Qualitative research is a method for conducting a study that focuses on participants’ attitudes and behaviors rather than objective data. As a result, this style of research can provide valuable insight into a topic and enable scholars to consider problems from a new perspective. While there may be a general belief that qualitative research is easier than a quantitative method of inquiry, this is not entirely true. Although qualitative methods often require fewer resources and can be conducted in non-controlled settings, it is necessary to take many aspects into account to improve the quality and reliability of a qualitative study and its outcomes. This guide will provide information about using the qualitative research method to help you produce a high-quality study that will display your research skills and expertise.
Prepare a Research Question
The first task before starting your qualitative research is to construct an appropriate research question. This research method deals with variables that cannot be quantified or measured, and the research question needs to reflect this reality. For example, you might choose to investigate attitudes regarding a particular issue as one variable in your study. In addition, you would be wise to consider the following qualities of a research question:
- Clarity. Choosing a research question that is too general or broad will make research more difficult to conduct successfully.
- Complexity. Ideally, a research question should include at least two variables. Include more focus areas if desired, but make sure that the scope of research is manageable and that you can study the chosen variables using qualitative methods.
- Relevance to a particular subject area. In order to earn excellent marks on a research paper, it is critical to choose a topic related to the subject that will enable you to achieve the course objectives or learning outcomes.
- Applicability to practice. To ensure meaningful research, choose a research question that relates to a particular practice issue.
Perform a Literature Review
A thorough literature review is a prerequisite of a successful study. It provides insight into what other authors have found in their inquiries as well as errors, gaps, and limitations that could affect your research. Keep in mind a few important rules for writing an excellent literature review:
- Include reputable academic publications. These can be found in peer-reviewed research journals and conference proceedings.
- Identify common themes or problems. Reading through the material will allow you to explore the topic and improve the quality of your future study.
- Note the methods that other authors have used to research similar topics. The inquiry methods of experienced researchers might become the foundation of your methodology.
- Include reference information. Even when simply making notes, cite where you found the information to reduce the chances of accidentally plagiarizing someone’s work.
Select a Qualitative Methodology
Once you complete a literature review, you should have an idea of a qualitative methodology that you can apply in answering your research question. Some examples of methodologies used in qualitative inquiries are:
- Grounded theory: collecting and synthesizing information from previous research studies or participants’ answers
- Action research: conducting a study as a part of professional practice to solve an issue or improve operations
- Ethnography: observing people without interfering with their activities or social environment
- Phenomenology: studying a particular event or problem experienced by others
The choice of a specific methodology depends on the features of your study, the research question, and the available resources. For example, ethnography relies on observing uncontrolled behavior and thus involves the least expense compared to other research methodologies. Action research also requires few resources but is not suitable for all practice settings. Therefore, it is strongly advised that you read more about each qualitative methodology before making your selection.
Choose a Data Collection Method
Another significant part of planning a qualitative research study is choosing the correct data collection method. In qualitative studies, data collection methods may include secondary research, observations, and interviews. Once again, the choice of the appropriate data collection tool depends on the nature of your research. To check if a particular approach to data collection suits your needs, consider the following questions:
- Will this data collection method allow you to answer the research question?
- Are there any constraints involved in the chosen methods? For instance, interviews might take more time than other tools and will probably require financial investment to attract more participants.
- Was this method used in other studies on your chosen topic?
- Do you need additional resources, such as equipment or staff, to apply this method?
Answering these questions will help you to ensure that your chosen data collection tool will be beneficial to your research and will yield optimal results.
Analyze the Data Collected
The final and most crucial part of qualitative research is data analysis. It is crucial to make sure that your approach to data analysis is correct to avoid errors and false conclusions. The three main methods of analyzing qualitative data are described below:
- Coding is typically used in conjunction with grounded theory methodology. This approach involves analyzing information to discern the presence of pre-defined codes. For example, if you are studying the influence of social media on self-esteem, your terms for coding might include “poor body image,” “social anxiety,” “depression,” and other concepts related to your research question.
- Content analysis is probably the easiest approach to data analysis in qualitative research. This method involves looking at texts, such as interview transcripts, to uncover underlying themes and meanings. The content analysis approach lends itself to identifying patterns that define relationships between two or more different concepts or variables.
- Narrative analysis. In this data analysis methodology, researchers focus on analyzing each piece of information in detail to determine how the participants’ attitudes or behaviors were influenced by their life circumstances, socioeconomic or political situation, or other relevant factors. A narrative analysis also considers the participants’ speech patterns, an essential component in studying a particular group with distinctive linguistic characteristics.
Whichever data analysis approach you may choose, try to obtain as much information as you can about its application in practice. Guidelines and books on qualitative data analysis will provide you with all the information necessary to successfully analyze the data you’ve collected. You can familiarize yourself with the examples of qualitative research essays here.
Prepare a Report
Finally, once you have analyzed all the available data and arrived at a conclusion, it’s time to produce the research report. This work will usually include six sections: introduction, literature review, methodology, results, discussion, and conclusion. Optionally, you might also add a section on the limitations of your study and outline suggestions for future research on the topic. Make sure that your report is structured correctly, includes all the references used, and contains no stylistic, logical, or grammatical errors.
In all, conducting a qualitative study requires considerable work. It is essential to plan your research carefully and explore all appropriate options in terms of methodologies, data collection, and analysis tools. The recommendations in this guide will assist you throughout all stages of your research. Most importantly, staying focused on the research question and the goals of the study will help you to write a high-quality research paper and impress your instructor.