23 Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research

Investigating methodologies. Taking a closer look at ethnographic, anthropological, or naturalistic techniques. Data mining through observer recordings. This is what the world of qualitative research is all about. It is the comprehensive and complete data that is collected by having the courage to ask an open-ended question.

Print media has used the principles of qualitative research for generations. Now more industries are seeing the advantages that come from the extra data that is received by asking more than a “yes” or “no” question.

The advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research are quite unique. On one hand, you have the perspective of the data that is being collected. On the other hand, you have the techniques of the data collector and their own unique observations that can alter the information in subtle ways.

That’s why these key points are so important to consider.

What Are the Advantages of Qualitative Research?

1. Subject materials can be evaluated with greater detail. There are many time restrictions that are placed on research methods. The goal of a time restriction is to create a measurable outcome so that metrics can be in place. Qualitative research focuses less on the metrics of the data that is being collected and more on the subtleties of what can be found in that information. This allows for the data to have an enhanced level of detail to it, which can provide more opportunities to glean insights from it during examination.

2. Research frameworks can be fluid and based on incoming or available data. Many research opportunities must follow a specific pattern of questioning, data collection, and information reporting. Qualitative research offers a different approach. It can adapt to the quality of information that is being gathered. If the available data does not seem to be providing any results, the research can immediately shift gears and seek to gather data in a new direction. This offers more opportunities to gather important clues about any subject instead of being confined to a limited and often self-fulfilling perspective.

3. Qualitative research data is based on human experiences and observations. Humans have two very different operating systems. One is a subconscious method of operation, which is the fast and instinctual observations that are made when data is present. The other operating system is slower and more methodical, wanting to evaluate all sources of data before deciding. Many forms of research rely on the second operating system while ignoring the instinctual nature of the human mind. Qualitative research doesn’t ignore the gut instinct. It embraces it and the data that can be collected is often better for it.

4. Gathered data has a predictive quality to it. One of the common mistakes that occurs with qualitative research is an assumption that a personal perspective can be extrapolated into a group perspective. This is only possible when individuals grow up in similar circumstances, have similar perspectives about the world, and operate with similar goals. When these groups can be identified, however, the gathered individualistic data can have a predictive quality for those who are in a like-minded group. At the very least, the data has a predictive quality for the individual from whom it was gathered.

5. Qualitative research operates within structures that are fluid. Because the data being gathered through this type of research is based on observations and experiences, an experienced researcher can follow-up interesting answers with additional questions. Unlike other forms of research that require a specific framework with zero deviation, researchers can follow any data tangent which makes itself known and enhance the overall database of information that is being collected.

6. Data complexities can be incorporated into generated conclusions. Although our modern world tends to prefer statistics and verifiable facts, we cannot simply remove the human experience from the equation. Different people will have remarkably different perceptions about any statistic, fact, or event. This is because our unique experiences generate a different perspective of the data that we see. These complexities, when gathered into a singular database, can generate conclusions with more depth and accuracy, which benefits everyone.

7. Qualitative research is an open-ended process. When a researcher is properly prepared, the open-ended structures of qualitative research make it possible to get underneath superficial responses and rational thoughts to gather information from an individual’s emotional response. This is critically important to this form of researcher because it is an emotional response which often drives a person’s decisions or influences their behavior.

8. Creativity becomes a desirable quality within qualitative research. It can be difficult to analyze data that is obtained from individual sources because many people subconsciously answer in a way that they think someone wants. This desire to “please” another reduces the accuracy of the data and suppresses individual creativity. By embracing the qualitative research method, it becomes possible to encourage respondent creativity, allowing people to express themselves with authenticity. In return, the data collected becomes more accurate and can lead to predictable outcomes.

9. Qualitative research can create industry-specific insights. Brands and businesses today need to build relationships with their core demographics to survive. The terminology, vocabulary, and jargon that consumers use when looking at products or services is just as important as the reputation of the brand that is offering them. If consumers are receiving one context, but the intention of the brand is a different context, then the miscommunication can artificially restrict sales opportunities. Qualitative research gives brands access to these insights so they can accurately communicate their value propositions.

10. Smaller sample sizes are used in qualitative research, which can save on costs. Many qualitative research projects can be completed quickly and on a limited budget because they typically use smaller sample sizes that other research methods. This allows for faster results to be obtained so that projects can move forward with confidence that only good data is able to provide.

11. Qualitative research provides more content for creatives and marketing teams. When your job involves marketing, or creating new campaigns that target a specific demographic, then knowing what makes those people can be quite challenging. By going through the qualitative research approach, it becomes possible to congregate authentic ideas that can be used for marketing and other creative purposes. This makes communication between the two parties to be handled with more accuracy, leading to greater level of happiness for all parties involved.

12. Attitude explanations become possible with qualitative research. Consumer patterns can change on a dime sometimes, leaving a brand out in the cold as to what just happened. Qualitative research allows for a greater understanding of consumer attitudes, providing an explanation for events that occur outside of the predictive matrix that was developed through previous research. This allows the optimal brand/consumer relationship to be maintained.

What Are the Disadvantages of Qualitative Research?

1. The quality of the data gathered in qualitative research is highly subjective. This is where the personal nature of data gathering in qualitative research can also be a negative component of the process. What one researcher might feel is important and necessary to gather can be data that another researcher feels is pointless and won’t spend time pursuing it. Having individual perspectives and including instinctual decisions can lead to incredibly detailed data. It can also lead to data that is generalized or even inaccurate because of its reliance on researcher subjectivisms.

2. Data rigidity is more difficult to assess and demonstrate. Because individual perspectives are often the foundation of the data that is gathered in qualitative research, it is more difficult to prove that there is rigidity in the information that is collective. The human mind tends to remember things in the way it wants to remember them. That is why memories are often looked at fondly, even if the actual events that occurred may have been somewhat disturbing at the time. This innate desire to look at the good in things makes it difficult for researchers to demonstrate data validity.

3. Mining data gathered by qualitative research can be time consuming. The number of details that are often collected while performing qualitative research are often overwhelming. Sorting through that data to pull out the key points can be a time-consuming effort. It is also a subjective effort because what one researcher feels is important may not be pulled out by another researcher. Unless there are some standards in place that cannot be overridden, data mining through a massive number of details can almost be more trouble than it is worth in some instances.

4. Qualitative research creates findings that are valuable, but difficult to present. Presenting the findings which come out of qualitative research is a bit like listening to an interview on CNN. The interviewer will ask a question to the interviewee, but the goal is to receive an answer that will help present a database which presents a specific outcome to the viewer. The goal might be to have a viewer watch an interview and think, “That’s terrible. We need to pass a law to change that.” The subjective nature of the information, however, can cause the viewer to think, “That’s wonderful. Let’s keep things the way they are right now.” That is why findings from qualitative research are difficult to present. What a research gleans from the data can be very different from what an outside observer gleans from the data.

5. Data created through qualitative research is not always accepted. Because of the subjective nature of the data that is collected in qualitative research, findings are not always accepted by the scientific community. A second independent qualitative research effort which can produce similar findings is often necessary to begin the process of community acceptance.

6. Researcher influence can have a negative effect on the collected data. The quality of the data that is collected through qualitative research is highly dependent on the skills and observation of the researcher. If a researcher has a biased point of view, then their perspective will be included with the data collected and influence the outcome. There must be controls in place to help remove the potential for bias so the data collected can be reviewed with integrity. Otherwise, it would be possible for a researcher to make any claim and then use their bias through qualitative research to prove their point.

7. Replicating results can be very difficult with qualitative research. The scientific community wants to see results that can be verified and duplicated to accept research as factual. In the world of qualitative research, this can be very difficult to accomplish. Not only do you have the variability of researcher bias for which to account within the data, but there is also the informational bias that is built into the data itself from the provider. This means the scope of data gathering can be extremely limited, even if the structure of gathering information is fluid, because of each unique perspective.

8. Difficult decisions may require repetitive qualitative research periods. The smaller sample sizes of qualitative research may be an advantage, but they can also be a disadvantage for brands and businesses which are facing a difficult or potentially controversial decision. A small sample is not always representative of a larger population demographic, even if there are deep similarities with the individuals involve. This means a follow-up with a larger quantitative sample may be necessary so that data points can be tracked with more accuracy, allowing for a better overall decision to be made.

9. Unseen data can disappear during the qualitative research process. The amount of trust that is placed on the researcher to gather, and then draw together, the unseen data that is offered by a provider is enormous. The research is dependent upon the skill of the researcher being able to connect all the dots. If the researcher can do this, then the data can be meaningful and help brands and progress forward with their mission. If not, there is no way to alter course until after the first results are received. Then a new qualitative process must begin.

10. Researchers must have industry-related expertise. You can have an excellent researcher on-board for a project, but if they are not familiar with the subject matter, they will have a difficult time gathering accurate data. For qualitative research to be accurate, the interviewer involved must have specific skills, experiences, and expertise in the subject matter being studied. They must also be familiar with the material being evaluated and have the knowledge to interpret responses that are received. If any piece of this skill set is missing, the quality of the data being gathered can be open to interpretation.

11. Qualitative research is not statistically representative. The one disadvantage of qualitative research which is always present is its lack of statistical representation. It is a perspective-based method of research only, which means the responses given are not measured. Comparisons can be made and this can lead toward the duplication which may be required, but for the most part, quantitative data is required for circumstances which need statistical representation and that is not part of the qualitative research process.

The advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research make it possible to gather and analyze individualistic data on deeper levels. This makes it possible to gain new insights into consumer thoughts, demographic behavioral patterns, and emotional reasoning processes. When a research can connect the dots of each information point that is gathered, the information can lead to personalized experiences, better value in products and services, and ongoing brand development.

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  • Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res
  • v.20(6); Nov-Dec 2015

Challenges in conducting qualitative research in health: A conceptual paper

Hamidreza khankeh.

1 Department of Health in Disaster and Emergencies and Nursing, University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Tehran, Iran and Department of Clinical Sciences and Education, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden

Maryam Ranjbar

2 Department of Psychology in Institute of Humanities and Social Studies, and Social Determinants of Health Research Center in University of Social Welfare and Rehabilitation, Tehran, Iran

Davoud Khorasani-Zavareh

3 Social Determinants of Health Research Center, Uremia University of Medical Sciences, Uremia, Iran and Department of Clinical Science and Education, Södersjukhuset, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden

Ali Zargham-Boroujeni

4 Nursing and Midwifery Care Research Center, Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Isfahan, Iran

Eva Johansson

5 Department of Public Health Sciences, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden


Qualitative research focuses on social world and provides the tools to study health phenomena from the perspective of those experiencing them. Identifying the problem, forming the question, and selecting an appropriate methodology and design are some of the initial challenges that researchers encounter in the early stages of any research project. These problems are particularly common for novices.

Materials and Methods:

This article describes the practical challenges of using qualitative inquiry in the field of health and the challenges of performing an interpretive research based on professional experience as a qualitative researcher and on available literature.

One of the main topics discussed is the nature of qualitative research, its inherent challenges, and how to overcome them. Some of those highlighted here include: identification of the research problem, formation of the research question/aim, and selecting an appropriate methodology and research design, which are the main concerns of qualitative researchers and need to be handled properly. Insights from real-life experiences in conducting qualitative research in health reveal these issues.


The paper provides personal comments on the experiences of a researcher in conducting pure qualitative research in the field of health. It offers insights into the practical difficulties encountered when performing qualitative studies and offers solutions and alternatives applied by these authors, which may be of use to others.


Health services and health policy research can be based on qualitative research methods, especially when they deal with a rapid change and develop a more fully integrated theory base and research agenda. However, the field must be with the best traditions and techniques of qualitative methods and should distinguish the essentiality of special training and experience in applying these methods.[ 1 ]

Qualitative research methodologies could help improve our understanding of health-related phenomena. Health knowledge must also include interpretive action to maintain scientific quality when research methods are applied. Qualitative and quantitative strategies should be seen as complementary rather than being thought of as incompatible. Although the procedures of interpreting texts are different from those of statistical analysis, due to their different type of data and questions to be answered, the underlying scientific principles are very much the same.[ 2 ]

While working for more than a decade as qualitative designer, Khankeh faced a lot of challenges in conducting qualitative research in the field of health which occupied the mind of other health researchers. Therefore, this article contributes to the discussion of challenges related to qualitative research in healthcare in the light of personal experiences of a researcher conducting purely qualitative health research.


Qualitative research methods involve systematic collection, organizing, and interpretation of material in textual form derived from talk or observations. They are useful to explore the meanings of social phenomena as experienced by individuals in their natural context. The health community still looks at qualitative research with skepticism and accuses it for the subjective nature and absence of facts. Scientific standards, criteria and checklists do exist and the adequacy of guidelines has been vigorously debated within this cross-disciplinary field.[ 2 ]

Clinical knowledge consists of interpretive action and interaction – factors that involve communication, shared opinions, and experiences. The current quantitative research methods indicate a confined access to clinical knowledge, since they insert only the questions and phenomena that can be controlled, measured, and are countable where it is necessary to investigate, share and contest the tacit knowledge of an experienced practitioner. Qualitative research focuses on the people's social world, and not their disease. It is concerned with increased understanding of the meaning of certain conditions for health professionals and patients, and how their relationships are built in a particular social context.[ 3 ] These kinds of research allow exploration of the social events as experienced by individuals in their natural context. Qualitative inquiry could contribute to a broader understanding of health science [ 4 ] considering the substantial congruence between the core elements of health practice and the principles underpinning qualitative research. The globalization progress augments the necessity of qualitative research.[ 5 ]

Corbin (2008) reported that in the past 10 years, the interest in qualitative methods in general and grounded theory in particular has burgeoned according to a review of the literature and dissertation abstracts.[ 6 ]

A researcher engaged in qualitative research will be confronted with a number of challenges. Identifying the research problem and forming the research question are some of the initial challenges that researchers encounter in the early stages of a qualitative research project. Researchers and students sometimes fail to understand that adopting a qualitative approach is only the first stage in the process of selecting an appropriate research methodology.[ 7 ]

Once the initial research question has been identified, the crucial decision to be made is on the selection of an appropriate method, such as content analysis, ethnography, or grounded theory, and selecting the research design as well. Subsequent arrangements would be on the proper methods of data collection, participants, and the research setting, according to the methodology and the research question.[ 8 ] Qualitative researchers should also handle other important concerns such as data analysis, ethical issues, and rigor methods of results.

In this paper, we are going to discuss important practical challenges of qualitative inquiry in health and the challenges faced by researchers using interpretive research methodologies.


It is important to provide an honest and concise appreciation of the essential characteristics of the qualitative research before discussing the challenges of the interpretive research approach to studies in health.

Virtues of qualitative research

Qualitative research does not promise a clear or direct and orderly method of tackling research problems in health studies. It does not provide researchers with a set of rules to be followed or give them a comforting sense of security and safety backup against possible mistakes on the road to knowledge. This research method depends on the “power of words and images,” but does not offer the assimilated meanings such as numbers and equations; it is rather “an attentive search of meaning and understanding” and an attempt for profound comprehension and awareness of the problems and phenomena. The essentially “diagnostic and exploratory nature” of qualitative research is invaluable in developing conceptualizations in health as an evolving discipline. It tenders the possible tap into the sea of complex interactions in health that can be as follows.

Researchers launch the quest for new theories in health which should acknowledge that “qualitative research is an approach rather than a particular set of techniques, and its appropriateness derives from the nature of the social phenomena to be explored.”[ 9 ] In qualitative research, knowledge derives from the context-specific perspective on the experienced phenomena, interpretations, and explanation of social experiences.

Why qualitative research in the health professions?

Researcher should justify the reason for which he or she selected qualitative research. Qualitative researchers pursue a holistic and exclusive perspective. The approach is helpful in understanding human experiences, which is important for health professionals who focus on caring, communication, and interaction.[ 10 ] Many potential researchers intend to find the answer to the questions about a problem or a major issue in clinical practice or quantitative research can not verify them.

In fact, they choose qualitative research for some significant reasons:

  • The emotions, perceptions, and actions of people who suffer from a medical condition can be understood by qualitative research
  • The meanings of health professions will only be uncovered through observing the interactions of professionals with clients and interviewing about their experience. This is also applicable to the students destined for the healthcare field
  • Qualitative research is individualized; hence, researchers consider the participants as whole human beings, not as a bunch of physical compartments
  • Observation and asking people are the only ways to understand the causes of particular behaviors. Therefore, this type of research can develop health or education policies; policies for altering health behavior can only be effective if the behavior's basis is clearly understood.[ 10 , 11 ]

Before adhering to a distinct research methodology, researchers have to exactly understand the nature and character of their inquiries and the knowledge they choose to create. The majority of health researchers face many loopholes in justification. However, all defects and challenges of qualitative research should be realized rather than discarded as a compelling way to knowledge structure. New endeavors in excellent academic achievement and building new tradition of qualitative research in health can be facilitated through acknowledging traps and clarifying the real practical challenges.[ 9 ]

Finally, qualitative research provides investigators with the tools to study the health phenomena from the perspective of those experiencing them. This approach is especially applied in situ ations that have not been previously studied, where major gaps exists in research field, and when there is a need for a new perspective to be identified for the arena of health care intervention.[ 6 ]

Based on corbin and strauss (2008), “ Committed qualitative researchers lean toward qualitative work because they are drawn to the fluid, evolving, and dynamic nature of this approach in contrast to the more rigid and structured format of quantitative methods. Qualitative researchers enjoy serendipity and discovery. It is the endless possibilities to learn more about people that qualitative researchers resonate to. It is not distance that qualitative researchers want between themselves and their participants, but the opportunity to connect with them at a human level (Epistemology). Qualitative researchers have a natural curiosity that leads them to study worlds that interest them and that they otherwise might not have access to. Furthermore, qualitative researchers enjoy playing with words, making order out of seeming disorder, and thinking in terms of complex relationships. For them, doing qualitative research is a challenge that brings the whole self into the process .”

Choosing an approach for health research

Researchers select approaches and methodology based on some scientific logics, not on being easy or interesting. The nature and type of the research question or problem; the researcher's epistemological stance, capabilities, knowledge, skills, and training; and the resources available for the research project are the criteria upon which adopting methodology and procedures depend.[ 6 , 10 ]

Inconsistency between research question and methodology, insufficient methodological knowledge, and lack of attention on philosophical underpinning of qualitative methodology can be mentioned as some important challenges here.

There are several different ways of qualitative research and researchers will have to select between various approaches. The qualitative research is based on the theoretical and philosophical assumptions that researchers try to understand. Then, the research methodology and process should be chosen to be consistent with these basic assumptions and the research question as well.[ 10 ]

Some researchers believe that there is no need to study the methodology and methods before beginning the research. Many researchers neglect to gain this knowledge because they are not aware of the qualitative inquiry complexities which make them go wrong. For instance, lack of information about interview, qualitative data analysis, or sampling is very common.[ 10 ]

My experience shows that lack of knowledge, experience, and skills in a research team to do qualitative research can hinder the formation of original knowledge and improvement in understanding the phenomenon under study. The result of such a study will not be new and interesting, and even the study process will be very mechanical without good interpretation or enough exploration. Sometimes there is an inconsistency between research question, research methodology, and basic philosophical assumptions, and the researchers fail to justify their methods of choice in line with the research question and the ontological and epidemiological assumptions.

Finally, the researcher's intentions, the aims of the research question/inquiry, and the chosen approach are regarded as the most important reasons to select a qualitative research method consistent with them and their underpinning philosophical assumptions as well.[ 6 , 10 ]

Research question and aim

Qualitative research is exciting because it asks questions about people's everyday lives and experiences. A qualitative researcher will have the chance of discovering the “significant truths” in the lives of people. That is a wonderful privilege, but you need to get those questions right if you dig into people's lives and ask about their real experiences. An adequate and explicit research question, or a set of interrelated questions, builds the basis for a good research. But excellent research questions are not easy to write at all. A good research requires a good research question as well because it allows us to identify what we really want to know. However, at the beginning of a project, researchers may be uncertain about what exactly they intend to know, so vague questions can lead to an unfocused project.

Common problems coming up with a research question include:

  • Deciding about the research area among a range of issues that are heeded in your field of interest
  • Not capable of pointing toward any interesting area or topic sufficient to focus a major piece of work on
  • Knowing about the area you want to concentrate on (e.g. emergency), but not a certain topic
  • Knowing what area and topic is specifically difficult to articulate a clear question.

Just make sure that you give serious consideration to the chosen area as the basis of your research and that a qualitative project is relevant and possible

Having identified a research area, your next step will be to identify a topic within that interesting area. Research questions should be derived from the literature. The research question can come from the list of “suggestions for future work” at the end of a paper you have found interesting. Moreover, you can search for some verifiable gaps through literature review, or based on your personal or professional experience and expert opinion , which should be studied. Therefore, all the previous studies that have already been conducted in the area are considered as important. In this way, you do not run the risk of asking a research question that has already been addressed and/or answered. Based on my experience, novice researchers have some problems finding the right topics in their field of interest because they do not perform a broad literature review to find the gaps and problems suitable to be investigated. Sometimes their field of interest is different from that of their supervisors or there are no experts to help them in this regard.

Although the topic may retain your interest and you may be committed to undertake such a study, it is important to recognize that some topics of personal relevance may also be deeply significant and difficult to research. Finally you need to make sure that your topic of interest is the one that you can actually study within the project constraints such as time and fund.[ 12 ]

Once you have identified your interesting topic for research (according to a broad literature review, personal and professional experience, and/or expert opinion), you can begin to create a research question.

Forming the research question is one of the initial challenges that researchers encounter in the early stages of a research project. Therefore, it acquires significance by the very fact that it provides brief, but nevertheless, important information on the research topic that allows the reader to decide if the topic is relevant, researchable, and a remarkable issue. Furthermore, the research question in qualitative studies has an additional significance as it determines the manner of conducting the study.

The qualitative research question delineates the procedures that are executed in the study and provides a map to the readers by which they can trail the researcher's intentions and actions in the study. Therefore, special attention is needed on how a qualitative research question will specifically be structured, organized, and formed in the way to quote the necessary information and elements that allow the readers to assess and evaluate the study.

The formation of a qualitative research question acquires a basic conducting role for the study and a fundamental function to develop an audit trail that can empower the readers to judge the value, rigor, and validity of the whole research project. Hence, researchers should not only pay special attention toward developing a significant and relevant question, but also formulate it properly. The qualitative research question must be provided in such a way as to impart, reflect, and conjoin the theoretical and abstract assumptions with the practical and pragmatic means of attaining them.

In plain words, a good qualitative research question implicates particular phrasing, whereas the order of words should make the topic of interest amenable to the qualitative quest.

The researcher has to concentrate on how the content of the research topic is understood when phrasing the qualitative research questions, adhering to the topic with the philosophical/theoretical suggestions and to the structure of the study which requires compounding specific principal elements.

The content of a good qualitative research question takes the form of a declarative rather than an interrogative statement

Also, the content provides a brief focus on the issue to be investigated, but does not define the exact relationship of the variables to make these relationships flexible in emanating from the study according to the qualitative research theory. The qualitative research question incepts necessarily with an active verb like understanding, exploring, interpreting, constructing, explaining, describing, etc., to reflect the paradigm/philosophy underpinning the qualitative study. Consequently, specific nouns that represent the aims of qualitative studies, such as experiences, feelings, views, perspectives, knowledge, etc., should be applied. Finally, the methodology or method should appear in the qualitative research question coherent with them. Meanwhile, the structure of a good qualitative research question will address five of the following six: who, when, where, what, how, and why, and the entire research question should devise the sixth element.[ 13 ]

For instance, “Exploring the experiences of self-immolated women regarding their motives for attempting suicide: A qualitative content analysis study in Kermanshah Iran”

Make sure that your research question is consistent with the approach you are adopting. It is like an easy trap if you decide about the research question before considering the proper way by which you are intending to make assumptions and analyze your data.

My experiences show that novice researchers formulate their research question without considering the approach of their study in a proper way and usually their research questions are very broad, unclear, and vague. Since the intention of their studies is not completely clear at the beginning, they cannot decide about the research approach; also, they have to change their research question and take different directions in the course of study or they will end up without adequate results that can help readers or consumers improve their understanding or solve the problem.

Although a researcher initiates a study with a general question and topic, the interesting aspect of qualitative research is that the questions, which are more specific and can help in further data collection and analysis, arise during the course of the study. Thus, a qualitative research question can be broadly, rather than narrowly, focused in the beginning. Researcher can try to refine and make it more focused later. This is why qualitative research is usually cyclic rather than linear. Qualitative research is cyclic, which means that the research question in this approach immerses gradually into the topic. It means that when you come to know more and more about your topic, your ideas develop about what to focus, either through reading, thinking about what you have read, or in early stages of data analysis. Finally, it is literature review, general reading, and discussion with an expert supervisor that can help you find the right topic. If the background knowledge is poor at the beginning of the study, broad but clear research question can be reasonable. Research question may become more focused or develop in a different direction according to more reading and/or preliminary data analysis. A clear and focused research question is articulated and used to conduct further analysis and any future literature reviews necessary for the final write-up.

However, it is very important to take time to choose a research question, because it can be a very challenging exercise. Actually, the ultimate success of the project depends on selecting a clear and convenient question. The question should be appropriate for the qualitative research and for the specific approach you choose which must be grounded in research. It must ask precisely what you want to find out and be articulated and clear. Knowing this will help you plan your project.[ 12 ]

Choosing the right methodology and research design

Crucial decisions need to be made about an appropriate methodology, such as ethnography or grounded theory, after identifying the initial research question. The main concern of novice researchers is to find the reason and appropriate design to do the research, and proper methodology to answer the question. Researchers ought to figure out about the planning of qualitative research and how to choose the methodology.

Researchers sometimes fail to understand that in the process of selecting an adequate research methodology, adopting a qualitative approach is only the first stage. Students, and sometimes researchers, choose qualitative research because they think it is easier to use than the other methodologies. But this reasoning is fumble since qualitative research is a complex methodology where data collection and analysis can be mostly challenging. Sometimes lack of planning and inadequate attention paid to the properness of the selected approach considering the purpose of research will be problematic.

For new qualitative researchers, it often seems that the researcher should totally concentrate on the dual process of data collection and data analysis. It is very important to consider thorough planning in all stages of the research process, from developing the question to the final write-up of the findings for publication.[ 6 ]

The research design and methodology must be adequate to address the selected topics and the research question. Researchers have to identify, describe, and justify the methodology they chose, besides the strategies and procedures involved. So, it is pivotal to find the proper method for the research question. It should be noticed that some of the details of a qualitative research project cannot be ascertained in advance and may be specified as they arise during the research process.[ 10 ] An important problem for novice researchers is the little acknowledgement of different approaches that address different kinds and levels of questions and take a different stance on the kind of phenomena which is focused upon. More discussion and debates are necessary before selecting and justifying an approach.

The need for consistency and coherence becomes more obvious when we consider the risk of something called “method-slurring.” This is the problem of blurring distinctions between qualitative approaches. Each approach has to demonstrate its consistency to its foundations and will reflect them in data collection, analysis, and knowledge claim.

It may be important to acknowledge the distinctive features by specific approaches such as phenomenology or grounded theory at some levels such as the type of question they are suited to answer, data collection methods they are consistent with, and also the kinds of analysis and presentation of the results that fit within the approach – such as “goodness of fit” or logical staged linking – and can be referred to as “consistency.”

If such consistency occurs, then the whole thing “hangs together” as coherent; that is, the kind of knowledge generated in the results or presentation section doing what is said it would do following the aims of the project. In order to consider these criteria of consistency and coherence in greater detail, we need to look at the distinctive differences between qualitative approaches in the following: the aims of the research approach, its roots in different disciplines and ideologies, the knowledge claims linked to it, and to a lesser extent, the data collection and analysis specific to each approach.[ 11 ]

My experience shows that novice researchers have some problems to justify their methodology of choice and sometimes they experience some degree of methodological slurring. They do not have any clear understanding of the research process in terms of data gathering strategies, data analysis method, and even appropriate sampling plan, which should be indentified based on philosophical and methodological principles.

Finally, besides the above-mentioned problems, regarding research design, there are two common problems encountered especially by students who want to do qualitative study; sometimes researchers and research team try to identify everything, even the sample size, in advance when they design their study because they have a strong background of quantitative research, and this is completely in contrast with the flexible nature and explorative approach of qualitative research. The other problem is the examination committee and the format of proposal of grant sites and funding agencies, which are based on the principles of quantitative study. This rigid format pushes the researchers to try to clarify everything in advance. So, flexibility is regarded as the most important credibility criterion in all kinds of qualitative research and it should be considered when designing the study and following its process.[ 1 ]


Qualitative research focuses on social world and provides investigators with the tools to study health phenomena from the perspective of those experiencing them.

Identifying the research problem, forming the research question, and selecting an appropriate methodology and research design are some of the initial challenges that researchers encounter in the early stages of a qualitative research project.

Once the research problem and the initial research question are identified, the crucial decision has to be made in selecting the appropriate methodology. Subsequent arrangements would be on the proper methods of data collection, and choosing the participants and the research setting according to the methodology and the research question. It is highly recommended that the researchers exactly understand the nature and character of their inquiries and the knowledge they choose to create before adhering to a distinct research methodology based on scientific knowledge.

The essence and type of the research question or problem, the researcher's epistemological stance, capabilities, knowledge, skills and training, and the resources available for the research project are the criteria upon which the adopting methodology and procedures depend.

Inconsistency between research question and methodology, insufficient methodological knowledge, and lack of attention to the philosophical underpinning of qualitative methodology are some important challenges.

Lack of knowledge, experience, and skills to do qualitative research can hinder the formation of original knowledge and improvement in understanding the phenomenon under study. The result of such a study will not be new and interesting, and even the study process will be very mechanical without good interpretation or enough exploration. A good research requires a good research question as well because it allows us to identify what we really want to know. However, at the beginning of a project, researchers may be wavering about what they exactly intend to know; so, vague questions can lead to an unfocused project.

Broad literature review, personal and professional experience, and/or expert opinion can be regarded as the main sources to identify interesting research topics and research questions as well. Forming the research question is one of the initial challenges that researchers encounter in the early stages of a research project. Therefore, it acquires significance by the very fact that it provides brief, but nevertheless, important information on the research topic that allows the reader to decide if the topic is relevant, researchable, and a remarkable issue that can help the researcher to determine the manner of conducting the study.

Then crucial decisions need to be made about an appropriate methodology. The main concern of novice researchers is to find the reason and appropriate design to do the research and the proper methodology to answer the question. Researchers first ought to figure out the planning of qualitative research and how to choose the methodology.

It is very important to consider thorough planning in all stages of the research process, from developing the question to final write-up of the findings for publication. It is worth knowing that some of the details of a qualitative research project cannot be ascertained in advance and may be specified as they arise during the research process. For a novice researcher, more discussions and debates are necessary before selecting and justifying an approach.

Method-slurring is another common problem, which means the act of blurring distinctions between qualitative approaches. Each approach has to demonstrate its consistency to its foundations and will reflect them in data collection, analysis, and knowledge claim.

It is not rare to find that researchers and research team try to identify everything, even sample size, in advance when they design their qualitative study because of the strong background they have about the quantitative research. This is completely in contrast with the flexible nature and explorative approach of qualitative research; as these kinds of researches are completely explorative, the mentioned issues – such as sample size – should be clarified in the course of the study.

The other problem is the examination committee and the format of proposal in the grant sites and funding agencies, which is based on the principles of quantitative study. Therefore, flexibility is actually the most important credibility criterion in all qualitative researches that should be considered when a study is designed and the study process is followed.

As the final word, the researcher should make sure that he/she gives serious consideration to the chosen area as the basis of research and that a qualitative project is relevant and possible. Thus, forming the research question in a proper way and selecting appropriate methodology can guarantee original, interesting, and applied knowledge, which at least can increase our understanding about the meaning of certain conditions for professionals and patients and how their relationships are built in a particular social context.

Source of Support: Nil

Conflict of Interest: None declared.



Qualitative Research: Characteristics, Uses, Strengths & Weaknesses, and Importance

Qualitative research deals with the characteristics observed from the respondents . Generally, this kind of inquiry is associated with the assessment of the social dimension. It provides outcomes that are meaningful and particular, which in turn gives directions to guide the research.

In qualitative research, data collection is usually unstructured or semi-structured. An unstructured data collection method does not have definite procedures. In a semi-structured method, some parts of the procedure are well-defined while others are not. Researchers may interview individuals, a group of students in a classroom, or people in a community. With the use of appropriate methods and instruments, qualitative researchers can tell what these people think and how they feel.

The Nature of Qualitative Research

What is qualitative research? There is no universally accepted definition of qualitative research, although it is known that data collected in qualitative research activities are usually not numerical. Fraenkel (2007) defined qualitative research as research studies that investigate the quality of relationships, activities, situations, or materials . Qualitative research is described by its aims, methodology, and the kind of data collected to understand the different facets of social life. Studying things in their natural setting, qualitative researchers attempt “to make sense of and interpret phenomena in terms of the meaning people bring to them” (Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 3 cited in Creswell, 2013, p. 44). The intent of qualitative research is not to generalize the conclusion about an entire group of people (e. g., Filipinos or Asians), but to develop an in-depth explanation of a phenomenon.

Qualitative approaches to research are universal and holistic. They follow these beliefs:

  • A single reality is not observed.
  • Reality is based upon concepts that are distinct for each person and change over time.
  • What we perceive has meaning only within a given situation.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

According to Bogdan and Biklen, as cited in Fraenkel and Wallen (2006), the characteristics of qualitative research are as follows:

  • The direct source of data is the natural setting and the researcher is the key instrument in qualitative research. Researchers go directly to the particular setting of interest to observe and collect the needed data.
  • Data collected are in the form of words or illustrations rather than numbers. The kinds of data collected may include, but not limited to, audio recordings, diaries, field notes, memorandums, official records, personal comments, photographs, textbook passages, transcripts of interview, videotapes, and anything else that convey actual words or actions of people.
  • Qualitative research is concerned with process as well as product . The primary interest of a qualitative researcher is on how things happen and on people’s interaction with one another.
  • Analysis of data is taken inductively . It starts with the specific concepts of the respondents to draw out general idea or theory. To do this, a considerable amount of time is spent in collecting data before the important questions are considered.
  • Qualitative research deals with how people make sense out of their lives . The perspective of the subjects of a study is a major concern.

Uses of Qualitative Research

Generally, qualitative research aims to understand the experiences and attitudes of people and the community. The methods employed in this type of research seeks to answer the ‘what, ‘how, or `why’ questions of a phenomenon rather than ‘how many’ or ‘how much, which are addressed in quantitative research. Qualitative research is often used to:

  • draw meaningful information (not conveyed in quantitative data) about beliefs, feelings, values, and motivations that support behavior;
  • learn directly from people and what is important to them;
  • provide the context required to elicit quantitative results;
  • identify variables important for further studies;
  • determine one’s genre as a primary step to develop a quantitative survey; and
  • assess the usability of websites, databases, or other interactive media/services.

Strengths and Weaknesses of Qualitative Research

What are the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative research?

Many researchers become more interested in qualitative research because of its nature and perceived strengths. Basically, the strength of qualitative research is its capacity to give rich information about the respondents, may it be humans or animals. In addition, the following are the strengths of qualitative research:

  • provides in-depth information on individual cases;
  • unravels complex phenomena embedded in local context;
  • describes rich phenomena situated in some exceptional environments;
  • relays subjects’ experiences and perspectives in unusual details;
  • conveys setting factors related to the situation of interest;
  • allows flexibility in research-related processes;
  • enables data to be collected in natural setting;
  • determines possible causes of a particular event in another perspective as that given by quantitative research;
  • permits approaches that are responsive to local conditions and stakeholders’ needs;
  • presents several options in the conduct of the research;
  • tolerates shifts in focus based on research results; and
  • accepts unstructured interpretation of the participants, respecting anything that is in the participants’ context.

Despite its strengths, qualitative research has a number of perceived weaknesses. These weaknesses, however, are just the inapplicability of the qualitative approach to some research objectives. The following are weaknesses of qualitative research:

  • Data gathering is often time-consuming.
  • Analysis of data takes longer time than that in quantitative analysis.
  • Interpretation of results is usually biased because it is influenced by the researcher’s perspective.
  • Conclusions are not generalizable because the subjects are few and sometimes possess unique characteristics compared to typical respondents.

Importance of Qualitative Research across Fields of Inquiry

What is the importance of qualitative research across fields of inquiry?

Qualitative research is oriented toward analyzing concrete cases in temporal and local particularity. It starts from the respondents’ perspectives, expressions, and activities in their local context. In this case, qualitative research is important across many fields of inquiry because it is designed for social sciences, psychology, and other fields. With this, qualitative research would verify or validate the tendencies, transform it into research programs, and maintain the necessary changes toward its objectives and tasks.

For example, qualitative research can be employed in health care research. One may study people’s experiences of and access to health care. Various perspectives of patients and professionals can be understood using qualitative research. An individual’s experiences, attitudes, and circumstances in life that affect his/her health needs and behavior can likewise be studied.

  • Qualitative research is described by its aims, methodology, and the kind of data collected to understand the different facts of social life.
  • The direct source of data is the natural setting, and the researcher is a key instrument in qualitative research.
  • Qualitative data are collected in the form of pictures or words rather than numbers.
  • Qualitative researchers are interested on how things happen and the people’s interaction with one another.
  • Qualitative research aims to understand the experiences and attitudes of people and the community.
  • Qualitative research is common in social sciences, psychology, and other related fields.

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5 Strengths and 5 Limitations of Qualitative Research

Lauren Christiansen

Lauren Christiansen

Insight into qualitative research.

Anyone who reviews a bunch of numbers knows how impersonal that feels. What do numbers really reveal about a person's beliefs, motives, and thoughts? While it's critical to collect statistical information to identify business trends and inefficiencies, stats don't always tell the full story. Why does the customer like this product more than the other one? What motivates them to post this particular hashtag on social media? How do employees actually feel about the new supply chain process? To answer more personal questions that delve into the human experience, businesses often employ a qualitative research process.

10 Key Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research helps entrepreneurs and established companies understand the many factors that drive consumer behavior. Because most organizations collect and analyze quantitative data, they don't always know exactly how a target market feels and what it wants. It helps researchers when they can observe a small sample size of consumers in a comfortable environment, ask questions, and let them speak. Research methodology varies depending on the industry and type of business needs. Many companies employ mixed methods to extract the insights they require to improve decision-making. While both quantitative research and qualitative methods are effective, there are limitations to both. Quantitative research is expensive, time-consuming, and presents a limited understanding of consumer needs. However, qualitative research methods generate less verifiable information as all qualitative data is based on experience. Businesses should use a combination of both methods to overcome any associated limitations.

Strengths of Qualitative Research

strengths of qualitative research 1615326031 1948

  • Captures New Beliefs - Qualitative research methods extrapolate any evolving beliefs within a market. This may include who buys a product/service, or how employees feel about their employers.
  • Fewer Limitations - Qualitative studies are less stringent than quantitative ones. Outside the box answers to questions, opinions, and beliefs are included in data collection and data analysis.
  • More Versatile - Qualitative research is much easier at times for researchers. They can adjust questions, adapt to circumstances that change or change the environment to optimize results.
  • Greater Speculation - Researchers can speculate more on what answers to drill down into and how to approach them. They can use instinct and subjective experience to identify and extract good data.
  • More Targeted - This research process can target any area of the business or concern it may have. Researchers can concentrate on specific target markets to collect valuable information. This takes less time and requires fewer resources than quantitative studies.

Limitations of Qualitative Research

limitations of qualitative research 1615326031 6006

  • Sample Sizes - Businesses need to find a big enough group of participants to ensure results are accurate. A sample size of 15 people is not enough to show a reliable picture of how consumers view a product. If it is not possible to find a large enough sample size, the data collected may be insufficient.
  • Bias - For internal qualitative studies, employees may be biased. For example, workers may give a popular answer that colleagues agree with rather than a true opinion. This can negatively influence the outcome of the study.
  • Self-Selection Bias - Businesses that call on volunteers to answer questions worry that the people who respond are not reflective of the greater group. It is better if the company selects individuals at random for research studies, particularly if they are employees. However, this changes the process from qualitative to quantitative methods.
  • Artificial - It isn't typical to observe consumers in stores, gather a focus group together, or ask employees about their experiences at work. This artificiality may impact the findings, as it is outside the norm of regular behavior and interactions.
  • Quality - Questions It's hard to know whether researcher questions are quality or not because they are all subjective. Researchers need to ask how and why individuals feel the way they do to receive the most accurate answers.

Key Takeaways on Strengths and Limitations of Qualitative Research

  • Qualitative research helps entrepreneurs and small businesses understand what drives human behavior. It is also used to see how employees feel about workflows and tasks.
  • Companies can extract insights from qualitative research to optimize decision-making and improve products or services.
  • Qualitative research captures new beliefs, has fewer limitations, is more versatile, and is more targeted. It also allows researchers to speculate and insert themselves more into the research study.
  • Qualitative research has many limitations which include possible small sample sizes, potential bias in answers, self-selection bias, and potentially poor questions from researchers. It also can be artificial because it isn't typical to observe participants in focus groups, ask them questions at work, or invite them to partake in this type of research method.

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What is Qualitative Research, Really?

Qualitative Study


  • 1 University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • 2 GDB Research and Statistical Consulting
  • 3 GDB Research and Statistical Consulting/McLaren Macomb Hospital
  • PMID: 29262162
  • Bookshelf ID: NBK470395

Qualitative research is a type of research that explores and provides deeper insights into real-world problems. Instead of collecting numerical data points or intervene or introduce treatments just like in quantitative research, qualitative research helps generate hypotheses as well as further investigate and understand quantitative data. Qualitative research gathers participants' experiences, perceptions, and behavior. It answers the hows and whys instead of how many or how much. It could be structured as a stand-alone study, purely relying on qualitative data or it could be part of mixed-methods research that combines qualitative and quantitative data. This review introduces the readers to some basic concepts, definitions, terminology, and application of qualitative research.

Qualitative research at its core, ask open-ended questions whose answers are not easily put into numbers such as ‘how’ and ‘why’. Due to the open-ended nature of the research questions at hand, qualitative research design is often not linear in the same way quantitative design is. One of the strengths of qualitative research is its ability to explain processes and patterns of human behavior that can be difficult to quantify. Phenomena such as experiences, attitudes, and behaviors can be difficult to accurately capture quantitatively, whereas a qualitative approach allows participants themselves to explain how, why, or what they were thinking, feeling, and experiencing at a certain time or during an event of interest. Quantifying qualitative data certainly is possible, but at its core, qualitative data is looking for themes and patterns that can be difficult to quantify and it is important to ensure that the context and narrative of qualitative work are not lost by trying to quantify something that is not meant to be quantified.

However, while qualitative research is sometimes placed in opposition to quantitative research, where they are necessarily opposites and therefore ‘compete’ against each other and the philosophical paradigms associated with each, qualitative and quantitative work are not necessarily opposites nor are they incompatible. While qualitative and quantitative approaches are different, they are not necessarily opposites, and they are certainly not mutually exclusive. For instance, qualitative research can help expand and deepen understanding of data or results obtained from quantitative analysis. For example, say a quantitative analysis has determined that there is a correlation between length of stay and level of patient satisfaction, but why does this correlation exist? This dual-focus scenario shows one way in which qualitative and quantitative research could be integrated together.

Examples of Qualitative Research Approaches


Ethnography as a research design has its origins in social and cultural anthropology, and involves the researcher being directly immersed in the participant’s environment. Through this immersion, the ethnographer can use a variety of data collection techniques with the aim of being able to produce a comprehensive account of the social phenomena that occurred during the research period. That is to say, the researcher’s aim with ethnography is to immerse themselves into the research population and come out of it with accounts of actions, behaviors, events, etc. through the eyes of someone involved in the population. Direct involvement of the researcher with the target population is one benefit of ethnographic research because it can then be possible to find data that is otherwise very difficult to extract and record.

Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory is the “generation of a theoretical model through the experience of observing a study population and developing a comparative analysis of their speech and behavior.” As opposed to quantitative research which is deductive and tests or verifies an existing theory, grounded theory research is inductive and therefore lends itself to research that is aiming to study social interactions or experiences. In essence, Grounded Theory’s goal is to explain for example how and why an event occurs or how and why people might behave a certain way. Through observing the population, a researcher using the Grounded Theory approach can then develop a theory to explain the phenomena of interest.


Phenomenology is defined as the “study of the meaning of phenomena or the study of the particular”. At first glance, it might seem that Grounded Theory and Phenomenology are quite similar, but upon careful examination, the differences can be seen. At its core, phenomenology looks to investigate experiences from the perspective of the individual. Phenomenology is essentially looking into the ‘lived experiences’ of the participants and aims to examine how and why participants behaved a certain way, from their perspective . Herein lies one of the main differences between Grounded Theory and Phenomenology. Grounded Theory aims to develop a theory for social phenomena through an examination of various data sources whereas Phenomenology focuses on describing and explaining an event or phenomena from the perspective of those who have experienced it.

Narrative Research

One of qualitative research’s strengths lies in its ability to tell a story, often from the perspective of those directly involved in it. Reporting on qualitative research involves including details and descriptions of the setting involved and quotes from participants. This detail is called ‘thick’ or ‘rich’ description and is a strength of qualitative research. Narrative research is rife with the possibilities of ‘thick’ description as this approach weaves together a sequence of events, usually from just one or two individuals, in the hopes of creating a cohesive story, or narrative. While it might seem like a waste of time to focus on such a specific, individual level, understanding one or two people’s narratives for an event or phenomenon can help to inform researchers about the influences that helped shape that narrative. The tension or conflict of differing narratives can be “opportunities for innovation”.

Research Paradigm

Research paradigms are the assumptions, norms, and standards that underpin different approaches to research. Essentially, research paradigms are the ‘worldview’ that inform research. It is valuable for researchers, both qualitative and quantitative, to understand what paradigm they are working within because understanding the theoretical basis of research paradigms allows researchers to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the approach being used and adjust accordingly. Different paradigms have different ontology and epistemologies . Ontology is defined as the "assumptions about the nature of reality” whereas epistemology is defined as the “assumptions about the nature of knowledge” that inform the work researchers do. It is important to understand the ontological and epistemological foundations of the research paradigm researchers are working within to allow for a full understanding of the approach being used and the assumptions that underpin the approach as a whole. Further, it is crucial that researchers understand their own ontological and epistemological assumptions about the world in general because their assumptions about the world will necessarily impact how they interact with research. A discussion of the research paradigm is not complete without describing positivist, postpositivist, and constructivist philosophies.

Positivist vs Postpositivist

To further understand qualitative research, we need to discuss positivist and postpositivist frameworks. Positivism is a philosophy that the scientific method can and should be applied to social as well as natural sciences. Essentially, positivist thinking insists that the social sciences should use natural science methods in its research which stems from positivist ontology that there is an objective reality that exists that is fully independent of our perception of the world as individuals. Quantitative research is rooted in positivist philosophy, which can be seen in the value it places on concepts such as causality, generalizability, and replicability.

Conversely, postpositivists argue that social reality can never be one hundred percent explained but it could be approximated. Indeed, qualitative researchers have been insisting that there are “fundamental limits to the extent to which the methods and procedures of the natural sciences could be applied to the social world” and therefore postpositivist philosophy is often associated with qualitative research. An example of positivist versus postpositivist values in research might be that positivist philosophies value hypothesis-testing, whereas postpositivist philosophies value the ability to formulate a substantive theory.


Constructivism is a subcategory of postpositivism. Most researchers invested in postpositivist research are constructivist as well, meaning they think there is no objective external reality that exists but rather that reality is constructed. Constructivism is a theoretical lens that emphasizes the dynamic nature of our world. “Constructivism contends that individuals’ views are directly influenced by their experiences, and it is these individual experiences and views that shape their perspective of reality”. Essentially, Constructivist thought focuses on how ‘reality’ is not a fixed certainty and experiences, interactions, and backgrounds give people a unique view of the world. Constructivism contends, unlike in positivist views, that there is not necessarily an ‘objective’ reality we all experience. This is the ‘relativist’ ontological view that reality and the world we live in are dynamic and socially constructed. Therefore, qualitative scientific knowledge can be inductive as well as deductive.”

So why is it important to understand the differences in assumptions that different philosophies and approaches to research have? Fundamentally, the assumptions underpinning the research tools a researcher selects provide an overall base for the assumptions the rest of the research will have and can even change the role of the researcher themselves. For example, is the researcher an ‘objective’ observer such as in positivist quantitative work? Or is the researcher an active participant in the research itself, as in postpositivist qualitative work? Understanding the philosophical base of the research undertaken allows researchers to fully understand the implications of their work and their role within the research, as well as reflect on their own positionality and bias as it pertains to the research they are conducting.

Data Sampling

The better the sample represents the intended study population, the more likely the researcher is to encompass the varying factors at play. The following are examples of participant sampling and selection:

Purposive sampling- selection based on the researcher’s rationale in terms of being the most informative.

Criterion sampling-selection based on pre-identified factors.

Convenience sampling- selection based on availability.

Snowball sampling- the selection is by referral from other participants or people who know potential participants.

Extreme case sampling- targeted selection of rare cases.

Typical case sampling-selection based on regular or average participants.

Data Collection and Analysis

Qualitative research uses several techniques including interviews, focus groups, and observation. [1] [2] [3] Interviews may be unstructured, with open-ended questions on a topic and the interviewer adapts to the responses. Structured interviews have a predetermined number of questions that every participant is asked. It is usually one on one and is appropriate for sensitive topics or topics needing an in-depth exploration. Focus groups are often held with 8-12 target participants and are used when group dynamics and collective views on a topic are desired. Researchers can be a participant-observer to share the experiences of the subject or a non-participant or detached observer.

While quantitative research design prescribes a controlled environment for data collection, qualitative data collection may be in a central location or in the environment of the participants, depending on the study goals and design. Qualitative research could amount to a large amount of data. Data is transcribed which may then be coded manually or with the use of Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software or CAQDAS such as ATLAS.ti or NVivo.

After the coding process, qualitative research results could be in various formats. It could be a synthesis and interpretation presented with excerpts from the data. Results also could be in the form of themes and theory or model development.


To standardize and facilitate the dissemination of qualitative research outcomes, the healthcare team can use two reporting standards. The Consolidated Criteria for Reporting Qualitative Research or COREQ is a 32-item checklist for interviews and focus groups. The Standards for Reporting Qualitative Research (SRQR) is a checklist covering a wider range of qualitative research.

Examples of Application

Many times a research question will start with qualitative research. The qualitative research will help generate the research hypothesis which can be tested with quantitative methods. After the data is collected and analyzed with quantitative methods, a set of qualitative methods can be used to dive deeper into the data for a better understanding of what the numbers truly mean and their implications. The qualitative methods can then help clarify the quantitative data and also help refine the hypothesis for future research. Furthermore, with qualitative research researchers can explore subjects that are poorly studied with quantitative methods. These include opinions, individual's actions, and social science research.

A good qualitative study design starts with a goal or objective. This should be clearly defined or stated. The target population needs to be specified. A method for obtaining information from the study population must be carefully detailed to ensure there are no omissions of part of the target population. A proper collection method should be selected which will help obtain the desired information without overly limiting the collected data because many times, the information sought is not well compartmentalized or obtained. Finally, the design should ensure adequate methods for analyzing the data. An example may help better clarify some of the various aspects of qualitative research.

A researcher wants to decrease the number of teenagers who smoke in their community. The researcher could begin by asking current teen smokers why they started smoking through structured or unstructured interviews (qualitative research). The researcher can also get together a group of current teenage smokers and conduct a focus group to help brainstorm factors that may have prevented them from starting to smoke (qualitative research).

In this example, the researcher has used qualitative research methods (interviews and focus groups) to generate a list of ideas of both why teens start to smoke as well as factors that may have prevented them from starting to smoke. Next, the researcher compiles this data. The research found that, hypothetically, peer pressure, health issues, cost, being considered “cool,” and rebellious behavior all might increase or decrease the likelihood of teens starting to smoke.

The researcher creates a survey asking teen participants to rank how important each of the above factors is in either starting smoking (for current smokers) or not smoking (for current non-smokers). This survey provides specific numbers (ranked importance of each factor) and is thus a quantitative research tool.

The researcher can use the results of the survey to focus efforts on the one or two highest-ranked factors. Let us say the researcher found that health was the major factor that keeps teens from starting to smoke, and peer pressure was the major factor that contributed to teens to start smoking. The researcher can go back to qualitative research methods to dive deeper into each of these for more information. The researcher wants to focus on how to keep teens from starting to smoke, so they focus on the peer pressure aspect.

The researcher can conduct interviews and/or focus groups (qualitative research) about what types and forms of peer pressure are commonly encountered, where the peer pressure comes from, and where smoking first starts. The researcher hypothetically finds that peer pressure often occurs after school at the local teen hangouts, mostly the local park. The researcher also hypothetically finds that peer pressure comes from older, current smokers who provide the cigarettes.

The researcher could further explore this observation made at the local teen hangouts (qualitative research) and take notes regarding who is smoking, who is not, and what observable factors are at play for peer pressure of smoking. The researcher finds a local park where many local teenagers hang out and see that a shady, overgrown area of the park is where the smokers tend to hang out. The researcher notes the smoking teenagers buy their cigarettes from a local convenience store adjacent to the park where the clerk does not check identification before selling cigarettes. These observations fall under qualitative research.

If the researcher returns to the park and counts how many individuals smoke in each region of the park, this numerical data would be quantitative research. Based on the researcher's efforts thus far, they conclude that local teen smoking and teenagers who start to smoke may decrease if there are fewer overgrown areas of the park and the local convenience store does not sell cigarettes to underage individuals.

The researcher could try to have the parks department reassess the shady areas to make them less conducive to the smokers or identify how to limit the sales of cigarettes to underage individuals by the convenience store. The researcher would then cycle back to qualitative methods of asking at-risk population their perceptions of the changes, what factors are still at play, as well as quantitative research that includes teen smoking rates in the community, the incidence of new teen smokers, among others.

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  • Introduction
  • Issues of Concern
  • Clinical Significance
  • Enhancing Healthcare Team Outcomes
  • Review Questions

Publication types

  • Study Guide

16 Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative research is the process of natural inquisitiveness which wants to find an in-depth understanding of specific social phenomena within a regular setting. It is a process that seeks to find out why people act the way that they do in specific situations. By relying on the direct experiences that each person has every day, it becomes possible to define the meaning of a choice – or even a life.

Researchers who use the qualitative process are looking at multiple methods of inquiry to review human-related activities. This process is a way to measure the very existence of humanity. Multiple options are available to complete the work, including discourse analysis, biographies, case studies, and various other theories.

This process results in three primary areas of focus, which are individual actions, overall communication, and cultural influence. Each option must make the common assumption that knowledge is subjective instead of objective, which means the researchers must learn from their participants to understand what is valuable and what is not in their studies.

List of the Pros of Qualitative Research

1. Qualitative research is a very affordable method of research. Qualitative research is one of the most affordable ways to glean information from individuals who are being studied. Focus groups tend to be the primary method of collecting information using this process because it is fast and effective. Although there are research studies that require an extensive period of observation to produce results, using a group interview session can produce usable information in under an hour. That means you can proceed faster with the ideas you wish to pursue when compared to other research methods.

2. Qualitative research provides a predictive element. The data which researchers gather when using the qualitative research process provides a predictive element to the project. This advantage occurs even though the experiences or perspectives of the individuals participating in the research can vary substantially from person-to-person. The goal of this work is not to apply the information to the general public, but to understand how specific demographics react in situations where there are challenges to face. It is a process which allows for product development to occur because the pain points of the population have been identified.

3. Qualitative research focuses on the details of personal choice. The qualitative research process looks at the purpose of the decision that an individual makes as the primary information requiring collection. It does not take a look at the reasons why someone would decide to make the choices that they do in the first place. Other research methods preferred to look at the behavior, but this method wants to know the entire story behind each individual choice so that the entire population or society can benefit from the process.

4. Qualitative research uses fluid operational structures. The qualitative research process relies on data gathering based on situations that researchers are watching and experiencing personally. Instead of relying on a specific framework to collect and preserve information under rigid guidelines, this process finds value in the human experience. This method makes it possible to include the intricacies of the human experience with the structures required to find conclusions that are useful to the demographics involved – and possible to the rest of society as well.

5. Qualitative research uses individual choices as workable data. When we have an understanding of why individual choices occurred, then we can benefit from the diversity that the human experience provides. Each unique perspective makes it possible for every other person to gather more knowledge about a situation because there are differences to examine. It is a process which allows us to discover more potential outcomes because there is more information present from a variety of sources. Researchers can then take the perspectives to create guidelines that others can follow if they find themselves stuck in a similar situation.

6. Qualitative research is an open-ended process. One of the most significant advantages of qualitative research is that it does not rely on specific deadlines, formats, or questions to create a successful outcome. This process allows researchers to ask open-ended questions whenever they feel it is appropriate because there may be more data to collect. There are not the same time elements involved in this process either, as qualitative research can continue indefinitely until those working on the project feel like there is nothing more to glean from the individuals participating.

Because of this unique structure, researchers can look for data points that other methods might overlook because a greater emphasis is often placed on the interview or observational process with firm deadlines.

7. Qualitative research works to remove bias from its collected information. Unconscious bias is a significant factor in every research project because it relies on the ability of the individuals involved to control their thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Everyone has preconceived notions and stereotypes about specific demographics and nationalities which can influence the data collected. No one is 100% immune to this process. The format of qualitative research allows for these judgments to be set aside because it prefers to look at the specific structures behind each choice of person makes.

This research method also collects information about the events which lead up to a specific decision instead of trying to examine what happens after the fact. That’s why this advantage allows the data to be more accurate compared to the other research methods which are in use.

8. Qualitative research provides specific insight development. The average person tends to make a choice based on comfort, convenience, or both. We also tend to move forward in our circumstances based on what we feel is comfortable to our spiritual, moral, or ethical stances. Every form of communication that we use becomes a potential foundation for researchers to understand the demographics of humanity in better ways. By looking at the problems we face in everyday situations, it becomes possible to discover new insights that can help us to solve do you need problems which can come up. It is a way for researchers to understand the context of what happens in society instead of only looking at the outcomes.

9. Qualitative research requires a smaller sample size. Qualitative research studies wrap up faster that other methods because a smaller sample size is possible for data collection with this method. Participants can answer questions immediately, creating usable and actionable information that can lead to new ideas. This advantage makes it possible to move forward with confidence in future choices because there is added predictability to the results which are possible.

10. Qualitative research provides more useful content. Authenticity is highly demanded in today’s world because there is no better way to understand who we are as an individual, a community, or a society. Qualitative research works hard to understand the core concepts of how each participant defines themselves without the influence of outside perspectives. It wants to see how people structure their lives, and then take that data to help solve whatever problems they might have. Although no research method can provide guaranteed results, there is always some type of actionable information present with this approach.

List of the Cons of Qualitative Research

1. Qualitative research creates subjective information points. The quality of the information collected using the qualitative research process can sometimes be questionable. This approach requires the researchers to connect all of the data points which they gather to find the answers to their questions. That means the results are dependent upon the skills of those involved to read the non-verbal cues of each participate, understand when and where follow-up questions are necessary, and remember to document each response. Because individuals can interpret this data in many different ways, there can sometimes be differences in the conclusion because each researcher has a different take on what they receive.

2. Qualitative research can involve significant levels of repetition. Although the smaller sample sizes found in qualitative research can be an advantage, this structure can also be a problem when researchers are trying to collect a complete data profile for a specific demographic. Multiple interviews and discovery sessions become necessary to discover what the potential consequences of a future choice will be. When you only bring in a handful of people to discuss a situation, then these individuals may not offer a complete representation of the group being studied. Without multiple follow-up sessions with other participants, there is no way to prove the authenticity of the information collected.

3. Qualitative research is difficult to replicate. The only way that research can turn into fact is through a process of replication. Other researchers must be able to come to the similar conclusions after the initial project publishers the results. Because the nature of this work is subjective, finding opportunities to duplicate the results are quite rare. The scope of information which a project collects is often limited, which means there is always some doubt found in the data. That is why you will often see a margin of error percentage associated with research that uses this method. Because it never involves every potential member of a demographic, it will always be incomplete.

4. Qualitative research relies on the knowledge of the researchers. The only reason why opportunities are available in the first place when using qualitative research is because there are researchers involved which have expertise that relates to the subject matter being studied. When interviewers are unfamiliar with industry concepts, then it is much more challenging to identify follow-up opportunities that would be if the individual conducting the session was familiar with the ideas under discussion. There is no way to correctly interpret the data if the perspective of the researcher is skewed by a lack of knowledge.

5. Qualitative research does not offer statistics. The goal of qualitative research is to seek out moments of commonality. That means you will not find statistical data within the results. It looks to find specific areas of concern or pain points that are usable to the organization funding to research in the first place. The amount of data collected using this process can be extreme, but there is no guarantee that it will ever be usable. You do not have the same opportunities to compare information as you would with other research methods.

6. Qualitative research still requires a significant time investment. It is true that there are times when the qualitative research process is significantly faster than other methods. There is also the disadvantage in the fact that the amount of time necessary to collect accurate data can be unpredictable using this option. It may take months, years, or even decades to complete a research project if there is a massive amount of data to review. That means the researchers involve must make a long-term commitment to the process to ensure the results can be as accurate as possible.

These qualitative research pros and cons review how all of us come to the choices that we make each day. When researchers understand why we come to specific conclusions, then it becomes possible to create new goods and services that can make our lives easier. This process then concludes with solutions which can benefit a significant majority of the people, leading to better best practices in the future.

Qualitative Research: Strengths and Weakness Coursework

Biggest ethical dilemma faced by qualitative researchers.

The biggest ethical dilemma in qualitative research is the researchers’ responsibility for disclosure of information. The decision on whether to disclose information to any interested party to research or even to conceal information from concerned individuals and groups forms the basis of the dilemma. Every research activity is aimed at finding solutions and researchers’ interest will be to find the necessary information. As a result, there may be a need to conceal some information to ensure a smooth research process. Similarly, the results of the research might be of public interest and prompt for disclosure, to the compromise of a group’s interest.

Concealing information or even the researcher’s identity has in the past been a tool for the success of major research activities. Similarly, participants in research are supposed to be informed of the nature of the research before they can consent to be part of such activities. Further, the guarantee of privacy should be offered to the participants before the research. Full disclosure of the extent of confidentiality should also be made before the commencement of the research. A researcher is therefore expected either to consider the success of the research at the expense of ethics of disclosure or to prioritize ethics (Berg and Lune, 2011).

Primary reasons for using qualitative research and questions addressed by qualitative research

Qualitative research is aimed at investigations on existing relationships. Every research initiative will, therefore, be based on goals and reasons for making conclusions and recommendations. As Flick and Steinke explain, the major reasons for qualitative research are “description, a test of hypothesis and theory development” (2004, p. 150). This is because qualitative research activities are explorative. They, as a result, seek to describe relationships, investigate the significance of such relationships, and develop a basis for explaining the identified or existing relationships.

A research initiative to investigate trends in the prevalence of AIDS rates across age groups may, for example, be undertaken with the objective of exploring descriptive statistics such as mean, mode, and median across the considered age groups. Similarly, investigating trends among or within the groups may call for a test of hypothesis for establishing confidence through tests of significance on investigated trends. Qualitative research, through validating hypothesis, is also used as a basis for establishing theories (Flick and Steinke, 2004).

Since research questions offer directions to exploring research objectives, they are supposed to be aligned to the objectives and reasons for the particular research. Qualitative research, therefore, addresses questions on descriptive statistics, tests of significance and theory development (Flick and Steinke, 2004)

Triangulation of methods and their benefits

Triangulation of methods refers to the application of many approaches towards establishing findings of the research. The method is based on the concept that the application of many methods yields more accurate conclusions. The triangulation concept is derived from surveying methods in which many lines are used in the estimation of points. The concept is therefore mapped onto statistical qualitative research to use different approaches such as sampling techniques, analytical approaches, and diversification of samples in research. Triangulation of methods may also be understood in its literal meaning as the use of a variety of methods in research activity (Berg and Lune, 2011).

There exist a variety of classes of triangulation. Data triangulation, for instance, refers to the use of approaches such as “time, space, and person” (Berg and Lune, 2011, p. 7). While time triangulation refers to the consideration of data from different time frames, space triangulation refers to physical or geographical consideration and person triangulations consider the nature and type of sample used in research. Other classes include “investigator, theory, and methodological triangulation” (Berg and Lune, 2011, p. 7). The benefits of triangulations are therefore its broader scope of research and a resultant accuracy in results and conclusions (Berg and Lune, 2011).

Sampling strategies for qualitative research

Sampling strategies form one of the distinctions between qualitative and quantitative research approaches. The most commonly used sampling strategies in qualitative research are “criterion-based” sampling and “theoretical sampling” (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003, p. 78, 80). Criterion, as a basis for sampling, is used in cases where the participants in the research posses defined properties that are relevant to the research.

The main objective of this strategy is to obtain adequate representation through the selected sample. An element will, for example, be selected to represent a particular geographical area, group, or a behavioral characteristic. Criterion based sampling is further divided into several classes which include “homogeneous sampling, heterogeneous sampling, extreme case sampling, intensive sampling, typical case sampling, stratified purposive sampling, and critical case sampling” (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003, p. 79, 80).

Since criterion-based sampling relies on the purpose of the research, the particular sampling approach for used is identified before the commencement of the research, and the decision is usually based on the objectives of the research. The theoretical sampling strategy is on the other hand based on the capacity of the participants to make significant contributions to the results of the research (Ritchie and Lewis, 2003)

Strengths and weakness of qualitative research

Qualitative research has both strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths is its extensive understanding that it offers to the subject of research. The explorative nature of qualitative research that involves extensive analysis of background information as well as collected data offers a basis for understanding. Further, a summary of the research results through descriptive statistics facilitates a deeper understanding.

The nature of the research that induces confidence through the reliable test of hypothesis also draws interest for closer attention and understanding. Another advantage of qualitative research is its flexible nature. The numerous strategies and techniques at different stages of research are easily interchangeable. As a result, approaches and methods can be substituted at any stage of the research (Rubbin and Babbie, 2009).

Weaknesses that have been associated with qualitative research include generalization in presentation and biasness due to formed opinion or conflict of interest on the part of a researcher. Generalization of reports, for instance, leads to loss of precision especially in cases where varying opinions exist across samples. Similarly, a researcher may be biased at any point in the research to influence an outcome. Biasness can be induced during sample selection or data collection stages (Rubbin and Babbie, 2009).

Possible problems faced in qualitative research

There are several problems faced in qualitative research. These problems range from the research process to the research environment. One of the already identified problems is the researcher’s ability to “adopt and adapt” to different research strategies and methods (Barbour, 2007). The main reason why the availability of many options is a challenge to many researchers is the intersection of concepts in research strategies. This particularly makes it difficult for a researcher to identify the most suitable approach to use.

Another significant challenge in qualitative research is a conflict of interest in which a researcher’s motive shifts to exalting himself instead of paying attention to the subject of research. When attention is shifted, the chances of biasness become higher. The financial interest of researchers has also developed to be a major challenge in qualitative research. This is particularly encountered in sponsored research activities where a researcher is dependent on and is subjected to forces from other interested parties. As a result, a researcher may be influenced by compromising and being biased to favor the parties. Researchers are therefore expected to be strong enough and independent to shun down such forces leading to biasness (Barbour, 2007).

Barbour, R. (2007). Introducing Qualitative Research: A Student’s Guide to the Craft of Doing Qualitative Research. London, UK: SAGE.

Berg, B., and Lune, H. (2011). Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences . New York, NY: Allyn & Bacon.

Flick, U., Kardorff, E. and Steinke, I. (2004). A companion to qualitative research. London, UK: SAGE.

Ritchie, J. and Lewis, J. (2003). Qualitative research practice: a guide for social science students and researchers. London, UK: SAGE.

Rubbin, A. and Babbie, E. (2009). Essential Research Methods for Social Work. Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.

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IvyPanda. (2020, July 14). Qualitative Research: Strengths and Weakness.

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Quantitative and Qualitative Research

Strengths and Weaknesses of Quantitative and Qualitative Research

There are many types of research taking place, which results in the evolution of something new and unique. Traditional Marketing Research has two options to conduct its research: Quantitative and Qualitative methods .  

What is Quantitative Research

Quantitative research is defined as an organized analysis of occurrences by collecting measurable data and applying statistical, mathematical, and computational methodologies. It is the process of gathering information from existing and potential customers by sampling methods and the distribution of online surveys, questionnaires, online polls, and so on. The results of these polls or surveys are represented numerically. 

Quantitative research is dependent on the creation of a Hypothesis followed by an accurate analysis of the statistics in order to understand and explain the research findings. It focuses more on the quantity of things and their statistical patterns. Using the number comes to analysis so as to come to a conclusion.

After gaining a thorough understanding of these figures, it is possible to forecast the future of a product or service and make modifications as needed.

Strengths of Quantitative Research

The quantitative research method has proven to be beneficial in the following ways

  • It provides an allowance for the formulation of statistically sound
  • Quantitative data provides a macro view with all the required details and comparatively larger samples.
  • Larger sample sizes enable the conclusion to be generalized.
  • Evaluation of the multiple data sets can be done at once and that too at a faster pace and accurately.
  • This method is called to be appropriate when there is a need for systematic and standardized comparisons.
  • The manual implementations of ideas can be automated completely which can save time.

Weaknesses of Quantitative Data

Here are some of the weaknesses of quantitative research:

  • The quantitative method reveals what and to what extent but often fails to answer more on why and how.
  • This type of research requires the model performance to be monitored on a constant basis in order to ensure its compliance with the original hypotheses.
  • The impression of homogeneity in a sample may turn out to be fake in this method.
  • This method involves a limited number of Quants supply and also involves complex disciplines which are hard to master.

Types of Quantitative Research Methods

When it comes to gathering information, quantitative research comes in handy. It provides you with a wide range of options. Each has its own set of pros and cons. Hence, it is advised to use a combination of them to get the best outcomes. Here are the four commonly used quantitative research methods that you can consider employing:


Conducting surveys is one of the most common quantitative research methods that most marketers utilize. In this method, marketers distribute surveys to their target audience in order to gather information, followed by statistical analysis of the results in order to develop conclusions and insights. 

In addition to being a short turnaround method, it is an excellent approach to better understand your target customers or explore a new market. Here are the best ways to conduct surveys: 

  • a. Survey via Email: The use of email to communicate with a large number of individuals is quick and can be more cost-effective than the other methods outlined in this section.
  • b. Phone Campaign : Not everyone has access to the internet, so if you want to reach a specific audience that may find it difficult to interact in this manner (for example, older consumers), a telephone campaign may be a more effective strategy. However, phone campaigns can be expensive endeavours as you’ll have to employ teams for calling your consumers and taking their answers. Also, there will be increased telephone bills as well as a result.
  • c. Postal Surveys : like the phone, it allows you to contact a large portion of the population, but it is expensive and takes a long time to complete the task. As businesses strive to discover and respond to changes in consumer behaviour as quickly as possible, postal surveys have grown increasingly out of date.
  • d. Distribution through social media: Social media handles are another wonderful ways to conduct surveys. By distributing the survey through social media, you can collect a greater number of replies from those who are familiar with the brand.
Related: Quantitative And Qualitative Research Tools And Techniques
  • e. QR codes: You can use QR codes by printing or publishing them in magazines, on signs, business cards, or on almost any other object or medium you like.
  • f. SMS-based survey: SMS-based surveys can help you collect a large number of responses quickly and efficiently in a short amount of time.
  • g. In-person quantitative research : doing quantitative research in person makes sense in particular situations. However, this is not the solution for all types of research. In-person quantitative research works well when you need to capture quantifiable data about a customer’s experience in the present, or intercepts, where you need customers to physically engage with a product in order to provide relevant feedback. However, know that these kinds of research are costly affairs, as well as time-consuming and challenging to organize and carry out logistically.

In this approach, you’ll be able to collect information that may be categorized and analyzed in a quantitative, numerical manner.

2. Correlation Research

Correlation research examines the effects of one entity on another and the changes that result. This quantitative research method requires a minimum of two different groups or entities to establish the relationship.

This quantitative research strategy uses mathematical analysis to correlate two or more variables. The original patterns, correlations, and trends between variables are finished. Impact of one variable on the other and how it affects the interaction between them are observed. To achieve desired findings, researchers often modify one of the variables.

It is best not to draw conclusions just from correlational data. Because two variables that are in sync are not necessarily connected.

3. Causal-Comparative Research

This strategy relies heavily on comparison. This quantitative research method is used to determine the cause-effect relationship between two or more variables, where one variable is dependent on the other. 


In this step, the independent variable is established but not changed. The variables or groupings must be formed as in nature. Because dependent and independent variables always exist in a group, it is prudent to draw conclusions carefully considering all elements.

Causal-comparative research examines how distinct variables or groups change as a result of the same changes. This study is undertaken regardless of the relationship between two or more variables. Statistical analysis is used to clearly present the results of quantitative research.

4. Experimental Research

True experimentation is based on a theory. Experimental research, as the name implies, tests one or more hypotheses. This theory is unproven and only a supposition. In experimental research, the statement is tested to see if it is true. Experiment research might have numerous theories. One can verify or deny a theory.


Once you’ve obtained your data, the next step is to categorize and evaluate the information. There are numerous approaches that can be used to do this. However, 

Cross-tabulation is a powerful technique that categorizes your results depending on demographic subgroups, which is very useful. 

For example, how many of the persons who answered ‘yes’ to a question were adults and how many were youngsters can be calculated.

Take the time to clean the data (for example, deleting respondents who rushed through the survey and repeatedly selected the same answer) to ensure that you can draw confident inferences from it. All of this can be handled by a competent group of professionals.

Pointers to Keep in Mind While Constructing Surveys

  • Make it crystal clear what you want to accomplish with your survey. 
  • This will assist you in determining your target audience and in developing relevant queries for them.
  • Make use of easy and simple language that people from a variety of backgrounds may easily comprehend.
  • Make sure your questions and answers are concise and easy to understand.
  • Use acronyms only if you are confident that your audience will understand what you are trying to say.
  • Make sure not to over-survey your participants. Instead, make an effort to obtain as much information as possible in the first instance—excessive surveying results in survey weariness, which results in a poor response rate.
  • Make certain that all critical questions have been marked as obligatory.
  • Avoid using double negatives in your questions. Participants may become confused if you utilize double negatives in your questions, and they may misinterpret your queries.
  • Providing a ‘not applicable’ response option will assist you in collecting correct information.
  • Instead of a four-point scale, a five-point scale should be used because the latter does not provide a neutral answer choice.
  • Include closed-ended questions rather than open-ended questions. An ideal survey should primarily include closed-ended questions, with a few open-ended questions thrown in for good measure.
  • Example: instead of asking, “Can you tell us about your experience with our food delivery services?” You should ask, “How happy are you with our food delivery services?” 
  • Your options may include the following: “Very Happy / Satisfied / Don’t know / Dissatisfied / Very Dissatisfied” 

Why is quantitative research important to business?

Quantitative research is an extremely useful tool for anyone who wants to have a better understanding of their market and clients. The ability to acquire trustworthy, objective insights from data and clearly identify trends and patterns is enabled by this technology.

Quantitative research is a critical component of market research; it depends on hard facts and numerical data to create an objective picture of people’s ideas as possible to obtain an understanding of their preferences. There are numerous reasons why quantitative research is essential in any market research plan, including the following:

  • It makes it possible to conduct research on a large scale.
  • It assists organizations in determining the scale of a new opportunity.
  • It allows marketers to quickly and simply compare distinct groups (e.g., by age, gender, or market) in order to discover the similarities and variations between them.
  • It can be useful when trying to simplify a complicated problem or topic into a small number of variables.

Importance of quantitative research in marketing

The quantitative study is mainly concerned with numbers. It makes use of mathematical analysis and data to throw light on vital facts pertaining to your company and the market in general. This type of information, obtained using techniques such as multiple-choice questionnaires or surveys, can be used to generate buzz in your organization and its products and services.

Related: How to Use Customer Data Analytics for Higher ROI

What is Qualitative Research

The methodologies utilized in qualitative research may appear ineffectual to individuals who are more experienced with quantitative research approaches at first glance. 

It is more focused on exploring the issues, understanding the actual problem, and enabling oneself to answer all the questions. The qualitative Research Method is more dependent on deriving the value of variables in their natural setting. 


In a nutshell, qualitative research differs from quantitative research in that it emphasizes words rather than statistics and depth rather than breadth. 

Its approaches are exploratory in nature, intending to uncover the opinions, thoughts, and feelings of those who participate.  It is most frequently used to inform the development of new concepts, theories, and products. Qualitative research, which was originally designed for use in the social sciences, is now commonly utilized to inform market research by acquiring unique consumer insight from a large amount of available data.

Strengths of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research can be beneficial in the following ways

  • All the problems and the topics covered in this research are in detail.
  • This method majorly focuses on small groups which ultimately do not require more expenses when compared to quantitative research.
  • With the emergence of new developed information and findings, the revision, direction and framework of the data can be done easily and quickly.
  • The data is collected from a small group which bounds it to be universal for a large population.
  • The data with this method is collected based on genuine efforts and gives a clear vision of what can be expected.

Weaknesses of Qualitative Research

  • As the data is collected for a small group, which assumptions cannot be made beyond the small group of people.
  • It becomes difficult to demonstrate, maintain and assess the rigidity of the data.
  • The collection of statistical data is not easy and cannot be done solely by using this method.
  • As the data is in big quantity, analysis and interpretation of the data take much time.
  • The responses of the subjects might be affected as the researchers are bound to be present during the process of data gathering.

Types of Qualitative Research Method

There are 8 types of Qualitative Methods; take a look…

1. One-on-one Interview

In-depth interviews are a typical qualitative research method. It involves a one-on-one interview with one respondent. This is essentially a conversational strategy that allows for detailed responses.

This strategy allows for exact data collection regarding people’s beliefs and motivations. Asking the appropriate questions can help a researcher acquire valuable data. If the researchers require further information, they should ask follow-up questions.

One-on-one interviews can be conducted in person or over the phone and can last from 30 minutes to two hours. Face-to-face interviews allow for better reading of respondents’ body language and matching of responses.

2. Focus Groups

A focus group is yet another popular qualitative data collection strategy. It typically includes 6-10 people from your target market. The focus group’s major goal is to answer “why,” “what,” and “how.” 

Focus groups have the advantage of not requiring face-to-face interaction. Focus groups can now be issued online surveys on multiple devices, and responses can be collected instantly. 

However, know that this is one of the more costly online qualitative research approaches. They usually explain complex processes. This strategy is great for market research and concept testing.

3. Discussion Boards

Similar to focus groups, discussion boards effectively collect dynamic data over time. Like an online forum , the researcher can initiate a debate and invite participants to add and expand on one other’s ideas. Using prompts and probes, the researcher can have as much or as little input as needed. A forum can be active for days or weeks.

Marketers can use these approaches to get feedback on a new product. Also, these techniques can help marketers grasp different perspectives on the product and can get to know their customers.

4. Case-study

In recent years, the case study approach has evolved into a robust qualitative research method. This is considered one of the best methods to describe an organization or entity.

This research strategy is employed in fields like education and social sciences. This method may appear complex, but it is one of the simplest to use because it requires a complete understanding of data gathering methods and data inference.

5. Pictures and Videos 

Pictures and videos are also interactive qualitative approaches. This is, in fact, one of the most popular qualitative research strategies today. Respondents can contribute photographs or videos to illustrate their stories. Respondents could, for example, give video footage together with a written evaluation of a product.

6. Record-Keeping or Logging

This strategy uses existing reputable documents and information sources as data sources. One can look through books and other reference material to gather data for the research in this method.

7. Ethnographic study

It is the most in-depth approach to studying people in their natural habitat. An organization, a city, or a remote place could be the target audience for this strategy. 

Cultures, difficulties, motivations, and contexts are studied in this study. Geographical constraints can affect data collection. Instead of interviews and debates, you get to see the natural environment.

This type of research might range from a few days to a few years because it includes close observation and data collection. It is a time-consuming and challenging strategy that relies on the researcher’s ability to examine, observe, and deduce the data.

8. Observation Method

Lastly, in the list, we have the observation method. This is a method of collecting data using subjective methods. Researchers use subjective approaches to gather qualitative data to obtain information or data. Qualitative observation is used to compare quality.

It involves characteristics, not measures. Sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing are all examples of qualitative observation.

It is necessary to do an in-depth analysis of your qualitative data after it has been collected in order to identify the essential themes and insights from your research.

Once the qualitative research is completed and the essential insights have been identified, the next step is to utilize the same insights in the subsequent stages of developing a product or marketing strategy. Moreover, you can use these insights to narrow down your target audience.

Aside from that, your research may have elicited some new ideas and notions that you would like to investigate further, forming the basis for quantitative analysis to determine whether these viewpoints represent the general public.

Related Post: Key Difference Between Database and Data Warehouse

Why Do You Need Qualitative Research?

In contrast to a closed question survey, qualitative procedures provide a unique level of information that is impossible to obtain via a quantitative survey. Respondents are free to share their own experiences, opinions, and feelings without feeling compelled to do so

Qualitative methods provide a more dynamic approach to research because they allow the researcher to follow up on responses given by respondents in real-time, resulting in valuable conversation around a topic that would not otherwise be possible with a structured survey. 

When it comes to capturing accurate and in-depth insights, qualitative research methodologies are the go-to method for researchers. 

It is extremely beneficial to record “factual facts.” Here are some examples of when qualitative research should be conducted.

  • When developing a new product or producing a new concept
  • Evaluating your product, brand, or service in order to improve your marketing approach
  • To better understand how your target audience reacts to marketing campaigns and other communications.
  • To recognize your own personal strengths and flaws
  • Understanding customers’ purchase behavior  
  • To explore market demographics, segments, and customer groups. 
  • To obtain information on the public’s perception of a brand, company, or product.

The Bottom Line

So, this is all about qualitative research and quantitative research. Based on the above discussion, it is safe to say that Qualitative research makes up for what quantitative research lacks in terms of meaning depth. Having access to both types of research methods allows for the fulfilment of all research needs. 

In a nutshell, qualitative methods complement quantitative research approaches perfectly. Together, they present a once-in-a-lifetime chance for businesses to gather detailed information on their customers, which they can use to better their marketing efforts and increase their bottom line.

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10 Characteristics Of Qualitative Research, Its Applications, Advantages and Disadvantages

 We explain what a qualitative research is and its applications. Also, what are its characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.

What is a qualitative research?

It differs from quantitative research, which looks for measurable and comparable data such as percentages, quantities, and probabilities.

Qualitative research is a method used mainly in the social sciences  to study human phenomena  that require complex analysis for their understanding.

The researcher  approaches the subjects he wants to study and shares his daily life with them  , in some cases conducting interviews to inquire about their emotions , ideas and expectations.

Qualitative investigations can be complemented with other quantitative ones.

Characteristics of a qualitative research  :

Qualitative research is an approach to research that focuses on understanding the subjective experiences, perspectives, and meanings of individuals and groups. Some of the key characteristics of qualitative research include:

Emphasis on context

Qualitative research focuses on the context in which people experience and interpret events, rather than just the events themselves. This means that researchers seek to understand the social, cultural, and historical factors that shape people's experiences.

Data collection through interviews, observations, and other qualitative methods

Qualitative researchers typically collect data through methods such as interviews, observations, focus groups, and other techniques that allow for detailed exploration of people's experiences and perspectives.

In-depth analysis

Qualitative research involves a detailed and in-depth analysis of data, with a focus on identifying themes, patterns, and relationships that emerge from the data.


Qualitative research acknowledges the subjectivity of the researcher and the participants, and recognizes that multiple perspectives and interpretations are possible.


Qualitative research is often flexible and iterative, allowing the researcher to adjust their methods and approach based on the data they collect and the insights they gain.

Interpretive and exploratory

Qualitative research is often exploratory and interpretive, seeking to understand and make sense of complex phenomena rather than testing specific hypotheses.


Qualitative research does not seek to generalize findings to a larger population in the same way that quantitative research does. Instead, qualitative research seeks to provide rich and detailed descriptions of the experiences and perspectives of individuals and groups.

Inductive reasoning is  one that goes from the particular to the general  . It is different from deductive reasoning, which draws a conclusion about a particular case from a general law .

Qualitative research  is inductive because it does not start from general laws or principles  that apply to particular cases but, on the contrary, is dedicated to collecting data from which it can later make generalizations.

However, inductive reasoning  is used with reservations in qualitative research  since the generalizations are not applicable to any society studied but to societies that have certain characteristics.

In addition, they  are raised as hypotheses that can be refuted  by other qualitative research.

Interaction with the subjects studied

Interaction with the subjects studied

In addition to  studying processes in society  , the researcher takes into account the way his own research progresses.

The researcher  can interact directly through the interview  or through participation in activities in the community he studies.

But even if it is limited to observation , its mere presence already  affects the behavior of the subjects

Process oriented

One of the reasons why qualitative research does not seek universal generalizations is because it  does not focus on fixed situations or invariant states  of a society, but rather studies processes.

Qualitative research  looks at the way a society transforms  and not the initial or final state of change.

It also studies its own process, this means that it is recursive: it refers to itself.

The subject in its own frame of reference

The subject in its own frame of reference

When studying a social group or a society far from his own, the qualitative researcher  does not judge the attitudes and thoughts of that group from his own point of view  but tries to understand it within the framework of values , norms , practices and beliefs of the group studied.

The subjective aspect is always present in this type of research, but an  attempt is made to identify one's own opinions and prejudices  , to avoid affecting the research.

These investigations  never study an isolated event  but, to understand each event, behavior or customs, they adopt a holistic position, that is, they take into account the experience of the subject as a whole.

For this, the subjects studied  are considered within the framework of their past  , their expectations for the future and their location within their specific context.

Complex data

Complex data

When studying a human group qualitatively,  the measurable and expressible factors in numbers or proportions are minimal  . Rather, non-measurable data are observed and described.

For this reason, these investigations  do not usually allow statistical analysis  and the conclusions of each investigation depend to a great extent on the interpretation of the data obtained.

Flexible and evolutionary

By not having a fixed methodology, qualitative research  is adapted to the realities studied  .

Depending on the phenomena the researcher encounters, he can hypothesize and correct concepts as he goes along.

Variety of study objects

Variety of study objects

Qualitative research  takes into account all the participants of an event  and all the factors involved, regardless of whether they participate from a central or peripheral place.

For example, when studying a social phenomenon, it  does not only study the leaders  but also the behavior of all the members of the social group.

Advantages of Qualitative Research

Compared to a quantitative research, the advantages of a qualitative research are:

  • Allows communication with the subjects studied
  • Facilitates a horizontal relationship with the investigated groups
  • It allows a description and a complex analysis of the phenomena
  • The large amount and variety of data it offers allows other scholars to reach different conclusions and even continue the investigation

Disadvantages of Qualitative Research


Compared to quantitative research, the disadvantages of qualitative research are:

  • It is difficult to process and compare the information obtained since it does not present quantifiable data
  • The results lose objectivity because they depend on the interpretation of the researcher


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Limitations and Weaknesses of Quantitative Research

Limitations and Weaknesses of Quantitative Research: Research entails the collection of materials for  academic or other purposes. It is a process of gathering information and data to solve or existing problem or prevent future problems. Research works can be done via two methods. Qualitative research or quantitative research.

Qualitative research involves the carrying out of research by gathering non-numerical data. For example, gathering of video evidence, texts or messages for analysis. On the other hand, quantitative research is the process where by numerical data are collected and analyzed. It is effectively used to find patterns and averages as well as generalising a finding or result to a wider population. Quantitative research is mostly used in natural and social sciences such as biology, psychology, economics, among others.

drawbacks of quantitative analysis

Quantitative research could be carried out using any four methods of researching which are descriptive research, correlational research, experimental research or survey research. In descriptive, one seeks to know the ‘what’ of a thing rather than the ‘why’ of such thing. It tries to describe the various components of an information.

Correlational research involves the research between two variables to ascertain the relationship between the variables. It understudies the impact of one variable on the other. On the other hand, an experimental research is one that uses scientific methods to establish the relationship between groups of variables. That is, it tries to establish a cause-effect relationship between the various variables under study.

The Limitations and weaknesses of quantitative research method

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Finally, the survey research which is most widely used involves the preparation of set questionnaires, interviews and polls to which answers are provided by a segment of the target population and then, conclusions are drawn from such answers given. Survey research studies the relationship between various variables in a given research.

One of the major benefit of  quantitative research method is that it makes one arrive at a well considered conclusion since samples are collected from those who are directly affected by the research. The data collected are majorly converted to a numerical form which aids in statistical analysis. Also, quantitative research is more convenient for projects with scientific and social science inclinations.

Also see: Advantages and Disadvantages of quantitative and qualitative Research

Weaknesses of Quantitative Research

Notwithstanding the benefits of quantitative research, the research method has its own weaknesses and limitations. This is because the method is not applicable and convenient in all cases of research. Thus, using a quantitative research method in a research where qualitative research method should be used will not produce the needed result.

Problems of quantitative research method

To this end, some of the weaknesses and limitations of quantitative research are highlighted below.

1. It Requires a Large Number of Respondents: In the course of carrying out a quantitative research, recourse has to be made to a large number of respondents. This is because you are sampling a section of a population to get their views, which views will be seen as that of the general population. In doing this, a huge number of respondents have to be consulted so as to get a fair view or percentage of the target population.

For example, if one wishes to carry out a quantitative research in Nigeria as to her acceptance of a policy of the government, one will need to consult wider. This is because Nigeria has a population of over 200 million people and the opinions of a few thousands cannot pass out as that of 200 million people. In the light of this, more respondents will be required to be interviewed so as to enable one get a fair view of the population.

Large number of respondents is thus, one of the weaknesses or limitations of quantitative research as a small sampling of a section of the target population might not be of much help to the research.

2. It is time consuming: Unlike qualitative research which has to do with analysis of already prepared data, quantitative research demands that you source for and collate the data yourself while converting such data collected into a numerical form for proper analysis. This process is time consuming. Again, the task of sending out questionnaires to respondents and waiting for answers to such questionnaires might be time consuming as most respondents will reply late or may not even reply at all.

Great patience is therefore needed in carrying out a quantitative research. It is therefore not always a good method of research in cases of urgencies as the time to get responses might take too long.

Also see: Major characteristics of customary laws

3. It requires huge resources: Quantitative research requires huge investment of time, money and energy. It is time consuming just as it also involve huge financial commitments.

In carrying out quantitative research, one needs to get your questions prepared, sent out and also followed up to ensure that such is answered. Also, some respondents might demand to be paid before giving their inputs to such a research. An example is the trending online surveys in which the target respondents are paid for every survey they carry out for a researcher.

4. Difficulty in Analyzing the Data Collected: Data are collected from respondents and then converted into statistics. This usually poses as a limitation to a researcher who is not an expert in statistics. Analysis of collected data is also demanding and time consuming. A researcher needs to make such information collected into numerical data and correlate them with the larger population. Where this is not properly done, it means that the outcome might be false or misleading.

Also, due to the fact that a researcher might not have control over the environment he is researching in, as any such environment is susceptible to change at any point in time, the outcome of his research might be inconsistent.

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5. Outcomes of quantitative research is usually limited: In quantitative research, the outcomes are usually limited. This is because the outcome is usually based on what the researcher wants. This limited outcome is due to the structured pattern of the questionnaires. Questionnaires usually have close ended questions which gives a respondent little or no opportunity of explanations. Thus, the answers provided are limited to the questions asked and nothing more.

6. Data outcomes are usually generalised : As noted earlier, quantitative research is usually conducted on a section of a target population and not on the whole population. The outcome of this research is then generalised as the view of the entire population. What this portends is that the views of  few respondents in that research is seen as that of the general populace. Such views from them might be biased or insincere, yet they are seen as that of the entire population.

In the light of this, the fallacy of hasty generalisation is prone to be committed in a quantitative research. Generalisation of the views of a section of the population might not be the best as their views may be biased.

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In conclusion, quantitative research is a veritable means of conducting research especially in the fields of natural sciences and social sciences. This is because it mostly has a one on one interaction between the researcher and the various respondents as it majorly studies behavior. This advantage notwithstanding, the research method has its own  limitations and weaknesses. These limitations and weaknesses often times affect the quality of a research which is done using the quantitative method of research.

weakness of qualitative research brainly

Edeh Samuel Chukwuemeka, ACMC, is a lawyer and a certified mediator/conciliator in Nigeria. He is also a developer with knowledge in various programming languages. Samuel is determined to leverage his skills in technology, SEO, and legal practice to revolutionize the legal profession worldwide by creating web and mobile applications that simplify legal research. Sam is also passionate about educating and providing valuable information to people.

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