We explain what a qualitative research is and its applications. Also, what are its characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.
What is a qualitative research?
Qualitative investigations are those that are dedicated to the description of phenomena and stop on their characteristics and include, for example, thoughts , opinions, modalities, attitudes, behaviors, etc.
It differs from quantitative research, which looks for measurable and comparable data such as percentages, quantities, and probabilities.
Qualitative research is a method used mainly in the social sciences to study human phenomena that require complex analysis for their understanding.
The researcher approaches the subjects he wants to study and shares his daily life with them , in some cases conducting interviews to inquire about their emotions , ideas and expectations.
Qualitative investigations can be complemented with other quantitative ones.
Characteristics of a qualitative research :
Qualitative research is an approach to research that focuses on understanding the subjective experiences, perspectives, and meanings of individuals and groups. Some of the key characteristics of qualitative research include:
Emphasis on context
Qualitative research focuses on the context in which people experience and interpret events, rather than just the events themselves. This means that researchers seek to understand the social, cultural, and historical factors that shape people’s experiences.
Data collection through interviews, observations, and other qualitative methods
Qualitative researchers typically collect data through methods such as interviews, observations, focus groups, and other techniques that allow for detailed exploration of people’s experiences and perspectives.
Qualitative research involves a detailed and in-depth analysis of data, with a focus on identifying themes, patterns, and relationships that emerge from the data.
Qualitative research acknowledges the subjectivity of the researcher and the participants, and recognizes that multiple perspectives and interpretations are possible.
Qualitative research is often flexible and iterative, allowing the researcher to adjust their methods and approach based on the data they collect and the insights they gain.
Interpretive and exploratory
Qualitative research is often exploratory and interpretive, seeking to understand and make sense of complex phenomena rather than testing specific hypotheses.
Qualitative research does not seek to generalize findings to a larger population in the same way that quantitative research does. Instead, qualitative research seeks to provide rich and detailed descriptions of the experiences and perspectives of individuals and groups.
Inductive reasoning is one that goes from the particular to the general . It is different from deductive reasoning, which draws a conclusion about a particular case from a general law .
Qualitative research is inductive because it does not start from general laws or principles that apply to particular cases but, on the contrary, is dedicated to collecting data from which it can later make generalizations.
However, inductive reasoning is used with reservations in qualitative research since the generalizations are not applicable to any society studied but to societies that have certain characteristics.
In addition, they are raised as hypotheses that can be refuted by other qualitative research.
Interaction with the subjects studied
Even through observation, the researcher interacts with the subject.
In addition to studying processes in society , the researcher takes into account the way his own research progresses.
The researcher can interact directly through the interview or through participation in activities in the community he studies.
But even if it is limited to observation , its mere presence already affects the behavior of the subjects
One of the reasons why qualitative research does not seek universal generalizations is because it does not focus on fixed situations or invariant states of a society, but rather studies processes.
Qualitative research looks at the way a society transforms and not the initial or final state of change.
It also studies its own process, this means that it is recursive: it refers to itself.
The subject in its own frame of reference
The researcher tries to understand his object of study within his own framework.
When studying a social group or a society far from his own, the qualitative researcher does not judge the attitudes and thoughts of that group from his own point of view but tries to understand it within the framework of values , norms , practices and beliefs of the group studied.
The subjective aspect is always present in this type of research, but an attempt is made to identify one’s own opinions and prejudices , to avoid affecting the research.
These investigations never study an isolated event but, to understand each event, behavior or customs, they adopt a holistic position, that is, they take into account the experience of the subject as a whole.
For this, the subjects studied are considered within the framework of their past , their expectations for the future and their location within their specific context.
Qualitative research does not usually allow statistical analysis.
When studying a human group qualitatively, the measurable and expressible factors in numbers or proportions are minimal . Rather, non-measurable data are observed and described.
For this reason, these investigations do not usually allow statistical analysis and the conclusions of each investigation depend to a great extent on the interpretation of the data obtained.
Flexible and evolutionary
By not having a fixed methodology, qualitative research is adapted to the realities studied .
Depending on the phenomena the researcher encounters, he can hypothesize and correct concepts as he goes along.
Variety of study objects
When studying a social phenomenon, you don’t just study leaders.
Qualitative research takes into account all the participants of an event and all the factors involved, regardless of whether they participate from a central or peripheral place.
For example, when studying a social phenomenon, it does not only study the leaders but also the behavior of all the members of the social group.
Advantages of Qualitative Research
Compared to a quantitative research, the advantages of a qualitative research are:
- Allows communication with the subjects studied
- Facilitates a horizontal relationship with the investigated groups
- It allows a description and a complex analysis of the phenomena
- The large amount and variety of data it offers allows other scholars to reach different conclusions and even continue the investigation
Disadvantages of Qualitative Research
The results lose objectivity because they depend on the interpretation of the researcher.
Compared to quantitative research, the disadvantages of qualitative research are:
- It is difficult to process and compare the information obtained since it does not present quantifiable data
- The results lose objectivity because they depend on the interpretation of the researcher
No universal generalization can be made from research results
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