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How to Write an Introduction for a Qualitative Research Study

Updated April 17, 2017

Social scientists such as sociologists, psychologists and anthropologists use qualitative research studies to draw conclusions about a human or social problem related to their respective fields. As the subject of social scientists fundamentally resists quantification, qualitative research studies are a way to interpret behaviour or attitudes. The introduction of a qualitative research study is meant to open up the report in a way that simultaneously provides an overview of the report's conclusions as well as draws a reader into the details of the report.

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  1. Open your introduction with a statement related to the human or social problem your qualitative research study investigates. Some reports employ attention-grabbing, rhetorical methods for opening the report, such as a provocative quotation, a startling statistic or an amusing or profound anecdote. Other reports simply address the problem explicitly, opening with a statement along the lines of, "this report investigates" or "this reports seeks to know."

  2. Outline the investigative methods you employed in gathering the data in your report. Distinguish between quantitative methods (surveys, physiological testing) and qualitative methods (interviews, analysis of surveys.)

  3. Explain the motivation for using your specific quantitative methods, including any and all conclusions you anticipated reaching as well as a general overview of the conclusions you were able to reach.

  4. Explain the motivation for using your specific qualitative methods, including a justification as to how those methods were able to yield viable results for the report.

  5. Articulate the ways in which your research study advances new conclusions or confirms established conclusions, as well as how it enters into the research dialogue of the field.

  6. Tip

    Though quantitative methods are often employed as an effort of supporting the results and interpretations in a qualitative research study, they are not and should not be the focus of the report. Consequently, in your explanation and justification sections of your introduction, indicate the ways in which quantitative research played a complementary role to your qualitative analysis.

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About the Author

Samuel Hamilton has been writing since 2002. His work has appeared in “The Penn,” “The Antithesis,” “New Growth Arts Review" and “Deek” magazine. Hamilton holds a Master of Arts in English education from the University of Pittsburgh, and a Master of Arts in composition from the University of Florida.

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