Basic things you should know about qualitative research methods


Hello readers! As you are reading you will get to know the basic things about qualitative research methods. From their definition to their importance and types, you will get to know everything about them.

Moreover, you can get personalised assistance if you are a newbie to research or gathering information as it is not a topic over which you have mastered. You can go to research experts for assignment help and work in a better way.

Qualitative research definition

Qualitative research is defined as a research method that focuses on obtaining data through open-ended and conversational communication.

This method is not only about “what” people think but also “why” they think so. For example, consider a convenience store looking to improve its patronage. A systematic observation concludes that the number of men visiting this store are more. One good method to determine why women were not visiting the store is to conduct an in-depth interview of potential customers in the category.

On successfully interviewing female customers, visiting the nearby stores and malls, and selecting them through random sampling,  it was known that the store doesn’t have enough items for women and so there were fewer women visiting the store, which was understood only by personally interacting with them and understanding why they didn’t visit the store, because there were more male products than female ones.

Therefore, the qualitative research methods allow for in-depth and further probing and questioning of respondents based on their responses, where the interviewer/researcher also tries to understand their motivation and feeling.

How is qualitative research conducted?

1. Questions

Quantitative research method utilises polls and surveys to gather information on a given subject. There is a varied range of survey questions based on a nature of the research study.

For Example : If you want to conduct a customer satisfaction quantitative research, the Net Promoter Survey is one of the critically acclaimed survey questions for this purpose.

2. Distribution

Quantitative research uses email surveys as the primary mode of gathering responses to questions. Alternatively, technology has given rise to offline distribution methods for relatively remote locations using various mobile data capture apps available online. For social sciences and psychological quantitative research, social media surveys are also used to gather data.

3. Statistical Analysis

Quantitative research uses a wide range of data analysis techniques such as cross tabulation, trend analysis and conjoint analysis.

Qualitative research methods with examples

Qualitative research methods are designed in a manner that they help reveal the behavior and perception of a target audience with reference to a particular topic. There are different types of qualitative research methods like an in-depth interview, focus groups, ethnographic research, content analysis, case study research that are usually used.

The results of qualitative methods are more descriptive and the inferences can be drawn quite easily from the data that is obtained.

Qualitative research methods originated in the social and behavioral sciences. Today our world is more complicated and it is difficult to understand what people think and perceive. Qualitative research methods make it easier to understand that as it is more communicative and descriptive.

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Types of qualitative research methods


1. One-on-One Interview

Conducting in-depth interviews is one of the most common qualitative research methods. It is a personal interview that is carried out with one respondent at a time. This is purely a conversational method and invites opportunities to get details in depth from the respondent.

One of the advantages of this method provides a great opportunity to gather precise data about what people believe and what their motivations are. If the researcher is well experienced asking the right questions can help him/her collect meaningful data. If they should need more information the researchers should ask such follow up questions that will help them collect more information.

These interviews can be performed face-to-face or on phone and usually can last between half an hour to two hours or even more. When the in-depth interview is conducted face to face it gives a better opportunity to read the body language of the respondents and match the responses.

2. Focus groups

Focus groups are one of the most commonly used qualitative research methods, practiced for A focus group usually includes a limited number of respondents from within your target market.

The main aim of the focus group is to find answers to the why what and how questions. One advantage of focus groups is, you don’t necessarily need to interact with the group in person. Nowadays focus groups can be sent an survey online on various devices and responses can be collected at the click of a button.

Focus groups are an expensive method as compared to the other qualitative research methods. Typically they are used to explain complex processes. This method is very useful when it comes to market research on new products.

3. Ethnographic research

It is the most in-depth observational method that studies people in their naturally occurring environment.

This method requires the researchers to adapt to the target audiences’ environments which could be anywhere from an organization to a city or any remote location. Here geographical constraints can be an issue while collecting data.

This research design aims to understand the cultures, challenges, motivations, and settings that occur. Instead of relying on interviews and discussions, you experience the natural settings first hand.

This type of research method can last from a few days to a few years, as it involves in-depth observation and collecting data on those grounds. It’s a challenging and a time-consuming method and solely depends on the expertise of the researcher to be able to analyze, observe and infer the data.

4. Case study research

The case study method has evolved over the past few years and developed as into a valuable qualitative research method. As the name suggests it is used for explaining an organization or an entity.

This type of research method is used within a number of areas like education, social sciences and similar. This method may look difficult to operate, however, it is one of the simplest ways of conducting research as it involves a deep dive and thorough understanding of the data collection methods and inferring the data.

5. Record keeping

This method makes use of the already existing reliable documents and similar sources of information as the data source. This data can be used in a new research. This is similar to going to a library. There one can go over books and other reference material to collect relevant data that can likely be used in the research.

6. Process of observation

It is a process of research that uses subjective methodologies to gather systematic information or data. Since, the focus on qualitative observation is the research process of using subjective methodologies to gather information or data. The qualitative observation is primarily used to equate quality differences.

Qualitative observation deals with the 5 major sensory organs and their functioning – sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing. This doesn’t involve measurements or numbers but instead characteristics.

Data and analysis

A. Qualitative Data Collection

Qualitative data collection allows collecting data that is non-numeric and helps us to explore how decisions are made and provide us with detailed insight. For reaching such conclusions the data that is collected should be holistic, rich and nuanced and findings to emerge through careful analysis.

1. Whatever method a researcher chooses for collecting qualitative data one aspect is very clear the process will generate a large amount of data. In addition to the variety of methods available, there are also different methods of collecting and recording the data.

For example, if the qualitative data is collected through focus group or one-to-one discussion, there will be handwritten notes or video recorded tapes. If there are recording they should be transcribed and before the process of data analysis can begin.

2. As a rough guide, it can take a seasoned researcher 8-10 hours to transcribe the recordings of an interview, which can generate roughly 20-30 pages of dialogues. Many researchers also like to maintain separate folders to maintain the recording collected from the different focus group. This helps them compartmentalise the data collected.

3. In case there are running notes taken, which are also known as field notes, they are helpful in maintaining comments, environmental contexts, nonverbal cues etc. These filed notes are helpful and can be compared while transcribing audio recorded data. Such notes are usually informal but should be secured in a similar manner as the video recordings or the audio tapes.

B. Qualitative Data Analysis

Qualitative data analysis such as notes, videos, audio recordings images, and text documents. One of the most used methods for qualitative data analysis is text analysis.

Text analysis is a data analysis method that is distinctly different from all other qualitative research methods, where researchers analyze the social life of the participants in the research study and decode the words, actions etc.

There are images also that are used in this research study and the researchers analyze the context in which the images are used and draw inferences from them. In the last decade, text analysis through what is shared on social media platform has gained supreme popularity.

Characteristics of Qualitative research methodsqualitative-research-methods


1. Qualitative research methods usually collect data at the sight, where the participants are experiencing issues or problems. These are real-time data and rarely bring the participants out of the geographic locations to collect information.

2. Qualitative researchers typically gather multiple forms of data, such as interviews, observations, and documents, rather than rely on a single data source.

3. This type of research method works towards solving complex issues by breaking down into meaningful inferences, that is easily readable and understood by all.

4. Since its a more communicative method, people can build their trust on the researcher and the information thus obtained is raw and unadulterated.

Qualitative research methods example

Let’s take the example of a bookstore owner who is looking for ways to improve their sales and customer outreach. An online community of members who were the loyal patrons of the bookstore were interviewed and related questions were asked and the questions were answered by them.

At the end of the interview, it was realized that most of the books in the stores were suitable for adults and there were not enough options for children or teenagers.

By conducting this qualitative research the bookstore owner realized what the shortcomings were and what were the feelings of the readers. Through this research now the bookstore owner can now keep books for different age categories and can improve his sales and customer outreach.

Such qualitative research method example can serve as the basis to indulge in further quantitative research which provides remedies.

Difference between quantitative and qualitative research methods


Quantitative Research vs Qualitative Research

Now let’s compare the two research methods :

1. Objective and flow of research

Quantitative research is used in data-oriented research where the objective of research is to derive “measurable empirical evidence” based on fixed and pre-determined questions. The flow of research, is therefore, decided before the research is conducted.

Where as, qualitative research is used where the objective is research is to keep probing the respondents based on previous answers under the complete discretion of the interviewer. The flow of research is not determined and the researcher / interviewer has the liberty to frame and ask new questions.

2. Respondent sample size

Respondents of a particular panel is much larger for quantitative research such that enough verifiable information is gather to reach a conclusion without opinion bias. In large scale quantitative research, sample size can be in thousands.

Where as, qualitative research inherently uses less sample size because a large sample size makes it difficult of the research to probe respondents. For instance, a typical political focus group study evaluating election candidates involves no more than 5-10 panelists.

3. Information gathering

Quantitative research uses information gathering methods that can be quantified and processed for statistical analysis techniques. Simply put – quantitative research is heavily dependent on “numbers”, data and stats.

Where as, qualitative research uses conversational methods to gather relevant information on a given subject.

4. Post-research response analysis and conclusions

Quantitative research uses a variety of statistical analysis methods to derive quantifiable research conclusions. These are based on mathematical processes applied on the gather data.

Where as, qualitative research depends on the interviewer to derive research conclusions based on qualitative conversations held with the respondents. This conclusion is effectively subjective in nature. This is why quantitative research recordings are often reviewed by senior researchers before the final research conclusion is drawn.

Let’s know a little more:

It’s well-established that all forms of research come with their own theories and implementation methods, qualitative research is much the same. Qualitative research is conducted to understand the thought process of both, the respondents as well as researchers. It usually is conducted in a natural setup where respondents will be their true selves and would respond transparently. Results achieved from this research will not be generalized to be the representation of the entire population but asked questions and their vocabulary gives away the motive of research which makes it easier for respondents to participate in qualitative market research. 

Qualitative research methods survey questions are created to have a better understanding of a particular topic or to inspect a new subject to understand the nerve of respondent experiences.

What should be the process of forming Qualitative research questions and questionnaires?

1. Mention the purpose of conducting qualitative research. It can be in form of either of these sentences

  • This study will be on the topic of ….

  • Reason for conducting this research is ….

2. Create qualitative statements with a defined objective that can be easily communicated to the targeted audience

Keep these pointers in mind while designing this statement:

  • Try and form single sentence statements. Single statements can be much more effective than elaborate ones as they help in communicating important messages in an impactful manner in a short and succinct sentence.

  • Clarify the purpose of conducting qualitative research in clear words so that respondents understand their contribution towards this research.

  • Mention the main topic of research that would prompt respondents to have a clearer idea about what they’re getting into.

  • It’s the words that make all the difference. Use qualitative words that demonstrate quality or feeling behind your purpose, such as understanding, describe, explore.

  • Specify details that you would want to communicate to your respondents.

  • Mention the name of the research website.

3. Other than the primary qualitative question, you must create sub-questions so that the purpose is executed in a better manner

  • The main question might be – “What is the state of illiteracy in your state?”

  • You can create sub-questions such as: “How does illiteracy hamper progress in your state?” or “How would you best describe your feelings about illiteracy?”

4. Highlight these questions using ‘qualitative’ words

  • Start the questions with “What” or “How” to make sure the respondents provide details about their feelings.

  • Communicate on what you’re trying to “understand”, “explore” or “identify” using this Qualitative research online survey questionnaire.

  • Questions such as “what happened” can be asked to develop a description of the topic.

  • Questions about “how did respondents interpret the what happened question” can be asked to examine the outcome.

  • Understand the entire qualitative research process by asking questions about “what happened to you with time?”

Why qualitative research methods are useful?


  • Develop hypotheses for further testing and for quantitative questionnaire development,
  • Understand the feelings, values, and perceptions that underlie and influence behavior
  • Identify customer needs
  • Capture the language and imagery customers use to describe and relate to a product, service, brand, etc.
  • Perceptions of marketing/communication messages
  • Information obtained in quantitative study and to better understand the context/meaning of the data
  • Generate ideas for improvements and/or extensions of a product, line, or brand
  • Uncover potential strategic directions for branding or communications programs
  • Understand how people perceive a marketing message or communication piece
  • Develop parameters (i.e., relevant questions, range of responses) for a quantitative study

When you should use qualitative research methods?

  • New product idea generation and development
  • Investigating current or potential product/service/brand positioning and marketing strategy
  • Strengths and weaknesses of products/brands
  • Understanding dynamics of purchase decision dynamics
  • Studying reactions to advertising and public relations campaigns, other marketing communications, graphic identity/branding, package design, etc.
  • Exploring market segments, such as demographic and customer groups
  • Studying emotions and attitudes on societal and public affairs issues
  • Assessing the usability of websites or other interactive products or services
  • Understanding perceptions of a company, brand, category and product
  • Determining consumer language as a preliminary step to develop a quantitative survey 

When you should not use qualitative research methods?

  • Count, measure or offer statistical validation
  • Determine the best product concept or price point; or establish the importance of specific customer needs or satisfaction criteria
  • Be a substitute for quantitative research because of time and/or budgetary constraints when quantitative evaluation is critical


In this blog we dealt with mutiple aspects of a qualitative research methods. Starting from the Qualtitative research definition we moved to know How is Quantitative research conducted. In order to understand it better we discussed qualitative research methods with examples. Thereafter, came the six types of qualitative research methods, which are as follows: one -on-one interview, Focus groups, Ethnographic research, Case study research, record keeping and process of observation.

After these basics we read a little about data collection and analysis. The next was the process of forming Qualitative research questions and questionnaires. And by the end of this blog we had a summarised view of why qualitative research methods are useful. When they should be used and when they needs to be avoided.

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By Susan White

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