16.1 What Is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is not very simple to define. Sure, there are definitions from Wikipedia, psychologists, and anthropologists to name a few but it depends on what the researcher is trying to capture. The medical world views qualitative research as a type of scientific research, which looks for answers to questions by way of predefined procedures. “Qualitative research is especially effective in obtaining culturally specific information about the values, opinions, behaviors, and social contexts of particular populations” (1).

Qualitative research explores topics in more depth and detail than quantitative and is usually less expensive. You can also use it in trying to understand the reasons behind the results of quantitative research. You do not perform any statistical test with qualitative research. Focus groups and individual in-depth interviews are common tools used in qualitative research. Therefore, I guess a simple definition could be defined as methods that at least attempt to capture life as it is lived.

Go back to what the researcher is trying to focus on. Different researchers focus on different sources of data. A researcher could use his/her own experiences or others' experiences through behaviors, speaking, writing, technology, artwork, and so on. There are variations in how the researchers collect their data as well. Some look at the “past” and collect artifacts, life histories, or literature; others look at the “present” through ...

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