Qualitative Research

Research is all about making thoughtful and strategic choices. A high quality study design depends on the coherence of your:

  • Practical goals (what do you want to achieve?), your intellectual goals (what do you need to understand that might help you achieve it?)
  • Conceptual framework you are working within (What is already known about the problem? What do you think is going on?)
  • Research questions (What do you want to learn from this study?)
  • Research methods (What will you actually do to answer your research questions and with whom, how, where and when?)
  • Awareness of how you might be wrong and strategies to address this (see also ‘reflexivity’) 

(Adapted from Maxwell, 2013)

Read some qualitative research definitions

Qualitative research varies in the extent to which ‘theory’ is explicitly part of the research design. Bradbury-Jones et al (2014) propose a 5-point typology on the levels of theoretical visibility, which may be helpful in making choices about your own study.

While these webpages discuss primary (empirical) qualitative research studies, qualitative methods are also appropriate when research questions need a ‘qualitative synthesis’ of a group of reported qualitative studies. The most commonly used method of interpretive qualitative synthesis is meta-ethnography.

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