Qualitative Research

Qualitative ResearchQualitative research methods are interpretative and aim to provide a depth of understanding. Qualitative methods are based on words, perceptions, feelings etc. rather than numbers and they include experiments, interviews, focus groups, and questionnaires with open-ended questions.

Monette et al (2005, p.428) credit qualitative methods with the acknowledgement of abstraction and generalisation, and Polonsky and Waller (2005, p.126) categorize vision, images, forms and structures in various media, as well as spoken and printed word and recorded sound into qualitative data collection methods.

According to William (2005, p.85) qualitative data collection methods emerged after it has become known that traditional quantitative data collection methods were unable to express human feelings and emotions.

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 generalisability, being too reliant on the subjective interpretations of researchers and being incapable of replication by subsequent researchers” (Vaus, 2002, p.5)

The most popular qualitative research methods include interviews, case studies, observation, focus groups and questionnaires with open ended-questions.

The main sources and procedures associated with the most popular qualitative methods are presented on the following table as proposed by Yamagata-Lynch (2010)

Methodology Sources Procedure
Document analysis Reports, newsletters, publications Read all materials and documented and descriptive statistics related to the research issue
Interviews Primary participantsSecondary participants Tape recorded semi-structured interviews, then transcribed the interviews for the participants to review
Observations Observed participants’ interactions Took notes and videotaped the observations
Exit interviews 



Primary participantsSecondary participants Presented findings to participants during individual or group interview sessions



Monette, DR, Sullivan, TJ, DeJong, CR, 2005, Applied Social Research. A Tool for the Human Services, 6th edition

Yamagata-Lynch, L.C. (2010) “Activity Systems Analysis Methods: Understanding Complex Learning Environments” Springer Publications

William N 2005. “Your research project”, 2nd edition. Sage.