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A Full Guide to Qualitative Research

two women talking

Every student faces two types of research through their study years. If you haven’t checked our guide to quantitative research yet, you definitely should as we cover a lot of important points there. Now, let’s find out what qualitative research is, how it differs from quantitative research, and how to implement one to use the results for your academic work.

Definition

Qualitative research is the process of collection descriptive data through conversing, questioning, and observing. While quantitative research aims to get numerical data, qualitative research focuses on the data that characterizes particular phenomena, behavior, objects, and events. It can’t be measured but can provide useful insights and a foundation for quantitative research.

Qualitative research is often used in various sociology and psychology studies as it can help understand the behavior and preferences of particular groups of people. It’s also commonly used in marketing management to determine what marketing strategies a business should implement to draw the attention of their target audience.

Characteristics

Qualitative research has particular specifics that one should consider when deciding on what type of research to use for their study:

  1. Qualitative research requires gathering lots of data from various sources in order to get the most reliable results. That’s why it might be time-consuming. However, if you need to conduct research for your paper, you can surely turn to a professional team that will nail it.
  2. The data needed for research should often be collected at sight. For example, if researchers want to learn more about the nature of nightmares, they should work with people who are experiencing them at the moment and not used to in the past. That means that sometimes searching for the right group of participants might be challenging.
  3. The complex problems that a researcher wants to solve should be broken into smaller segments in order to make it possible to explore the problem, its cause, and its effects.

Data Gathering Methods

There are a few types of qualitative research methods that one can use for their studies.

Interviews

Interviews (often one-on-one type) are one of the most common methods of qualitative research that are used for various studies. Interviews are usually held in order to get an opinion from a group of participants but without their communication with each other. Such interviews are preferred in psychology studies as they allow to avoid biases and gather precise data that is not affected by the answers of other participants.

Interviews can be conducted not only face-to-face but also by phone or video calls. This method has a particular advantage: a researcher can control the process and choose the questions to ask according to the previous answer. This is what differs this method from written questionnaires or surveys with a specific set of questions where a personalized approach can’t be applied.

Observation

If the researchers want to collect information from the participants without changing their natural setting, the method of observation is applied. It is a process of collecting data by observing and through involvement in the activities led by the participants themselves. In other words, when observing, researchers can make conclusions about the setting and behavior of the participants without intruding in their lives.

Observations are important as they allow gathering the data that wouldn’t be that reliable if asked in an interview. Many people might not give the answer to a particular question, but their behavior in their natural setting will provide such an answer to the researchers.

Focus groups

The group of participants that is used to explore and study a phenomenon is called a focus group. Research that uses such a method aims to collect information from a particular group of people that might (or might not) share some common qualities.

Often, focus groups are gathered to have group discussions and therefore determine similarities and correlations. It’s important to create the right environment for such discussions in order to gather truthful and reliable data.

Criticism

Though qualitative research methods are frequently used in various studies and researches, there are particular characteristics that should be paid attention to.

Reliability

As qualitative data is commonly collected from the information that participants give themselves, it’s hard to call it totally reliable. Such research should always consider possible biases and deviations as it’s hard to sort and test this information.

Some participants might not give honest answers or try to give the answers that are expected or requested. Other participants might be not aware of their biases due to various circumstances and even the presence of researchers themselves. So, it’s one of the main issues that one might face when conducting qualitative research.

Analysis

Another difficulty that many researchers face is the step after the collection of the data – the data analysis. Unlike the quantitative research that deals with raw numbers, the qualitative data is much more diverse, thus it is hard to analyze it and interpret it appropriately and stay unbiased.

The same data can be interpreted differently depending on the aims of the research, experience of the researcher, instruments used, etc. That’s why it’s so important to combine various methods of research in order to collect as much data as possible and use different methods of analysis.

Wrapping Up

So, this was our guide to qualitative research. We hope you find it useful for your studies. Remember that the combination of various research types and methods usually get the most reliable results. It requires time and effort, but if done right, such researches can give very useful insights and even provide a fresh look at the problem.

A Full Guide to Quantitative Research

a book and a notebook on the table

When talking about researching and data collection processes, it’s hard not to mention the two major categories of research – quantitative and qualitative. Some students might feel frustrated about these two types and not really understand what they are and how to use them in their papers. So, we have prepared a complete guide that will tell you everything that you should know to conduct in-depth research for your academic works.

Definition

Quantitative research is the process of gathering various numerical data in order to study some phenomenon or case. This raw data is later transformed into graphs and tables, proceeded, and analyzed. It commonly uses measurable data to test theories and assumptions, discover patterns, and formulate facts.

Quantitative research is commonly transformed into statistics that later can be combined with qualitative research results in order to develop ideas and hypotheses.

Methods

There are four types of quantitative research methods that are commonly used in various studies:

  • Experimental research
  • Correlational research
  • Causal-comparative research
  • Descriptive research

Our experts conduct each and every type of research that is needed. So, if you feel overwhelmed, you can always turn to our team for help. And now, let’s find out what are the specifics of methods that are used in quantitative research.

Experimental research

Experimental research is a quantitative method that aims to prove or disprove a hypothesis (in some cases, a number of hypotheses). It is one of the most common research methods in science (commonly natural sciences, such as biology or physics) and establishes the causes and effects of various phenomena. Every student faces experimental research in the lab during their science classes, so it’s easy to understand the specifics, such as the combination of practical and theoretical knowledge, the variety of possible outcomes, etc.

There are three types of experimental research design:

  • Pre-experimental research design – is a design where an experimental group (or a number of groups) is observed and studied without comparing it to a control group. It is named so due to its main purpose – to define if the further study should be done.
  • Quasi-experimental research design – is a design that implies selecting groups without any random assignment or pre-selection process.
  • True experimental research design – is a design where researchers have control over the variabilities and randomized assignment of control and test groups. This is the most accurate type of research design.

Correlational research

Correlational research is a method that aims to define correlation and relationships between two or more variables. For example, there might be a correlation between such things as carpets and allergies, where these variables are measured between -1 and +1. If the correlation coefficient is close to 1, it tells us that there is a positive correlation – carpets cause allergies. It’s not an absolute fact, and it doesn’t mean that every carpet owner will have an allergy. It just means that it is more likely with people who live with carpets in their homes to have allergies.

Causal-comparative research

Causal-comparative research aims to find correlations and causative relations; however, unlike correlational research, it studies dependent and independent variables. Mainly it studies how focus groups change under the influence of variables, or in other words, how an independent variable affects dependent variables.

Descriptive research

Descriptive research is a method that studies the objects or phenomena from a descriptive point of view. In other words, it aims to collect quantifiable data about the object of the study in order to later use it for statistics and further analysis. Descriptive research deals with independent variables – thus none of them can be manipulated.

The data obtained in the process of descriptive research can be used for cross-sectional studies, comparison, patterns discovery, etc. The most common descriptive research method is an observation that aims to collect numerical data based on the observations. For example, researchers can collect information about their focus group such as their height and weight, age, income, etc.

The other way to collect information for descriptive research is to use surveys and case studies, which are also highly effective.

Strengths

When deciding what data collection method or approach to choose, it’s important to consider the strength and limitations of each of the options. Here are the specifics of quantitative research that might be beneficial for your study.

High reliability

The main specific, which is also the main advantage, is that quantitative research results are objective and unbiased (if the research was done right) and logical and statistical, thus are highly reliable.

Speed

Quantitative research is also faster to conduct as there is no such information that needs to be interpreted or evaluated, so the results are faster and easier to analyze. For example, if the surveys are conducted, the respondents don’t need to explain their choice or fill out open-ended questions, so there will be no extra work besides calculating and putting the data together into tables or statistics.

Generalization

Quantitative research can interpret the results received from a target group (or the group of research) and apply them to a larger group, making generalized conclusions.

Limitations

There are also limitations to pay attention to, especially, if you are going to use quantitative research in the process of writing a research paper.

Context

When dealing with raw numbers (which is what quantitative research does), it’s hard to understand the context of the phenomenon which is studied. It limits the outcomes which might not properly represent the phenomenon but generalize it instead.

Resources

Researchers don’t always have access to the proper sources of data they need. The lack of resources might be the reason why results are biased and inaccurate.

Generally, quantitative research should be supported by qualitative research also as they create a wonderful combination that allows examining and studying complex objects while staying unbiased in the conclusions.

So, this was our guide on quantitative research. We hope that you find it useful for your studies!