Qualitative research is one of the techniques used to gather and analyze data. It can be applied both in the scientific field and regarding business (e.g., market research can be performed using a qualitative approach). It can be useful when trying to gain a general understanding of an issue. Corbin and Strauss (2014) describe it as “interpretive, very dynamic, free-flowing process” (p. 10). It can be used to get insight into the aspects of issues that are difficult to analyze with numbers, such as human behavior. It essential to understand the purpose and methods that qualitative research implies to be able to utilize it successfully.
Qualitative research can help one understand people’s feelings and thoughts. Sutton and Austin (2015) state, “qualitative study seeks to convey why people have thoughts and feelings that might affect the way they behave” (p. 228). Additionally, such research does not aim to generalize the findings from small test groups to a broader population.
There are specific factors that distinguish qualitative research from quantitative research. Qualitative research can be described as subjective, while quantitative methods are objective. Quantitative research aims to focus on gathering data that can be calculated (specific numbers) or factual information (Cooper & Schindler, 2014). Unlike qualitative techniques, the qualitative approach focuses on utilizing statistics, logic, and mathematics to analyze the data. Corbin and Strauss (2015) state that the research method does not have a distinct structure or a specific approach to the result analysis. It can be argued that the qualitative approach is less precise and is subjected to personal bias from the researcher. Thus, the main difference between the two methods is the approach they use in gathering and analyzing the collected data.
The qualitative approach utilizes specific methods to carry out research. The examples of qualitative techniques are focus groups and in-depth interviews. (Cooper & Schindler, 2014). Focus groups involve placing the subject of the research in a specific situation that should simulate the real-life experience. The technique is useful as it allows the researcher to observe the actions of the test subjects, which can be more productive than questioning them on the topic of interest. Thus, the strengths of the method are that it is a more objective approach than interviews. The weakness is that it is not helpful in gathering quantitative data.
The interview is a widely used and easy to arrange technique. It involves questioning the subjects in an unstructured manner about their opinion on the issue. The interviews are performed on the one to one bases (Cooper & Schindler, 2014). Unlike focus groups, the method is subjected to bias form the respondents and the interviewer. In addition, the amount of data collected is typically significant, making it difficult to analyze the outcomes in a short period of time. However, the method has a lot of strengths, as in cases when the interviewer has established good contact with the subject, personal matters can be discussed and the researcher can get a lot of information. An example of utilizing qualitative research can be a study on the attitude of subjects towards different brands. The research can use both interviews (asking questions about different brands) and focus groups (observing what brands people choose). Overall, it is critical to understand the specific factors that involve performing qualitative research to be able to gather information that could be used further.
Cooper, D. R., & Schindler, P. (2014). Business research methods. (12th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw–Hill.
Corbin, J., & Strauss, A. (2015). Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Sutton, J., & Austin, Z. (2015). Qualitative Research: Data Collection, Analysis, and Management. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 68(3), 226–231.