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Qualitative research methodology


Qualitativeresearch methodology


Researchersand scholars all over the world spend much of their time trying toseek answers for issues vital to human life. In this attempt, theyemploy research methods like qualitative and quantitative designs.All these methods do use data, but the qualitative one only uses abit of quantification, though the statistical forms of analysis arenever central. According to Silverman D. (2016), qualitative studyinvolves an interpretive and naturalistic approach to the subjects ina study. It attempts to bring an understanding of things according towhat people living there take them for. They collect empiricalmaterials that provide descriptions of the routine and problematicmoments and meanings in the people’s lives. This paper focuses toexamining the qualitative research methodology in social sciencestudy.

Differences between observational and interview data

Qualitativeresearchers have several methods used to collect empirical materials.They may conduct interviews, observations and other secondary methodssuch as the analysis of documents or artifacts.

Asthe two major primary sources of data for a quality researcher,interview and observation vary a great deal. Firstly, interviews arein the form of verbal data while observation falls under the visualtype of data. The verbal data comes from either semi-structuredinterviews or narratives. Conversely, the visual data are gotten froma participant and non-participant observation, films, and photos.&nbsp

Secondly,structured interviews take a shorter time compared to participantobservation. The observer needs to live within the community infocus. This may take months while interviewing will end in a coupleof hours.

Thirdly,both sets of data collected vary in the level of trust accorded tothem. Interview data is obtained in a complex and subjective manner.The information given from the people are colored by theirperception. They are based purely on what the individuals think, notwhat they do. On the other hand, the researcher sees what thesubjects do, and the participant observer always tries to beunobtrusive. The likelihood of deception or stage managing isminimized.

Finally,interview and observational data vary in the analysis. Structuredinterviews are easy and straightforward, while the unstructured onespresent more complexity due to the large load of informationgathered. Participant observational data requires intensivesynthesis.

How qualitative and historical-comparative researchers use theory

Theoryis inseparable from research. Anfara and Mertz (2014) define theoryas a model for understanding observation. It frames what theresearchers observes, and how they think and look at it. Further,theories enable researchers to draw links between the abstract andthe concrete, reflection and observational statements. From thetheories, scholars grab the basic concepts and direct them to theessential questions. In this sense, the deductive and inductivetheories are the two types in place for the researchers.&nbsp

Thedeductive approach helps in guiding the design of the qualitativeresearch and the interpretation of the results. As steps towardsconducting empirical research to enable the testing of the theorycontinues, confidence develops that some parts of it are correct. Theobservational data and those obtained through interviews are sampledand analyzed based on the prevailing theories. Similarly, all theinformation from the findings is corroborated by the same approachesto achieve credibility of the research.

Onthe other hand, inductive theory builds from assumptions and broadorientation of concepts. For example, assumptions and concepts wereused to develop the social models of language acquisition. Theystarted off by looking at the social factors and their indirecteffect on all mental processes. A researcher on language developmentapplies this concept at the preliminary stage of study by becomingpart of the community in focus to learn the ways to build the theory.

Historicalcomparison serves a plethora of roles to the researcher. It helps theinvestigator to find answers to problems that could have been missedor neglected. It gives clarifications for individual cases by amatter of contrasting them with other particular or broader ones(Anfara and Mertz (2014).

Researchersuse the historical comparison strategy by venturing in archival data,fossils, artifacts or documentations with social cases unknown to theresearcher. Therefore, its application broadens the knowledge ofinvestigator for a thorough work. The social theories which supporthistorical-comparative research are based on case-orientedcomparative studies. In this context, the theory guides a focus onone or several cases of a particular occurrence. For instance, a caseof a democratic transition is explored over time, and thecommonalities plus the underlying causes are noted. The individual orgroup social theories are then used to draw conclusions on theresults.

Why contexts of social events important for qualitativeresearchers

Qualitative researchis a method that is necessary when the research questions need theunderstanding of events, processes, and relationships in the culturaland social situations. The deductions are based on actualdescriptions of face-to-face information from individuals and socialgroups in their natural environment. From these perspectives, variouscontexts present different significance to the research methodology.

The contexts ofsocial events enable qualitative researchers to gauge informants withimpeccable experiences on particular events. Such informants areinvaluable sources of insights based on many years of being part ofthe society. The naturalists understand the situations better becausethey have observed the occurrences on many occasions.

Social events areexpressed differently in respect to the contexts. The considerationof the varying conditions assists the researcher to establish thevalidity and reliability of the data, hence achieving the scientificrigor. The people who are usually observed behave differently in tothe social circumstances. For example, patients may provide two setsof information when they are at a health facility and homerespectively. It is upon the investigator to interview theparticipant in a variety of settings then make the comparisons of thesimilarities and differences in the data obtained before attributingmeaning.

Additionally,contexts of social events can provide a new behavior which can besubjected to further studies. Research often has the preliminarystage. This is where the social context is important. At this phase,there is concept formulation and the definition of goals of the studythat leads to piloting. The new experiences observed from the naturalinhabitants will form the basis for new studies after cross-checkingif any prior documentations are available on the same.

Howto ensure validity and reliability with qualitative research

The assessment ofthe reliability of findings in a study calls on the researchers todecide on the soundness of the research based on the application andhow appropriate the methods were undertaken, as well as the integrityof the final conclusions. For the record, qualitative research hasreceived criticism for the lack of the scientific rigor, withfindings merely composed of individual opinions liable to theresearcher’s bias. The validity of a qualitative research relies onthe efforts and the ability of the researcher, who is the instrument.

Thevalidity of a social science research is concerned with thetruthfulness and the accuracy of the findings. It can be groupedeither as internal or external. The internal validity is the extentto which the research results points to an accurate reflection ofreliability, rather than being the effects of extraneous variables.In external validity, the level to which the reflections orrepresentations of reality are legitimately applicable in all groupsis examined. Reliability concentrates on the consistency,repeatability, stability of the informant’s accounts with theability of the investigator to record and collect accurateinformation. Validity and reliability can be ensured throughtriangulation, expert validation, and searching for disconfirmingevidence (Morse M., 2015).

Inqualitative research, triangulation is the use of multiple sources ofdata, investigators, methods, approaches, and theoreticalperspectives to study a particular phenomenon before validating thecorrespondence among them. It serves to circumvent the personalbiases of the investigators as well as assisting in overcoming thedeficiencies inseparable to single-method, single-investigator, orsingle theory.

Secondly,a qualitative study requires expert consensual validation from otherswho are familiar with the subject of the research at various stagesof the study process. Participant informants or research colleaguesare involved in an independent analysis of data and comparisonsconducted afterward.

Thirdly,the researcher should look for all other peer-marked information thatdisqualifies the truth of the findings. According to Morse M. (2015),an assertion deserves an extent of trust after it has survivedsignificant academic attempts to falsify it. In this context, bothprolonged engagement with informants in the field and purposivesampling are involved. The information from the individuals whodiffers in critical ways improves the rigor of qualitative researchdata.


Qualitativeresearch methodology uses the researcher as the instrument of datacollection. The investigators studies the way of life of the subjectsthrough observation and interviews. The social contexts provide theinvestigator with invaluable sources of information. To achieve thescientific rigor, qualitative research has to be reliable and wellvalidated. Strategies such as triangulation, critique from otherexperts conversant with the subject of research, and the analysis ofother disqualifying information on the same topic are vital inensuring the validity and the reliability of the study.


Anfara Jr, V. A., &amp Mertz, N. T. (Eds.). (2014).&nbspTheoreticalframeworks in qualitative research. Sage publications.

Morse, J. M. (2015). Critical analysis of strategies for determiningrigor in qualitative inquiry.&nbspQualitative healthresearch,&nbsp25(9), 1212-1222.

Silverman, D. (Ed.). (2016).&nbspQualitative research. Sage.