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What is Qualitative Research?

The word "qualitative" in "qualitative research" refers qualities in the data that may relate to its numerical dimensions, but are not reducible to numbers. Although counting may play a part, qualitative research methods involve interpretive analysis and proceed from a different logic than quantitative research methods.

Quantitative ResearchQualitative Research
Form of Data Numerical: frequencies, averages, distributions and other statistics Words and images: particularly field notes and interview transcripts
Type of Logic Deductive: data are analyzed to confirm or refute pre-existing theoretical hypotheses Inductive: data are analyzed to generate new theoretical concepts and insights
Goal of Research Testing hypotheses about the relationships between variables. Of particular importance is to find evidence of correlation between variables, which could indicate causation. Understanding the research setting from the perspective of its members by interpreting meanings, themes and motifs that arise in interviews and other interaction.
Research Concepts Variables are selected for investigation at the outset of the research. One or more measurable indicators are selected to operationalize (quantify) each variable. Indicators are measured in a systematic way. Initial research concepts are provisional. Research concepts gradually emerge from the data as the researcher becomes immersed in the setting or interviews.
Sample Size To make statistical generalizations sufficiently large numbers of people must be selected to ensure that the sample is representative of the larger population. To make an in-depth examination of a group or setting the sample need not be large.
Research Techniques Standardized, scientific. Non-standardized, considered a craft.
Role of the Researcher Considered objective. Influence on the results of the research is minimized. Acknowledgement of researcher's role in the creation of knowledge. Results include analysis of how the researcher's social characteristics shape topic selection, observational processes, relationships and interpretation.

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