Qualitative research methods are those employed in academic disciplines, such as the social sciences or marketing, that seek to understand some aspect of human behavior and the reasons for that behavior. Qualitative research methods attempt to understand the how and why of human decisions, and not simple hard numbers.
Qualitative research attempts to answer questions on the human side of a research question, and therefore can be used to identify various intangible factions, including social norms, gender roles, religion, or socioeconomic status. There are three major qualitative research methods: participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups.
Participant observation is widely used in areas such as anthropology, in which the researcher takes part in the life of the group, observing, conducting interviews, and analyzing personal documents. Such research can take months or years, and the length allows the researcher to gather detailed and accurate information about individuals and the group.
In-depth interviews consist of open-ended questions that allow for greater responses from participants. These allow the researcher to gain greater understanding of the respondent’s feelings and emotions. Methods using focus groups employ in-depth questioning within an interactive, group session, often to acquire feedback regarding a specific product as well as to acquire information about group dynamics.
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