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Guide to Designing Qualitative Research

| August 26, 2017

Guide to Designing Qualitative Research

When you are asked to design a qualitative research and write your dissertation or research study using this method, you might be confused where to start. Many students simply assume that qualitative research is based on interviews or observation, and does not need to include literature research, or theses. This is the first misconception of qualitative research methods, and there are many more to come. If you would like to be confident that your qualitative research study will be suitable for submission, and you will get great grades, you will need to understand all the requirements of research, studies, structure, and design. Read the below guide to help you understand what qualitative methods entail and how to make the most out of your research.

Designing Qualitative Research

The Role of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is usually carried out to understand the different perspectives of issues and phenomena. It is concerned about human behaviour and experiences. In many cases, it measures attitudes, therefore, the information gained cannot be quantified.

Qualitative methods are usually applied in the following fields of study:

  • Health and social care
  • Social studies
  • Humanities
  • Marketing
  • Psychology
  • Teaching

Qualitative research, in short, is a research method that focuses on findings that reflect on the complexity of a problem or issue and do not provide statistical or quantifiable information, but – instead – answer the initial research questions of the study. Qualitative research attempts to answer the questions: “what?” and “why?”, while quantitative methods focus on “how many?”.

Methods of Qualitative Research

There are different methods that researchers can apply to conduct qualitative studies and answer the research questions. Some of them are listed below.

  1. Direct observation

This method takes into consideration the environment and setting, however, the researcher’s bias might affect the reliability of the information gained.

  1. Participant observation

This approach requires the researcher to take part in the activities of the group researched and participate in their routines. This method allows a deeper understanding of the issues faced by the group, but can be costly and lengthy.

  1. Qualitative interviews

There are three main types of interviews used by researchers:

  • Informal
  • Semi-structured
  • Open-ended

This approach allows the researcher to take into consideration the individual differences of participants and tailor the questions to their profile. The main disadvantage of qualitative interviews is  that the results are hard to analyse.

  1. Focus groups

This data collection method is often used to predict attitudes of groups towards an issue or product

  1. Action research

This collaborative method allows the author of the study to manipulate the situation and measure the outcomes, while designing interventions for improvement.

  1. Case studies

This method is usually applied when a researcher is focusing on one organisation, group, or institution and provides an in-depth analysis of phenomena based on the research question.

When to Apply Qualitative Research

Qualitiative research can be used when the author would like to test a hypothesis, understand the attitude of individuals or groups towards a service or product, try to develop interventions, meet the needs of a certain consumer or peer group, or capture the language used by the participants.

Presenting the Results of Qualitative Research

The main goal of presenting the results of the qualitative study is to answer the research questions. Therefore, the interview questions observation strategies need to be built around the research aims and objectives.

When presenting the qualitative research results, the author needs to focus on answering the questions and identifying trends. As an example, when researching people’s attitudes towards a new health care service interviewed, the most important emerging themes that were mentioned by participants need to be listed and discussed in the context of the literature.

To successfully present the results of the study in qualitative research, you need to:

  • Read the answers or transcripts closely
  • Use sequential text interpretation
  • Take into consideration individual differences and the impact of the setting
  • To identify trends, you might need to use coding that captures the essence of the content

Structure of a Qualitative Study

The best way of designing a qualitative research method is to use a research protocol. This will help create a methodology that is fit for the purpose of the study. The main parts of the research protocol are:

  • Aims and objectives
  • Background of the study
  • Methods
  • Ethical issues
  • Resources needed to conduct the research
  • Timescale for the research
  • Dissemination plan / output

Once the qualitative research protocol is drawn up, you need to get it approved by the supervisor before the study can take place.

When structuring the final research paper, you need to have the following sections:

  1. Title

Using the keywords that represent the purpose of the study, you need to create a title that sums up the content.

  1. Abstract

Write the abstract after the paper is finished, to summarise the content

  1. Background and Context

List the information on the topic available through theories and recent research studies, and signify the importance of carrying out the research

  1. Design and Methodology

Provide the research questions, setting, research methods, epistemological commitments, and the data analysis methods

  1. Findings

Present the results of the study in a structured, logical format, focusing on the research questions

  1. Discussion and Conclusion

Reflect back to the research questions and literature research, to present how the results can be interpreted and used to make improvements in your field.

Do You Need Help Conducting Qualitative Research?

If you already have an idea of what you would like to research, and need help with developing your research questions, protocol, timeline, or choose the right research methodology for your study, you can get in touch with our friendly team at WritePass who will assist you with your research or dissertation.

Alternatively, you can submit your question online and our professional writers will discuss your options and provide personalised answers based on your research topic and field of study.

Related Articles:

  1. Different Research Methods Used in the Aviation Industry
  2. A Critical Discussion of research methods and approaches
  3. Dissertation – Different Research Strategies you can use in your dissertation
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