top of page

Home > Get ready > Research tutorials > Qualitative research

Qualitative research

Qualitative research is an approach which allows the understanding of phenomena (people, objects, situations). This approach offers insights about “what” people think but mostly about “why” they think so. The three main areas where a qualitative research approach is used are individuals, societies and cultures, and language and communication. For instance, qualitative research is widely used by political science, social work, and education researchers; in economic sciences, it can be applied in market research and business.

Qualitative methods for collecting data are chosen when the research needs to:

- Find (new) information on a certain topic

- Discover opinions, thoughts, attitudes


The qualitative methods for data collection are:

  • Interviews: discussions with a person based on a set of questions

  • Focus groups: discussions with several participants (group) on a certain topic based on a set of questions

  • Observations: actual observations of facts, behaviours, attitudes


The qualitative methods for data analysis are:

  • Narrative analysis: reformulation of stories presented by respondents taking into account context of each case and different experiences of each respondent

  • Grounded theory: based on the data collected, develop a theory which offers an explanation about the main issue of the population that was studied



Babbie, E. (2011). The Basics of Social Research. 5th edition. Belmont, USA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Bhattacherjee, A. (2012). Social Science Research: Principles, Methods, and Practices. Textbook Collection. Book 3. Retrieved from

Creswell, J.W. (2014). Research Design. Qualitative, Quantitative and Mixed Methods Approaches. 4th edition. USA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

Additional Resources

Qualitative Research -

An Overview of Qualitative Research Methods -

Qualitative Research: Data Collection, Analysis, and Management -

Grounded Theory What is -

Grounded Theory -



bottom of page