You Can’t Conduct Qualitative Research Without These 3 Tools

Those that understand qualitative research are aware of this simple fact:  Sometimes in life, it’s just a better idea to talk to someone than just to study. Data analysis techniques might be specialized and quantitative research might be cutting edge and well-written, but one of the best methods of analysis seems to be the most old-fashioned:  Asking someone what you want to know. While it’s something that is gaining popularity, it’s still one that few people understand how to get right. Thankfully, there are three qualitative research tools to help you really dig into the “whys” behind this issue.

Qualitative Research:  A Definition

If you’re new on the subject or just unsure about what really qualifies as qualitative research, you might be confused. When asked, some people will respond that it is “a conversation”. Others will give more complicated answers that provide data in a non-numerical format. Simply put, it’s a mixture of both. It’s a method of learning information by directly asking and discussing it with the subject, rather than looking at numerical data. Many people find that it is more custom fit for people and gets more in-depth information for whatever report one is writing.

Times to Use Qualitative Research

So, when do you actually use this tool? There are two times in which it’s the better option, though sometimes it breaks through the mold. The first is when you need more details on whatever it is that you’re studying. Sometimes the best way is to ask those who are living with the situation first-hand. The second is when you need to narrow something down in your research. It helps to pare things down until you get to the information that you needed all along.

Tool 1:  Focus Groups

Almost everyone at one point or another has heard of focus groups. They’re frequently on the news, in magazines, and in everyday conversation. But few know that they’re a top-notch tool for getting qualitative data. Here, one interviewer talks to a larger group of people, who usually come from a similar pool or background. You should have no less than three people included if you plan to conduct one. More than twelve participants makes it more difficult and can make things too complicated for еру most practical uses. Those involved also have to be aware of this:  Expect to write more information for participants than points for scientific papers.

Focus groups are a handy tool, though. With them, you can learn a great deal about the impacts on a certain group or the beliefs of the said group. It also makes it easier to find the appropriate people to talk to. Using the example of the ethics of being able to pay for research paper help, the best group to ask would likely be college students, since they have the most to do with it. A group of unskilled laborers, however, likely wouldn’t have much to say on the topic of whether someone should pay for a research paper or not.

Tool 2:  Observation

Sometimes, the best way to learn about something (or someone) is to just watch them. While this might seem like an advocation for stalking (it’s not), it’s true when it comes to the second tool on this list. The act of observation can show you more than you would learn through an actual spoken dialogue. After all, as the saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” That’s very true when it comes to qualitative research, and the reason that this tool is indispensable.

There are two main types of observations:  Overt and covert. The difference basically boils down to one question:  Do they know that you’re watching them? Watching an unknown subject is called covert observation. In fact, to be successful, people can’t be informed. This can sometimes falls into an ethical area, but produces the truest results. If people are aware of it, then it is an overt observation. You might not see the behavior that is completely genuine, but there is no question of its ethics.

Tool 3:  Interviews

And, just like that, we’re back to conversations again. But these aren’t just normal conversations like you would have with a friend or a stranger in a coffee shop. Here, it is going to involve a lot of previous research, some light structuring, and about an hour of your time. While some people might consider doing one of these online or over the phone that’s not a good idea. The best interviews happen when you’re looking someone in the eye, and the same is true here.

What are interviews best at? Anything requiring discretion or detail. While focus groups and observation can work for more general behavior and information, anything in-depth is going to need to be done with a one-on-one interview. Sensitive topics are especially likely to involve interviews of this type, since a person is more willing to discuss it freely with one person than before a group of people.

Qualitative research is a massively powerful thing when it comes to understanding people and situations. No matter what you’re studying, it can become useful. These three tools are the core of this type of research, covering almost all of the bases and helping to gather the best information. You simply can’t research without them.

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