In this article, we will try to answer the questions: What is qualitative research, its definition, qualitative data analysis, advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research.
One can have a better understanding of qualitative research if he knows the difference between qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research focuses on the qualities of things like descriptions, concepts, definitions, and metaphors. It does not count or measure the qualities numerically. Data is collected by the observation that is interpreted in words instead of digits or numbers. Many disciplines employ qualitative research methods like the interpretation of a piece of literature, service demonstrations by different businesses, in education, in government organizations and journalism. Qualitative research has different types of research methods that are employed according to the nature of the study.
Definition of qualitative research
Qualitative research is generally defined as a type of research that deals with words, themes, narratives, and descriptions. Shank (2002) in his book, Qualitative Research: a personal skills approach, defines qualitative research as “a form of systematic empirical inquiry into meaning” (p. 5).
Qualitative data analysis
There are various types of qualitative research methods to analyze the data. Because the qualitative data and quantitative data are different in nature thus qualitative data analysis is different from the quantitative data analysis. Quantitative data analysis includes a numerical representation of data in the form of schedules and graphs. On the other hand side in qualitative data analysis, the data is purely descriptive.
Types of qualitative research
Following are some types of qualitative research:
1. Direct observation
In this method, a researcher studies other people’s lives without interfering in daily routine. In, direct observation, the subjects under study do not know that they are being observed. This type of research is conducted in public settings where the private space of the subjects is not violated.
2. Open-ended surveys
Surveys include mainly interviews and questionnaires as their data collection tools. But the nature of the questions is open-ended. For example, only those questions are included which results in opinions and descriptions.
3. In-depth interviews
In-depth interviews are conducted in one-on-one settings. Further, there are two types of interviews, structured and unstructured interviews. Structured interviews are those in which the researcher has a predetermined list of questions and allows the interview to involve in the interviewee’s responses.
4. Focus Group
In a focus group discussion, a researcher forms a group of 5 to 15 participants and engages then in a conversation related to a specific event or a problem. This method is useful to examine a trend or event that is occurring within a particular community. This method is widely used in market research to know the recent trends.
5. Oral history
This method is used to trace the historical account of a group, community or event. It usually involves in-depth interviews with those subjects who have first-hand information of the even. This method is used over an extended period of time to get an elaborated account of past events.
6. Participant observation
Unlike direct observation, a researcher becomes part of the community under observation. Subjects under observation know that they are under observation. This is method is useful to get first-hand information.
Advantages of qualitative research
1- Qualitative research has flexibility in the process.
2- A researcher can explore unexpected ideas while doing research.
3- Researchers can also consider the contextual factors and may sense the sensitivity of the context.
4- Qualitative research has increased opportunities to support new concepts and theories.
5- It creates an in-depth understanding of the behaviors, attitudes, events, interactions, and social practices that contain everyday life.
6- It helps to understand social-wide things like a social order, social values, social forces and all kinds of social structures.
Disadvantages of qualitative research
1- The scope of qualitative research is limited to some extent that is why its results cannot be generalized.
2- A researcher should also use the qualitative methods with caution so the personal bias may be avoided during the research process.
3- It requires rigorous effort and training to avoid such type of personal biases that influence the interpretations and findings.