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Qualitative research method

Qualitative research is a scientific method of observation to gather non-numerical data.(Babbie


E., 2014). Qualitative research is especially effective in obtaining culturally specific information
about the values, opinions, behaviors, and social contexts of particular issues from the
perspective of the individual.

The strength of qualitative research lies in its ability to provide complex textual descriptions of
how people experience a given research issue. It provides information about the “human” side of
an issue – that is, the often contradictory behaviors, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships
of individuals.

Qualitative methods are also effective in identifying intangible factors, such as social norms,
socioeconomic status, gender roles, ethnicity, and religion, whose role in the research issue may
not be readily apparent. When used along with quantitative methods, qualitative research can help
us to interpret and better understand the complex reality of a given situation and the implications
of quantitative data.

Although findings from qualitative data can often be extended to people with characteristics
similar to those in the study population, gaining a rich and complex understanding of a specific
social context or phenomenon typically takes precedence over eliciting data that can be
generalized to other geographical areas or populations. In this sense, qualitative research differs
slightly from scientific research in general.

The three most common qualitative research methods are: participant observation, in-depth
interviews, focus groups. Each method is particularly suited for obtaining a specific type of data.

• Participant observation is appropriate for collecting data on naturally occurring behaviors in


their usual contexts.

• In-depth interviews are optimal for collecting data on individuals’ personal histories,
perspectives, and experiences, particularly when sensitive topics are being explored.

• Focus groups are effective in eliciting data on the cultural norms of a group and in generating
broad overviews of issues of concern to the cultural groups or subgroups represented.

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

The key difference between quantitative and qualitative methods is their flexibility. Generally,
quantitative methods are fairly inflexible.

Qualitative methods are typically more flexible – that is, they allow greater spontaneity and
adaptation of the interaction between the researcher and the study participant. For example,
qualitative methods ask mostly “open-ended” questions that are not necessarily worded in exactly
the same way with each participant. With open-ended questions, participants are free to respond
in their own words, and these responses tend to be more complex than simply “yes” or “no.”

In addition, with qualitative methods, the relationship between the researcher and the participant
is often less formal than in quantitative research.

Participants have the opportunity to respond more elaborately and in greater detail than is
typically the case with quantitative methods. In turn, researchers have the opportunity to respond
immediately to what participants say by tailoring subsequent questions to information the
participant has provided.

It is important to note, however, that there is a range of flexibility among methods used in both
quantitative and qualitative research and that flexibility is not an indication of how scientifically
rigorous a method is.

Motivations for semi structured interview design

Researchers use interviews for a variety of purposes. Interviews can be used as a primary data
gathering method to collect information from individuals about their own practices, beliefs, or
opinions. They can be used to gather information on past or present behaviors or experiences.
Interviews can further be used to gather background information or to tap into the expert
knowledge of an individual.

Interviews can be placed on a continuum of structure, from “unstructured” to highly “structured.”


Imbedded in this continuum is the idea of how much “control” the interviewer will have over the
interaction. There are benefits to each of these kinds of interviews.

In semi-structured interviewing, a guide is used, with questions and topics that must be covered.
The interviewer has some discretion about the order in which questions are asked, but the
questions are standardized, and probes may be provided to ensure that the researcher covers the
correct material. This kind of interview collects detailed information in a style that is somewhat
conversational. Semi-structured interviews are often used when the researcher wants to delve
deeply into a topic and to understand thoroughly the answers provided.

Semi-structured interviewing, according to Bernard (1988), is best used when you won't get more
than one chance to interview someone and when you will be sending several interviewers out into
the field to collect data. The semi-structured interview guide provides a clear set of instructions
for interviewers and can provide reliable, comparable qualitative data.

Open-ended questions have the ability to evoke responses that are:

• meaningful and culturally salient to the participant

• unanticipated by the researcher


• rich and explanatory in nature

Reliability

The principles of validity and reliability are fundamental cornerstones of the scientific method.
Together, they are at the core of what is accepted as scientific proof, by science
and philosophy alike.

The idea behind reliability is that any significant results must be more than a one-off finding and
be inherently repeatable. Other researchers must be able to perform exactly the same experiment,
under the same conditions and generate the same results. This will reinforce the findings and
ensure that the wider scientific community will accept the hypothesis.

Without this replication of statistically significant results, the experiment and research have not
fulfilled all of the requirements of testability.

Reliability is a necessary ingredient for determining the overall validity of a scientific experiment
and enhancing the strength of the results.

Validity

Validity encompasses the entire experimental concept and establishes whether the results
obtained meet all of the requirements of the scientific research method.

 Credibility - Often called internal validity, refers to the believability and trustworthiness
of the findings. This depends more on the richness of the data gathered than on the
quantity of data. The participants of the study are the only ones that decide if the results
actually reflect the phenomena being studied and therefore, it is important that
participants feel the findings are credible and accurate. Triangulation is a commonly used
method for verifying accuracy that involves cross-checking information from multiple
perspectives.

 Transferability - Often called external validity, refers to the degree that the findings of the
research can be transferred to other contexts by the readers. This means that the results are
generalizable and can be applied to other similar settings, populations, situations and so
forth.

Data collection