control for extraneous variables Data processing and analysis time consuming Varied analyses Focus on themes and meanings Potential to control for extraneous variables Data processing and analysis not as time consuming Standardized analyses Focus on trends, comparisons, predictions, explanations

25 Quantitative Research
Data analysis: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Inductive analyses “Thick descriptions” Validity based on honesty, richness, authenticity, depth, scope, subjectivity, strength of feeling, catching uniqueness, idiographic statements Deductive analyses Control of extraneous variables Validity based on objectivity, generalizability, replicability, predictability, controllability, and nomothetic statements

26 Quantitative Research
Data analysis: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research No testing of null hypotheses No confidence intervals Meaning rather than numeric descriptions sought Null hypothesis testing Confidence intervals Numeric descriptions sought

27 Conclusions / report writing:
Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Focus on: Credibility Dependability Transferability Confirmability Focus on: Internal validity Reliability, stability External validity Objectivity

28 Conclusions / report writing:
Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Conclusions based on understandings, insight Conclusions are subjective, speculative Conclusions based on statistical analyses Conclusions stated in context of statistical degree of accuracy

29 Conclusions / report writing:
Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Replications lead to tentative generalizations Predicated on the assumption that each individual, culture, setting is unique Generalizations based on probabilities Assume “law” or “trends” may be identified

30 Conclusions / report writing:
Qualitative Research Quantitative Research Reports are longer, written in narrative form and published in the form of books or monographs Narrative descriptions Reports are commonly reported in journals and only 5-15 pages in length Statistical descriptions

31 What are the major types of qualitative research designs?

32 Qualitative Research Designs
In-depth Interviews Focus Groups Observation Qualitative Data Projective Techniques Ethnography Case Studies This slide highlights many of the qualitative techniques that are useful for data collection. Action Research Grounded Theory

33 EXHIBIT 5.2 Common Qualitative Research Tools

34 EXHIBIT 5.2 Common Qualitative Research Tools (cont’d)

35 Choosing a Qualitative Method
Purpose of study Researcher characteristics Factors Ethical concerns Participant characteristics The researcher chooses a qualitative methodology based on the project’s purpose, its schedule including the speed with which insights are needed; its budget, the issue(s) or topic(s) being studied; the types of participants needed; and the researcher’s skill, personality, and preferences. Resources Nature of topic

36 Challenge: Mixed-Methods Research Designs
Qualitative Research Design Mixed-Methods Research Design Quantitative Research Design

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