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What is Qualitative Research?

A few years ago, I was contacted by a Senior Editor from Routledge (which is one of the biggest academic publishing companies in the world) to see whether I was interested in publishing a book on qualitative analysis. She said, “Hi Philip, I watched your wonderful qualitative presentation on YouTube. Are you interested in publishing a book on qualitative analysis?”

I was so excited to read her email but before I responded, I switched into a ‘research’ mode - asking myself ‘what problem would the book address?’, ‘who will be my audience and what are their needs in relation to analyzing qualitative analysis?’

After being satisfied with the answers I had, I responded– saying yes to the offer of working on a qualitative book.

Why am I telling you this? As we go through our daily lives, we are presented with issues that may cause us to switch on our ‘research’ mode – the act of finding out what the problem is and figuring out how to address the problem by sourcing your knowledge bank and/or looking for information.

Similarly, research is all about systematically looking for information and analyzing them to help address the questions or problem you have identified. Problems related to topics such as climate change, discrimination, gamification, war, and experience of trauma.

Then what makes research qualitative in nature? If the focus is to study a phenomenon by collecting non-numeric data to help address the problem or research question, then it is a qualitative study. Here are some of the features that are uniquely associated with qualitative research:

  • The purpose statement depicts the researchers’ plan to describe, explore, explain, examine, understand, or explain what is being studied

  • The research question is open-ended in nature such as ‘what is the experience of waiting in a queue to purchase a new phone?’

  • Data to be collected are non-numeric in nature such as audio, video, text, documents, and artifacts

As qualitative researchers continue to conduct research, they are solving complex problems and contributing to the body of knowledge which could lead to the development of a theory.

These theories could then be used by quantitative researchers to generate and test hypotheses.

If you want to learn more about qualitative research, please contact me. I’d be happy to help.

Philip Adu, Ph.D.

Founder & Methodology Expert

Center for Research Methods Consulting, LLC


Twitter: @drphilipadu

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