How to Do Qualitative Research: 8 Steps

Table of contents:

How to Do Qualitative Research: 8 Steps
How to Do Qualitative Research: 8 Steps

Qualitative research is a broad field of research that employs unstructured data collection methods, such as observations, interviews, surveys, and papers, in order to find themes and meanings to expand our understanding of the world. Qualitative research tends to try to reveal the reasons for behaviors, attitudes, and motivations rather than just the details of the what, where, and when. It can be used in many disciplines, such as the social sciences, healthcare, and business, and is a common function in almost all workplaces and educational settings.


Part 1 of 2: Prepare the Investigation

Do Qualitative Research Step 1
Do Qualitative Research Step 1

Step 1. Decide on a question you want to study

A good research question should be clear, specific, and manageable. To conduct qualitative research, your question must explore the reasons why people do things or believe in something.

  • The research question is one of the most important parts of your research design. It allows you to determine what you want to learn or understand and also helps to focus the study, since it is not possible to investigate everything at once. Your research question will also shape the way you conduct the study because different questions will require different research methods.
  • Find the balance between an interesting question and a researchable question. The first is something you really want to know and is often very broad. The second is one that you can research directly through the research methods and tools at your disposal.
  • You should start with an interesting question, then narrow it down further and make it manageable enough to research it effectively. For example, a question like "What is the meaning of teaching work for teachers?" It is too broad for a single investigation, but if that is what interests you, you could narrow it down by limiting the type of teacher or by focusing on one level of education. For example "What is the meaning of teaching work for those who teach as a second profession?" or "What is the meaning of teaching work for elementary school teachers?"
Do Qualitative Research Step 2
Do Qualitative Research Step 2

Step 2. Conduct a literary review

A literary review is a process of studying what others have written about your particular research question and topic. You should read widely in a larger field and examine the studies that relate to your topic. You will then need to produce an analytical report that synthesizes and integrates existing research (rather than simply presenting a brief summary of each study in chronological order). In other words, you will have to "investigate what has been investigated."

  • For example, if your research question focuses on how people whose second profession is teaching attribute meaning to their work, you may want to examine the literature related to this type of field. What motivates people to choose teaching as a second profession? How many teachers are in this situation? Where do most of these professionals work? Performing this reading and review of the existing literature will allow you to refine your question and give you the basis you need for your research. It will also give you an idea of the variables that could affect your research (eg age, gender, class, etc.) and that you will need to take into account in your own study.
  • A literary review will also help you determine if you are genuinely interested and engaged with the research topic and question, and if there are any gaps in the existing research that you could fill in by conducting your own.
Do Qualitative Research Step 3
Do Qualitative Research Step 3

Step 3. Evaluate if qualitative research is appropriate for your research question

Qualitative methods are useful when it is not possible to answer a question with a simple affirmative or negative hypothesis. Qualitative research is often especially helpful in answering "how" or "what" questions. They are also useful when budget decisions need to be taken into account.

For example, if your research question is “What is the meaning of teaching work for teachers who choose teaching as a second profession? It is not a question that can be answered with a“yes”or a“no”. Nor is there likely to be a single global answer. This means that qualitative research is the best choice

Do Qualitative Research Step 4
Do Qualitative Research Step 4

Step 4. Consider the ideal sample size

Qualitative research methods do not rely as heavily on large samples as quantitative methods do, but they can still provide important insights and findings. For example, because it is unlikely that you will have the funds to study all those who teach as a second profession throughout your country, you may need to narrow your study to a major urban area (such as the capital) or to schools that They are within a 200 km radius of where you live.

  • Consider the possible outcomes. Because qualitative methodologies are generally very broad, there will almost always be the possibility that some useful data will be derived from research. This is different from a quantitative experiment, where an unverified hypothesis can mean a great deal of wasted time.
  • You should also take into account your research budget and available financial sources. Qualitative research is often much cheaper and easier to plan and execute. For example, it is generally easier and less expensive to gather a small group of people for interviews than to buy a computer program that does statistical analysis and hire the right professionals for the job.
Do Qualitative Research Step 5
Do Qualitative Research Step 5

Step 5. Opt for a qualitative research methodology

Qualitative research design is the most flexible of all experimental techniques, so there are a number of accepted methodologies at your disposal.

  • Action research: action research focuses on solving an immediate problem or working with others to solve problems and address particular issues.
  • Ethnography: Ethnography is the study of human interaction and communities through participation and direct observation within the community you wish to study. Ethnographic research comes from the discipline of social and cultural anthropology, but is now being used more widely.
  • Phenomenology: phenomenology is the study of the subjective experiences of others. Investigate the world through someone else's eyes by discovering how they interpret their experiences.
  • Grounded Theory: The purpose of grounded theory is to develop the theory based on data collected and systematically analyzed. Observe specific information, and extract theories and reasons for the phenomena.
  • Case Study Research: This qualitative study method represents an in-depth study of a specific person or phenomenon within its existing context.

Part 2 of 2: Collect and Analyze the Data

Do Qualitative Research Step 6
Do Qualitative Research Step 6

Step 1. Collect the data

Each of the methodologies has one or more techniques to collect empirical data, among which are interviews, participant observation, field work, archival research, documentary materials, etc. The form of data collection will depend on the research methodology. For example, case study research is generally based on interviews and documentary materials, while ethnographic research requires considerable field work.

  • Direct Observation: Direct observation of a situation or your research subjects can occur through the playback of videotapes or through live observation. In direct observation, you make specific observations of a situation without influencing or participating in any way. For example, you might want to see how those who have teaching as a second profession carry out their routines in and out of a classroom, so you decide to observe them for a few days, making sure to obtain the necessary permission from the school, students and the teacher, and taking detailed notes along the way.
  • Participant observation: participant observation is the immersion of the researcher in the community or situation that is the object of study. This form of data collection tends to be slower, as you need to fully participate in the community in order to know if your observations are valid.
  • Interviews: The qualitative interview is basically the process of collecting data by asking questions of people. This method can be very flexible, as it can be in person, but it can also be done over the phone or the Internet, or even in small groups called “focus groups”. There are also different types of interviews. Structured interviews use preset questions, while unstructured interviews are freer conversations where the interviewer can probe and explore issues as they arise. Interviews are particularly useful if you want to know how people feel or how they react to something. For example, it would be very useful to sit down with those who choose teaching as a second profession within a structured interview or not in order to obtain information about how they represent and think about their careers as teachers.
  • Surveys: Written questionnaires and open-ended surveys about ideas, perceptions, and thoughts are another way you can collect information for your qualitative research. For example, in your study of school teachers who choose teaching as their second profession, you may want to decide to conduct an anonymous survey of 100 teachers in the area because you are concerned that they may be less candid in an interview than in an interview. a survey where your identity remains anonymous.
  • Documentary analysis: this method involves examining written, visual and audio documents that exist without the participation or instigation of the researcher. There are many different types of documents including "official" produced by institutions and personal documents, such as letters, autobiographies, diaries and, in the 21st century, social media accounts and online blogs.. For example, if your study is based on education, institutions such as public schools produce many different types of documents, among which you can find reports, brochures, manuals, websites, study programs, etc. You may also be able to see if a teacher has an online group or blog. In document analysis it can often be useful if used in conjunction with another method, such as the interview.
Do Qualitative Research Step 7
Do Qualitative Research Step 7

Step 2. Analyze the data

Once you have collected the data, you can begin to analyze it and determine the answers and theories for your research question. While there are a number of ways to analyze data, all analysis models in quantitative research deal with textual analysis, whether written or verbal.

  • Encoding: In encoding, you assign a word, phrase, or number to each category. Start with a pre-established list of codes that you derive from your prior knowledge of the subject. For example, “financial matters” or “community involvement” could be two codes that you might come up with after you've done your literary review about teachers whose second profession is teaching. Then you go through all the data in a systematic way and “code” the ideas, concepts and themes as they fit into the categories. You will also develop another set of codes that arise from reading and analyzing the data. For example, while coding the interviews, you might notice that the word “divorce” comes up frequently. You can add a code for it. Coding will help you organize your data and identify patterns and similarities.
  • Descriptive statistics: you can analyze your data by using statistics. Descriptive statistics will help you describe, display, or summarize your data to highlight patterns. For example, if you had 100 top teacher evaluations, you could focus your attention on the overall performance of those students. Descriptive statistics will allow you to do so. However, keep in mind that it is not possible to use it to make conclusions and confirm or refute hypotheses.
  • Narrative analysis: Narrative analysis focuses on discourse and content, such as grammar, use of words, metaphors, story themes, meanings of situations, and the social, cultural, and political context of the narrative.
  • Hermeneutical Analysis: Hermeneutical analysis focuses on the meaning of a written or oral text. Basically, you try to make sense of the object of study and reveal some kind of underlying coherence.
  • Content analysis or semiotic analysis: Content or semiotic analysis takes a look at texts or series of texts and looks for themes and meanings by looking at the frequencies with which words are repeated. In other words, you try to identify designated structures and regularities in verbal or written text and then make inferences based on those regularities. For example, you may find the same words or phrases like "second chance" or "make a difference" that come up in different interviews with teachers who choose teaching as a second profession, and decide to explore what that frequency might mean.
Do Qualitative Research Step 8
Do Qualitative Research Step 8

Step 3. Write a report with your research

When preparing a report about your qualitative research, consider your intended audience and also the format guidelines of the research journal to which you want to present your research. You will want to ensure that your objective for the research question is compelling and that you explain your research methodology and analysis in detail.

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