Qualitative data collection methods are exploratory in nature and are mainly concerned with gaining insights and understanding on underlying reasons and motivations. Qualitative data is a linguistic or visual material. Qualitative data collection methods emerged after it became evident that traditional quantitative data collection methods were unable to express human feelings and emotions.
Monette et al (2010) credit qualitative methods with the acknowledgement of abstraction and generalisation. Polonsky and Waller (2011) categorize vision, images, forms and structures in various media, as well as, spoken and printed word and recorded sound into qualitative data collection methods.
Qualitative data collection methods are used in order to examine the following phenomenon:
- Human feelings and experiences
- Meanings and relationships
- Social norms and cultural practices.
It is noted that “qualitative methods are often regarded as providing rich data about real life people and situations and being more able to make sense of behaviour and to understand behaviour within its wider context. However, qualitative research is often criticised for lacking generalizability, being too reliant on the subjective interpretations by researchers and being incapable of replication by other researchers.”
Popular qualitative data collection methods used in business studies include interviews, focus groups, observation and action research. Moreover, grounded theory and document analysis can be also used as data collection method in qualitative studies. The main sources and procedures associated with the most popular qualitative methods are presented on Table 1 below as proposed by Yamagata-Lynch (2010):
|Document analysis||Reports, newsletters, publications||Read all materials and documented and descriptive statistics related to the research issue|
|Tape recorded semi-structured interviews, then transcribed the interviews for the participants to review|
|Observations||Observed participants’ interactions||Took notes and videotaped the observations|
|Presented findings to participants during individual or group interview sessions|
|Focus groups||Primary participants
|Videotape focus group sessions
Table 2 below illustrates strength and weaknesses associated with qualitative research and data collection methods
|Low constraints of tradition or method
|Poor internal reliability
Table 2 Strengths and weaknesses associated with qualitative data collection methods and qualitative research
My e-book, The Ultimate Guide to Writing a Dissertation in Business Studies: a step by step approach contains a detailed, yet simple explanation of qualitative data collecton methods. The e-book explains all stages of the research process starting from the selection of the research area to writing personal reflection. Important elements of dissertations such as research philosophy, research approach, research design, methods of data collection and data analysis are explained in simple words.
 Monette, D.R., Gullivan, T.J. & DeJong, C.R. (2010) “Applied Social Research: A Tool for the Human Resources” Cengage Learning
 Polonsky, M.J. & Waller, D.S. (2011) “Designing and Managing a Research Project: A Business Student’s Guide” 2nd edition, SAGE
 Vaus, D. (2002) “Surveys in Social Research” Taylor and Francis, p.5
 Yamagata-Lynch, L.C. (2010) “Activity Systems Analysis Methods: Understanding Complex Learning Environments” Springer Publications
 Source: Albery, I. & Munafo, M. (2008) “Key Concepts in Health Psychology” SAGE Publications