Qualitative research centers primarily on the use of a scientific method of observation to gather non-qualitative data. There are different categories or types of qualitative research, and each provides a framework for addressing and supplementing the research question and the chosen type of the research question, aims and objectives, scope and limitation of the research, research design, and qualitative data collection methodology. These are ethnography, narrative, phenomenology, hermeneutics, grounded theory, and case study. Note that each of this also corresponds to a particular type of qualitative research methodology and are also related to an interpretivism research paradigm.
The Types of Qualitative Research
Ethnography or ethnographic research is a systemic study aimed at producing a detailed description of people, society, and cultures. In thy type of qualitative research, the research immerses himself or herself in the environment of the research subject to examine and describe social and cultural practices and interactions. Remember that central to the purpose of ethnography is to explore a social and cultural phenomenon from the perspective of people. The common methods of data collection are observations, interviews, and focus group discussion.
2. Narrative or Oral History
In a narrative or oral history, the focus is on the experience of individuals. The aim is to weave together a sequence of events to form a cohesive story. Take note that the entire narrative does not need to be chronological. A researcher can present the story in whatever manner he or she deems fit as long as the whole piece remains comprehensible. Methods for gathering data include in-depth interviews, content analysis of documents, review of the literature, and self-reporting techniques. Regardless of the technique employed, the aim is to look for themes that would fit within the desired narrative intention.
Phenomenology is the science of phenomenon. It is also another type of qualitative research described as the philosophical study of the structures of experiences and consciousness. If narrative is about the experiences of individuals, phenomenology focuses strictly on the essence of an event, situation, or activity as experienced by individuals. The aim is to create a structure and abstract of an experience. This is done by exploring the meaning of experiences as perceived by individuals who have experienced a shared phenomenon. Gathering data for a phenomenological study primarily involves interviews or focus group discussion. Content analysis of documents and literature review are other data collection methods.
Some studies demonstrate the use of hermeneutics to examine works of literature and even symbolic expressions such as artworks in an attempt to provide intensive descriptions. By definition, hermeneutics is the theory and methodology of interpretation. It aims to interpret texts, visual or auditory materials, as well as non-verbal communications through a thorough analysis of themes or underlying sociocultural or personal context. The most notable method of gathering data for this type of qualitative research is content analysis. However, some studies have demonstrated the use of other procedures such as literature review, interviews, and focus group discussions, among others.
5. Literature Review
A literature review shares some similarities with hermeneutics. However, as a specific type of qualitative research method, it involves a thorough analysis and review of scholarly papers to explore the current body of knowledge about a particular topic or identify gaps in the existing body of research for future studies. Note that a literature review is a secondary work. It does not report new or original findings although it can reinforce or disparage an existing theory or findings. It is all important to highlight the fact that almost all academic theses and dissertations and scholarly articles include a review of the literature section regardless if their research approach is qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods.
6. Grounded Theory
The purpose of grounded theory is to provide an explanation or theory behind a phenomenon or in other words, an event, situation, or activity. Take note that this type of qualitative research is specifically a framework that provides a systematic methodology for inductively developing a theory about a phenomenon through the methodic gathering and analysis of data. Unlike studies that depend on priori theories or existing theoretical frameworks, grounded theory uses the data generated by a phenomenon to construct a theory inductively.
7. Case Study
A case study is another type of qualitative research involving an up-close and in-depth examination of a single subject or more appropriately the case of a particular study and its related contextual conditions. Its primary purpose is to examine the case and the complexity of its situation to increase understanding about it. The case might be an individual, a business or nonprofit organization, or an event that exists in a specific time and place. There are different methods for gathering data in a case study. Such include the dissemination of survey questionnaires, in-depth interviews, focus group discussions, and observations, among others. Note that a case study is also applicable to quantitative research or mixed-methods research.