Definition of Qualitative Research
Qualitative Research is concerned on non-numerical data such text, video, and audio. The goal of this research design is to describe, understand or interpret the meanings of concepts, opinions, or experiences. This research design is commonly used in social sciences, humanities, health sciences, and other related fields. In most cases, the manner of data gathering involves interview, focus group discussion, or participant observation; dependent on the approach used by the researcher/s.
Data collection methods, as mentioned, vary on the research approach used by the researcher/s. One can use observation where the researcher records he or she has seen, heard, or encountered in the field; commonly known as field notes. A researcher can also opt to use focus group discussion (FGD). It is a comprehensive group discussion where asking questions and generating discussion happen among a carefully selected individuals. Another method is interview. Interview is a one-to-one conversations between the researcher and the participants where questions are personally asked to them. Survey can also be an option for data collection in a qualitative research. It is done through distributing a well-prepared, validated questionnaires with an open-ended questions. Some researchers also employ the participant observation method where the researchers immerse himself or herself to the field to learn about the activities of the people under study in the natural setting through observing and participating in those activities.
5 Approaches in Qualitative Research
There are 5 commonly used approaches in qualitative research. These qualitative approaches are narrative research, phenomenological research, grounded theory research, ethnographic research, and case study research.
1. Narrative Research. It involves examining how stories are told to understand how participants perceive and make sense of their experiences. It aims to explore and conceptualize human experience as it is represented in textual form. There are many types of narrative research, the following are examples: (a) oral history, (b) life history, (c) autoethnography, and (d) biographical study.
2. Phenomenological Research. It is an approach to research that seeks to describe the essence of a phenomenon by exploring it from the perspective of those who have experienced it. The goal of phenomenological research is to describe the meaning of an experience—both in terms of what was experienced and how it was experienced. There are two main types of phenomenological research, the descriptive phenomenological research and the interpretive phenomenological research.
3. Grounded Theory. It is an approach where researcher gathers rich data on a topic of interest to move beyond description and to generate or discover a theory for a process or action. The general explanation or theory generated must be based from the views of large number of participants.
4. Ethnographic Research. It focuses on an entire culture-sharing group involving many people who interact over time. In this research, the researcher aims to describe and interpret the shared and earned patterns of values, beliefs, behaviors, and language of the culture-sharing group.
5. Case Study Research. It involves the study of a case within a real-life, contemporary context or setting; and is used to generate an in-depth, multi-faceted understanding of a complex issue in its real-life context.
Differences of 5 Qualitative Approaches
Creswell (2013) had contrasted the 5 approaches on qualitative research based on the following aspects (a) focus, (b) types of problem best suited for design, (c) discipline background, (d) unit of analysis, (e) data collection forms, (f) data analysis strategies, and (g) written report.
Narrative: Exploring the life of an individual
Phenomenology: Understanding the essence of the lived experience
Grounded Theory: Developing a theory grounded in data from the field
Ethnography: Describing and interpreting a culture-sharing group
Case Study: Developing an in-depth description and analysis of a case or multiple case
Type of Problem Best Suited For Design
Narrative: Needing to tell stories of individual experiences
Phenomenology: Needing to describe the essence of a lived phenomenon
Grounded Theory: Grounding a theory in the views of the participants
Ethnography: Describing and interpreting the shared patterns of culture of a group
Case Study: Providing an in-depth understanding of a case or cases
Narrative Research: Drawing from the humanities, including anthropology, literature, history, psychology, and sociology
Phenomenology: Drawing from philosophy, psychology, and education
Grounded Theory: Drawing from sociology
Ethnography: Drawing from ethnography, and sociology
Case Study: Drawing from psychology, law, political science and medicine
Unit of Analysis
Narrative: Studying one or more individuals
Phenomenology: Studying several individuals who have shared the experience
Grounded Theory: Studying a process, an action, or an interaction involving many individuals
Ethnography: Studying group that shares the same culture
Case Study: Studying an event, a program, an activity, or more than one individual
Data Collection Forms
Narrative: Using primarily interviews and documents
Phenomenology: Using primarily interviews with individuals, although documents, observations, and art may also be considered
Grounded Theory: Using primarily interviews with 20-60 individuals
Ethnography: Using primarily observations and interviews, but perhaps collecting other sources during extended time in the field
Case Study: Using multiple sources, such as interviews, observations, documents, and artifacts
Data Analysis Strategies
Narrative; Analyzing data for stories, "restorying" stories, and developing themes, often using a chronology
Phenomenology: Analyzing data for significant statements, meaning units, textual and structural description, and description of the essence
Grounded theory: Analyzing data through open coding, axial coding, and selective coding
Ethnography: Analyzing data through description of the culture-sharing group and themes about the group
Case Study: Analyzing data through description of the case and themes of the case as well as cross-case themes
Narrative: Developing a narrative about the stories of an individual's life
Phenomenology: Describing the essence of the lived experience
Grounded Theory: Generating a theory illustrated in a figure
Ethnography: Describing how a culture-sharing group works
Case Study: Developing a detailed analysis of one or more cases