Last modified: October 26, 2015
Qualitative research is one of the methodologies used in conducting research. This methodology is usually used in research conducted in the social sciences, disciplines such as nursing, market research and so on. In fact, all researches that involve investigation of human behaviours that deal with the decision-making process
are conducted through qualitative research. The term qualitative research includes a variety of methodologies that have similarities and differences (Parahoo, 2006).
The goal of qualitative research is not in finding absolute or generalized truths. Because of this, the nature of qualitative research is subjective and based on the reality as interpreted by each individual. In other words, qualitative research does not offer generalization of the data to the population but investigates individual experiences of the sample population (Vishnevsky & Beanlands, (2004). Consequently, general conclusions that are reached throughsuch research, are only informed assertions.
The data collection methods in qualitative research are of various types, including: grounded theory, phenomenology / hermeneutics, ethnography, narratology, and story-telling.
The aim of qualitative research, of whatever type it belongs to, is the description of the issue that is being studied. The sample is selected for that particular purpose and according to the convenience of the research parameters. Generally interviews and questionnaires are used for data collection and these are usually semi-structured. The analysis of the data is carried out using generic analysis tools, and the findings are in the form of the description of the phenomenon that was studied.
Qualitative research findings, being of the subjective type, the meanings and processes being examined cannot be easily measured. Also, researcher bias could interfere with an impartial investigation. Ethical dilemmas are common in this method as the anonymity of the participants cannot be maintained as they are known to the researcher. Wheras quantitative research results are repeatable and can be generalized, qualitative research lacks these qualities. Hence, the reliability and validity of the findings are debatable. To overcome this, rigour has to be established to demonstrate the plausibility, credibility and the integrity of the research process by which the reader should be able to audit the actions and developments of the researcher ( Koch, 2006). This can be provided through rigour in documentation, procedural rigour and ethical rigour.
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