Facebook Twitter RSS Reset

Qualitative Research- definition, nature, approaches


A starting point in trying to understand the collection of information for research purposes is that there are broadly two approaches:

* Quantitative research and

* Qualitative research.


It involves an in-depth understanding of human behaviour and the reasons that govern human behaviour. Simply put, it investigates the why and how, as compared to what, where and when of quantitative research.


Qualitative Research…involves finding out what people think, and how they feel – or at any rate, what they say they think and how they say they feel. This kind of information is subjective. It involves feelings and impressions, rather than numbers’

(Bellenger, Bernhardt and Goldstucker,American Marketing Association)

 Nature of Qualitative research

  • Qualitative research is concerned with developing explanations of social phenomena.
  • It aims to help us to understand the world in which we live and why things are the way they are.
  • It is concerned with the social aspects of our world and seeks to answer questions about:
    • Why people behave the way they do
    • How opinions and attitudes are formed
    • How and why cultures have developed in the way they have
    • The differences between social groups
  • Qualitative research is concerned with the opinions, experiences and feelings of individuals producing subjective data.
  • Qualitative data is collected through direct encounters with individuals, through one to one interviews or group interviews or by observation. Data collection is time consuming.
  • The intensive and time consuming nature of data collection necessitates the use of small samples.

Approaches Used For Qualitative Research

  • Case study
  • Grounded theory
  • Ethnography
  • Action research
  • Phenomenography



An enquiry (“how”, “why” questions) investigating a process, phenomenon has clear boundaries.

Examining events, people, processes in a specific   context: aim for holistic understanding


This methodology originated with Glaser and Strauss

They deal with social & psychological stages that characterize a particular event or episode ,describe what is going on that social events

eg postpartum depression study.


It is concerned with the lived experiences of the people & is an approach to learn about what people`s life experiences are like and what they mean .


  • Settings carefully observed and described .
  • Population observed and encouraged to reveal “realities” of their lives (although question as to whether people can reveal “reality”)
  • Researcher aims to integrate into setting without disrupting or affecting what is going on


  • Identify something specific you think needs investigating / changing
  • Plan actions; you can be part of the action
  • Record and reflect as you go along
  • Get feedback from all the peoples related to the phenomenon etc.
  • Review, report if appropriate.
  • Plan changes.
  • Start cycle again.

Qualitative data collection techniques

Projective Techniques

Involve situations in which participants are placed in simulated activities hoping that they will divulge information about themselves that are unlikely to be revealed under direct questioning.


More common ones are

  • Free Word Association
  • Sentence Completion
  • Unfinished scenario/story completion
  • Cartoon completion test


An interview conducted by a trained moderator in a non-structured and natural manner with a small group of respondents.


Good for open ended questions, probing and exploring in depth, gaining understanding


Greater data accuracy than direct questioning, in natural settings people behave naturally.

Steps of research process

  1. Conceptual Phase

  • Formulating and delimiting the problem
  • Doing literature review

2.Planning Phase

  • Gaining Entry into the Research Sites
  • Research Design in Qualitative Studies

3. Emperical  Phase

  • Data collection
  • Preparation of data for analysis

4. Analytic Phase

  • Process of data analysis

5.Disseminating Phase

  • Sharing & publishing information

Popularity of Qualitative Research

  • Usually much cheaper than quantitative research
  • No better way than qualitative research to understand in-depth the motivations and feelings of consumers
  • Qualitative research can improve the efficiency and effectiveness of quantitative research