Qualitative Research – A Path to Improved Outcomes

Qualitative research can be used as a dynamic approach to evaluating a program, social issue, or organization.  The focus of qualitative research is to collect information from a natural setting or environment using several methodologies and can provide an in-depth understanding of peoples’ knowledge, perceptions, attitudes, history, and behaviors. Qualitative research is typically an emergent or iterative process compared to a tightly configured quantitative approach. During the inquiry, the qualitative researcher will likely see several new aspects emerge that can lead to a change in the research questions and even a modification of methodology.

Qualitative research is fundamentally interpretive and provides a holistic and broad view of an environment or issue rather than a micro-analysis. A qualitative researcher must conduct a self-assessment to identify any biases, socio-political beliefs, and past experiences that could influence the interpretation of data. An effective qualitative researcher must be self-aware and objective.

There are five approaches to qualitative research including:

  • Narrative Research
  • Phenomenological Research
  • Grounded theory Research
  • Ethnographic Research
  • Case study Research

Qualitative inquiry includes these data sources:

  • Observations
  • Interviews (individual or group)
  • Documents including policies, procedures, email discussions, memorandum, and meeting minutes
  • Audiovisual materials including videotapes and software

Qualitative researchers must be clear on the steps used during the inquiry in order to demonstrate validity and the accuracy and credibility of the findings.  Reliability can be demonstrated by comparing the work of different investigators or by reviewing multiple cases.

Consider using qualitative research to examine behavior and social change strategies, employee perceptions and satisfaction, organizational culture, or operational procedures.

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