Describe Types of Qualitative Research Methods along with Examples

Describe Types of Qualitative Research Methods along with Examples

Denzin and Lincoln (2000) state,

“Qualitative research involves an interpretive and naturalistic approach. 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.”

Guba and Lincoln (1994) suggest four alternative inquiry paradigms of qualitative research which include positivism, post-positivism, constructivism, and critical theory. According to Litchman, 2013,

“Qualitative research was the method of unfolding the implicit language and the tool for analysing the data. The use of semi-structured interviews as an approach yielded rich data to construct the participants’ perspectives and capture their personal experiences within a new cultural context.” 

Cresswell states,

“Qualitative research encompasses an array of theoretical paradigms, and may employ a wide range of methods, methodologies, and research strategies. These include case studies, oral histories, participant observations, action research, ethnography, netnography, autoethnography, interviews, grounded theory and action research, to name but a few.”

Approaches to Qualitative Research 

1. Narrative: explores the life of an individual, tells their story;

2. Phenomenology: attempts to understand or explain life experiences or phenomena;

3. Grounded theory: investigates the process, action, or interaction with the goal of developing a theory “grounded” in observations;

4. Ethnography: describes and interprets an ethnic, cultural, or social group;

5. Case study: examines episodic events in a definable framework, develops in-depth analyses of single or multiple cases, generally explains “how”.

Types of Qualitative Research Methods 

Yilmaz, 2013 opines,

“Qualitative research is an emergent, inductive, interpretive and naturalistic approach to the study of people, cases, phenomena, social situations and processes in their natural settings in order to reveal in descriptive terms the meanings that people attach to their experiences of the world.”

It is a highly reflective method as the process needs to be carefully documented and the steps must be justified according to the objectives.

1. One-on-one interviews: It is considered to be one of the most common qualitative research methods. The main aim of this method is to facilitate an opportunity to gather precise data about what people think and their motivations.

2. Focus groups: Focus groups are a commonly used qualitative research method that usually includes between five and eight participants. This method aims to find answers to the “why”, “what”, and “how” questions.

3. Record keeping: It is used to collect data and uses these already existing reliable documents and similar sources of information as a data source.

4. Ethnographic research: It is used to study individuals in their naturally occurring environment and is regarded as the most in-depth observational method. It seeks to understand the cultures, challenges, motivations, and settings that occur. The research ranges from a few days to a few years.

5. Case study research: It is mostly used in education or social sciences. It involves an in-depth and thorough understanding of the data collection methods and inferring the data.

6. Qualitative observation: It uses subjective methodologies to collect systematic information or data. It deals with the five major sensory organs and their functioning, sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing.

Examples of Qualitative Research

Bryman, 2004 states,

“Qualitative research is an established tradition within management studies, and many authors have argued for its potential to provide richly detailed insights and contextual explanations for many of the challenges currently faced in modern management practice.”

Saunders (2009) states,

“Qualitative data is used for any data collection technique (eg. Interviews) or data analysis (eg: categorising data) that generate or use non-numerical data.”

Here are a few situations in which qualitative research methods can be used. 

1. Understanding ongoing trends in customer behaviour: Researchers can collect data to determine which products are selling more and use the historical data.

2. Launch of new product: Before launching a new product, the samples can be tested with the help of a focus group to determine how well the product will perform. 

3. Knowing the target audience: Marketers may assume that both males and females use their product but upon research, they may find only females use it. They can conduct a case study or observe them to find out why they do not use it. 

Qualitative research is inductive as it moves from data and observation, to concept and theory building. Rather than testing the hypotheses, it generates concepts and understanding, going from the detail to greater abstraction. It has a flexible structure which can be changed during the field work. The tools can be adjusted and hence, the process is not rigid. It emphasises on meaning and process where different parts of the research process are reflected upon as they unfold along with the steps and the approach taken more broadly. 

Polit and Beck (2004) add,

“Qualitative research designs are intended to describe the dimension of the phenomenon of interest as well as explore its nature and the manner in which it is manifested.”