Qualitative Research Methodology: Definition, Types, and examples


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A qualitative research methodology is a dynamic approach that allows you to study the complexities of human behavior, opinions, and experience through contextual, grounded insights. The method is well-suited to explore the why and how behind actions and perceptions. In this blog, we’ll unravel the essence of qualitative research and the unique contributions it makes to our understanding of our target audience.

What is qualitative research methodology?

Qualitative research is a research methodology that deals with understanding human beliefs, behavior, values, and perceptions of certain social or non-social issues within their own environmental contexts. Qualitative research methodology makes use of open-ended questions and motivates participants to express their thoughts and views openly with no limitations.

Qualitative research works towards understanding not only “what” people think but also “why” do they think in a particular way. The participants themselves explain their thought process behind a particular choice or opinions in their answers, and qualitative research methodology analyses the data gathered to result in conclusions that can be generalized for a larger population of similar kind.

Example: You can survey the participants from a seminar to know their views about the seminar conduction and the topic discussed. A qualitative survey will enable you to gauge their thoughts on the topic covered, their opinions on what was missing, and whether they would attend more seminars in the future and refer it to their friends.

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7 Qualitative research types with examples

Qualitative research methodology, with its various types of data collection techniques, helps the researcher get in touch with people according to their convenience. In this section, let’s get familiar with different qualitative research types and understand them thoroughly with examples for each:

01. Surveys:

Online surveys are the most preferred method of conducting qualitative research as they allow respondents to take the survey on any device and whenever they prefer. You can leverage open-ended questions to gather extensive customer opinions and use survey tools to uncover hidden patterns in the gathered data.

Example: You can add open-ended questions in your NPS or CSAT surveys to gather customer sentiment and get a first-hand insight into their perception of their experience.

02. Interviews

One-on-one interviews have been a common practice when it comes to qualitative research. It allows the interviewer to connect to the participant more and is open to asking them in-depth questions about a certain topic.

Interviews provide a precise amount of data with higher reliability as the interviewer gathers it first-hand. The key to having precise data is to frame the questionnaire well. The interviewer can also attempt to ask follow-up questions based on the main questions in case he needs a more detailed answer.

The ideal time of the interviews can be from 10 minutes to 2 hours or even more than that. It can be conducted on phone calls or face-to-face, though the previous one is highly preferred among the participants.

Example: A researcher conducts a one-on-one interview with residents of a city regarding its infrastructure.

03. Focus group

A focus group is a very effective qualitative research methodology. It starts with 6-10 respondents, where all of them are given a topic and begin to discuss. The researcher does not necessarily have to be involved in the discussion. He can just sit back and observe what the individuals think of the given issue.

Example: A company conducts focus group research to know their production efficiency and performance. Ten customers are randomly selected and asked to discuss the same, whereas an observer notices the conversation and notes how the topics are discussed.

04. Ethnographic research

Ethnographic research is observational research that examines the respondents in their natural environments. The researcher adopts the respondents’ environment and observes their behavior without personal intervention.

Ethnographic research aims to understand how cultural, environmental, and challenges affect the individual’s opinions and preferences.

The time needed for ethnographic research can range from several months to years as it allows an in-depth understanding of a particular group or an individual. Its success depends on how much the researcher can adapt and analyze the participant’s environment.

Example: A researcher enters the fashion industry as a model to understand whether men and women are treated equally.

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05. Case study research

The case study has evolved over the last few years to be the easiest and most common way to understand serious social, educational, or similar issues. It works by understanding deeply what the issue is and the factors that stand as a reason behind it.

A researcher takes a topic at hand, which can be an event or an organization, and moves ahead to understand its characteristics systematically.

Example: A researcher conducts a case study on people’s online shopping experiences and what their needs and expectations are.

06. Record keeping

It is a secondary data collection form of research where a researcher uses already existing information about a topic. It is a qualitative research methodlogy used when one is starting new research. The researcher can go through already existing research materials, documentaries, or interviews related to his topic.

Example: A researcher refers to previously researched diabetic patients to understand the effects of new drugs on them.

07. Observation

Qualitative observation focuses on deriving the data or information through observation. It makes use of the prime five sensory responses – hearing, smell, touch, taste, and sight.

The result of observational research is differences in quality and characteristics.

Example: A researcher observes a patient’s recovery under a new treatment given for some time.

Role played by survey tools in qualitative research analysis

Qualitative research methodology uses text and sentiment analysis to analyze and transform textual data into comprehensive insights. The advent of text and sentiment analysis tools has revolutionized the way you can unravel the intricacies of human emotion and experience.

Text analysis tools go beyond traditional manual coding and allow for a more nuanced data analysis. The text algorithm sifts through the vast amount of textual feedback, identifying patterns, themes, and sentiment.

Sentiment analysis, a subset of text analysis, focuses on discerning the emotional tone respondents convey in their feedback. It gauges the emotional understanding to identify emotional triggers influencing their experience.

The two qualitative data analysis methods add a layer of depth to the interpretation of customer experience. Voxco text analysis tool offers sophisticated solutions so researchers can extract meaningful insights efficiently, paving the way for more informed decision-making.

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Qualitative research methodology characteristics

  • Qualitative research methodology provides real-time data as it is carried out at the exact time of the issues participants face.
  • Qualitative research provides first-hand reliable data as it is conducted in the participants’ environment.
  • It can use various available data-gathering sources such as interviews, focus groups, case studies, and so on to provide all kinds of information.
  • Qualitative research makes the understanding of the research topic easy by breaking it down into small, detailed inferences and studying it individually.
  • Participants tend to build trust with the researcher and provide real and unaltered information without any hesitation.
  • Qualitative researchers are required to describe the cause and factors behind a phenomenon and understand the reasons behind it.
  • Qualitative research allows minimum involvement of the researcher, hence eliminating the researcher biases from the results.
  • It is participant-oriented, where the researcher should work to bring out what people think and not what other researchers and observers think.

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Qualitative research methodology enables researchers to navigate complex landscape of human interactions and provides nuanced insights that quantitative methods alone may not capture. This method remains invaluable in exploring the diversity of the human experience and social phenomena.

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