Characteristics of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is performed by businesses that acknowledge the human condition and want to learn more about it. Some of the key characteristics of qualitative research that enable practitioners to perform qualitative inquiry comprise small data, absence of definitive truth, the importance of context, researcher’s skills and are of interests.

Absence of a definitive truth

One of the most obvious characteristics of qualitative research is the lack of definitive truth.

Unlike quantitative data, which is clinical, logical, and deals in absolutes, qualitative data is collected by researchers who simply want to know more about the subject at hand.

Note that qualitative data collection does not occur in a vacuum and is context-dependent.

Data are the result of various situational factors that vary from one person to the next, and it is for this reason that qualitative researchers tend to worry about whether the data are reasonably probable as opposed to factual.

This plausibility can be increased by ensuring the data collection process is as accurate as practicable.

Importance of context

Further to the point above is the importance of context. Since qualitative research is performed to better understand real-world problems, the research must consider the natural contexts in which individuals exist.

Context depends on the individual and their social, cultural, or historical background or experience.

In this way, qualitative research provides an accurate account of how people feel, what forces shape their lives, and other less tangible factors that quantitative data may fail to capture or explain.

Understanding what test subjects think and feel can make the solutions more empathic, equitable, effective, and efficient. 

Researcher centrism and skills

In qualitative research, the researcher who designs the test is also the instrument by which data are collected.

Since the researcher is close to the research participants, they can understand context and meaning in detail and better interpret study outcomes.

In some cases, however, this level of intimacy can threaten the ability of the researcher to collect data that is unbiased and objective.

To avoid this scenario, researchers are encouraged to think carefully about qualitative research design.

For example, it’s important to use the funnel approach to interview development which enables the interviewer to incorporate the issues that will play a role in reaching study objectives. 

Individuals conducting the study should also focus on building rapport with their subjects, practice active listening, avoid inconsistencies, and note any contradictions.

Areas of interest and subject matter

Qualitative research is best suited to areas of interest or subject matter that may be difficult to learn more about via more structured research designs.

A qualitative line of inquiry can be used to tackle sensitive or intricate topics like sexual dysfunction or those that involved one’s personal life history. 

Alternatively, it can be used to collate meaningful information from populations that are hard to reach or underserved, such as children from certain subcultures or groups.

In terms of issues that affect both business and society, qualitative research can provide insight into more nebulous topics such as:

  • How social media use is affecting physical social engagement among teens in cities.
  • The importance of mental health education in a high-school curriculum.
  • The benefits of immunization in poor, rural areas.
  • Understanding the factors that cause food insecurity and scarcity in a given region, and
  • The importance of establishing positive client-customer relationships.

Key takeaways:

  • Qualitative research is performed by businesses that acknowledge the human condition and want to learn more about it.
  • One of the most obvious characteristics of qualitative research is the lack of definitive truth. Researchers perform this type of research to learn more about a topic that is often nebulous and hard to define.
  • Other characteristics of qualitative research include researcher centrism, researcher skills, and the importance of context in determining how participants think and feel while they interact with their environment. 

Read Next: Characteristics of Quantitative Research

Connected Analysis Frameworks

Cynefin Framework

The Cynefin Framework gives context to decision making and problem-solving by providing context and guiding an appropriate response. The five domains of the Cynefin Framework comprise obvious, complicated, complex, chaotic domains and disorder if a domain has not been determined at all.

SWOT Analysis

A SWOT Analysis is a framework used for evaluating the business’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It can aid in identifying the problematic areas of your business so that you can maximize your opportunities. It will also alert you to the challenges your organization might face in the future.

Personal SWOT Analysis

The SWOT analysis is commonly used as a strategic planning tool in business. However, it is also well suited for personal use in addressing a specific goal or problem. A personal SWOT analysis helps individuals identify their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.

Pareto Analysis

The Pareto Analysis is a statistical analysis used in business decision making that identifies a certain number of input factors that have the greatest impact on income. It is based on the similarly named Pareto Principle, which states that 80% of the effect of something can be attributed to just 20% of the drivers.

Failure Mode And Effects Analysis

A failure mode and effects analysis (FMEA) is a structured approach to identifying design failures in a product or process. Developed in the 1950s, the failure mode and effects analysis is one the earliest methodologies of its kind. It enables organizations to anticipate a range of potential failures during the design stage.

Blindspot Analysis

A Blindspot Analysis is a means of unearthing incorrect or outdated assumptions that can harm decision making in an organization. The term “blindspot analysis” was first coined by American economist Michael Porter. Porter argued that in business, outdated ideas or strategies had the potential to stifle modern ideas and prevent them from succeeding. Furthermore, decisions a business thought were made with care caused projects to fail because major factors had not been duly considered.

Comparable Company Analysis

A comparable company analysis is a process that enables the identification of similar organizations to be used as a comparison to understand the business and financial performance of the target company. To find comparables you can look at two key profiles: the business and financial profile. From the comparable company analysis it is possible to understand the competitive landscape of the target organization.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

A cost-benefit analysis is a process a business can use to analyze decisions according to the costs associated with making that decision. For a cost analysis to be effective it’s important to articulate the project in the simplest terms possible, identify the costs, determine the benefits of project implementation, assess the alternatives.

Agile Business Analysis

Agile Business Analysis (AgileBA) is certification in the form of guidance and training for business analysts seeking to work in agile environments. To support this shift, AgileBA also helps the business analyst relate Agile projects to a wider organizational mission or strategy. To ensure that analysts have the necessary skills and expertise, AgileBA certification was developed.

SOAR Analysis

A SOAR analysis is a technique that helps businesses at a strategic planning level to: Focus on what they are doing right. Determine which skills could be enhanced. Understand the desires and motivations of their stakeholders.

STEEPLE Analysis

The STEEPLE analysis is a variation of the STEEP analysis. Where the step analysis comprises socio-cultural, technological, economic, environmental/ecological, and political factors as the base of the analysis. The STEEPLE analysis adds other two factors such as Legal and Ethical.

Pestel Analysis

The PESTEL analysis is a framework that can help marketers assess whether macro-economic factors are affecting an organization. This is a critical step that helps organizations identify potential threats and weaknesses that can be used in other frameworks such as SWOT or to gain a broader and better understanding of the overall marketing environment.

DESTEP Analysis

A DESTEP analysis is a framework used by businesses to understand their external environment and the issues which may impact them. The DESTEP analysis is an extension of the popular PEST analysis created by Harvard Business School professor Francis J. Aguilar. The DESTEP analysis groups external factors into six categories: demographic, economic, socio-cultural, technological, ecological, and political.

Paired Comparison Analysis

A paired comparison analysis is used to rate or rank options where evaluation criteria are subjective by nature. The analysis is particularly useful when there is a lack of clear priorities or objective data to base decisions on. A paired comparison analysis evaluates a range of options by comparing them against each other.

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