In the handbook of qualitative research Denzin and Lincoln (2005) describe qualitative research as involving “… an interpretive naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.”
When conducting qualitative research, the prominence is put on the natural surrounding and the views of the research participants.
Qualitative research has a long been associated with sociology and has been used for as long as the field itself has existed. This type of research has long interested social scientists because it allows the researchers to investigate the meanings that people attribute to their behavior, actions, and interactions with others.
Qualitative research is designed to disclose the meaning that informs the action or outcomes that are typically measured by quantitative research. So, our qualitative researchers investigate meanings, interpretations, symbols, and the processes and relations of social life.
Our qualitative researchers use their experience to collect in-depth perceptions and descriptions of targeted populations, places, and events. Their findings are collected through a variety of methods, and often, our researchers will use at least two or several of the following while conducting a qualitative study;
Direct observation: With direct observation, a researcher studies people as they go about their daily lives without participating or interfering. This type of research is often unknown to those under study, and as such, must be conducted in public settings where people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
Open-ended surveys: While many surveys are designed to generate quantitative data, many are also designed with open-ended questions that allow for the generation and analysis of qualitative data.
Focus group: In a focus group, a researcher engages a small group of participants in a conversation designed to generate data relevant to the research question. Focus groups can contain anywhere from 5 to 15 participants.
In-depth interviews: Researchers conduct in-depth interviews by speaking with participants in a one-on-one setting. Sometimes a researcher approaches the interview with a predetermined list of questions or topics for discussion but allows the conversation to evolve based on how the participant responds.