Strengths & Limitations of Qualitative Research

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Some researchers realise answers can be found through a less structured approach. Conducting qualitative research is now a common practice among leaders across industries including business, education, nursing, political science, etc. This is because qualitative research has some distinct benefits.

However, the research is not without specific limitations. By understanding both the strengths and limitations, you can use qualitative research to your utmost advantage.

Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is non-numbers-based and does not rely on statistics to prove a result. Qualitative research seeks out why something is happening, not how, through the use of unstructured information. This unstructured information can be collected via people's perspectives, attitudes, insights and behaviours. Qualitative research is highly subjective and looks beyond the numbers to gain these valuable impressions. Qualitative research uses smaller, highly targeted samples, and is flexible and highly focused. Because the research is not variable-based, it can be quickly executed and completed.

Strengths of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is recommended in the early phases of research, before a survey or questionnaire is produced. Qualitative research can be used as directional research and can help uncover important issues prior to the execution of survey methods. Qualitative research is not limited to defined variables and can be collected in the form of words, pictures or objects. Qualitative research can help explore new areas of study, and can be a good way to get inside the heads of consumers and employees.

Limitations of Qualitative Research

However helpful to the cause, qualitative research is often misused and misunderstood. Because it is used with a smaller, more targeted population, the research found in qualitative studies is not projectionable to a larger population. Also, qualitative research will not produce definitive conclusions. It can only be used to uncover how people initially feel about a problem, issue or product. Qualitative research is also difficult to replicate. Finally, researcher bias throughout the process can be problematic, as the researcher is typically trying to work around the specific issue presented to uncover a certain point.

Common Types of Qualitative Research

If used properly, qualitative research can be an effective starting point for business owners or managers. The research gained can help both perspective and direction and can save both time and money. Common qualitative research methods include observing people in their natural habitat, in-depth interviews, one-on-one interviews, focus groups and case studies. Qualitative research can also be conducted by drawing insights from historical studies, e-mails, photos or videos.