Qualitative case study research

A good researcher knows that everything happens in context. It’s not just in social science, but a fundamental principle in physics – every reaction is caused by something. In studying people, communities and behaviour, we need to consider the embedded world in which they live. In qualitative research this is always an important part of the research, but it also provides a difficult methodological question: how much of the context

10 alternative qualitative methods

At the National Council for Research Methods ‘Research Methods Festival’ last month, Steve Wright (from the University of Lancaster) mentioned in his talk the frustrations he has with students that do the bog-standard ’12 semi-structured interviews’ methodology for their qualitative research projects. This prompted a lot of discussion and empathy over lunch, with many tutors lamenting how students weren’t

What is qualitative observation?

  Essentially, observation is a type of, or more likely, a part of ethnography. In ethnography, anthropologists (people who study people) turn their observations of people, cultures and organisations into written field notes (a bit like a research diary). While some of this may be reflexive (the participants own thoughts and feelings) most focuses on the activities and interactions of the people being studied.   There are broadly two

Quantitative vs. qualitative research

So this much is obvious: quantitative research uses numbers and statistics to draw conclusions about large populations. You count something that is countable, and process results across the sample.   Qualitative methods are more elusive: however in general they revolve around collecting data from people about an experience. This could be how they used a service, how they felt about something, and could be verbal or written. But it is

Qualitative methods blog posts

Articles on qualitative methods     This series aims to introduce qualitative methods and some of the main approaches in collecting qualitative data.     Why qualitative research? There are lies, damn lies, and statistics It's easy to knock statistics for being misleading, or even misused to support spurious findings. In fact, there seems to be a growing backlash at the... What is a Qualitative approach The benefit of

Tips for running effective focus groups

In the last blog article I looked at some of the justifications for choosing focus groups as a method in qualitative research. This week, we will focus on some practical tips to make sure that focus groups run smoothly, and to ensure you get good engagement from your participants.   1. Make sure you have a helper! It’s very difficult to run focus groups on your own. If you are wanting to layout the room, greet people, deal with

Qualitative evaluations: methods, data and analysis

Evaluating programmes and projects are an essential part of the feedback loop that should lead to better services. In fact, programmes should be designed with evaluations in mind, to make sure that there are defined and measurable outcomes.   While most evaluations generally include numerical analysis, qualitative data is often used along-side the quantitative, to show richness of project impact, and put a human voice in the process.

Participatory analysis: closing the loop

In participatory research, we try to get away from the idea of researchers doing research on people, and move to a model where they are conducting research with people.   The movement comes partly from feminist critiques of epistemology, attacking the pervasive notion that knowledge can only be created by experienced academics, The traditional way of doing research generally disempowers people, as the researchers get to decide what

10 tips for semi-structured qualitative interviewing

Many qualitative researchers spend a lot of time interviewing participants, so here are some quick tips to make interviews go as smooth as possible: before, during and after!   1. Let your participants choose the location If you want your interviewees to be comfortable in sharing sometimes personal or sensitive information, make sure they can do it in a comfortable location. For some people, this might be their own house, or a neutral

An overview of qualitative methods

There are a lot of different ways to collect qualitative data, and this article just provides a brief summary of some of the main methods used in qualitative research. Each one is an art in its own right, with various different techniques, definitions, approaches and proponents. More on each one will follow in later articles, and it’s worth remembering that these need to be paired with the right questions, sampling, and analysis to get