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OTA 235: How to Find Qualitative and Quantitative studies: Qualitative Research

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research attempts to proved a rich, descriptive account of the same psychological and behavioral phenomena, via analysis of textual accounts, either written or spoken, in order to produce detailed narrative reports. Qualitative research accepts the subject nature inherent in using a qualitative approach. 

Qualitative research uses non-numerical evidence, usually examined in its raw form.  It is used when a research wants to understand people's opinions, idiosyncratic responses to an event, motivations, ro underlying reasons for actions or decisions.

For example, a research might interview the survivors of a mass shooting event in order to gather the range of emotional responses.

Common Qualitative Research Methods

Magnifying Glass

Observational Studies

The researchers record data by studying participants at a distance. Researchers try not to influence the participants or their actions.

Types of observational studies include: Naturalistic Observation, Participant Observation, and Ethnography.


Case Studies

The researcher will collect and write detailed accounts of individual lives. A case study can combine a few research approaches, including interviews, observational data, and archival data.

Sigmund Freud famously used the case study method with a series of individuals who he treated in a clinical setting. These included the cases of "Little Dora," the "Rat Man," the "Wolf Man," and others.


Strengths and Weaknesses

Low constraints of tradition or method
Grounded hypotheses
Contextualized hypotheses

Non-normative focus

Poor internal reliability
Weak decisiveness
Poor generalizability
Rarely integrated
Seems easy
Seems harmless


The Difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research

  Qualitative Research Quantitative Research
Question Interest Hypothesis
Method Curiosity and reflexivity Control and randomization
Data Collection Viewpoint Response
Outcome Accounts Dependent variable
Data Textual Numerical
Sample size Small (saturation) Large (power)
Context Highlighted Eliminated
Analysis Synthesis Rejection of null