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Qualitative Research Design

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Qualitative Research Design

Qualitative research design varies depending upon the method used; participant observations, in-depth interviews (face-to-face or on the telephone), and focus groups are all examples of methodologies which may be considered during qualitative research design. Although there is diversity in the various qualitative methodologies, there are also commonalities between them.

The underlying reason for carrying out any qualitative research is to gain a richly detailed understanding of a particular topic, issue, or meaning based on first-hand experience. This is achieved by having a relatively small but focused sample base because collecting the data can be rather time consuming; qualitative data is concerned with depth as opposed to quantity of findings. A qualitative research design is concerned with establishing answers to the whys and hows of the phenomenon in question (unlike quantitative).

Due to this, qualitative research is often defined as being subjective (not objective), and findings are gathered in a written format as opposed to numerical. This means that the data collected from a piece of qualitative research cannot usually be analysed in a quantifiable way using statistical techniques because there may not be commonalities between the various collected findings. However, a process of coding can be implemented if common categories can be identified during analysis.

Although the questions/observations in qualitative research are not managed to gain a particular response the ability to code findings occurs more often than you may originally think. This is because the researcher ‘steers’ the research in a particular direction whilst encouraging the respondent to expand, and go into greater detail on certain points raised (in an interview/ focus group), or actions carried out (participant observation).

Qualitative research design should also  not only account for what is said or done, but also the manner in which something is spoken or carried out by a participant. Sometimes these mannerisms can hold answers to questions in themselves and body language and the tone of voice used by respondents are key considerations.

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