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Why NVivo Is the Leading Choice for Qualitative Data Analysis Among Researchers

Qualitative data analysis can be a daunting task, especially when dealing with large sets of data. This is where NVivo comes in handy. NVivo is a software package designed to assist researchers in analyzing qualitative data. In this article, we will discuss why NVivo is the leading choice for qualitative data analysis among researchers.

What is NVivo?

NVivo is a software tool developed by QSR International that helps researchers organize and analyze their qualitative data. The software provides a range of features and tools that assist researchers in managing complex data sets, including text, audio, video, and images.

Features of NVivo

One of the key features of NVivo is its ability to handle different types of data formats. The software can handle text-based documents such as emails, interviews, focus group transcripts, and surveys. It also supports multimedia files such as videos and audio recordings.

Another feature that makes NVivo stand out is its coding capabilities. The software allows users to code their data using different methods such as thematic or content analysis. This feature streamlines the process of identifying patterns or themes within the data set.

NVivo also has advanced search capabilities that allow users to search for specific keywords or phrases within their data set quickly. Additionally, it has visualization tools that enable users to create graphs and charts to present their findings visually.

Benefits of Using NVivo

The benefits of using NVivo are numerous. Firstly, it saves time by automating many aspects of the research process; this includes transcribing audio recordings and coding text-based documents.

Secondly, it increases accuracy by reducing errors associated with manual transcription or coding processes; this means that researchers can trust their results more confidently.

Thirdly, it enables collaboration between team members working on a project from different locations; this feature allows individuals to work on the same project simultaneously, increasing productivity.

Lastly, NVivo provides a range of support resources. This includes online tutorials, webinars, and user forums that connect users with other researchers who use the software.

In conclusion, NVivo is an essential tool for researchers looking to analyze qualitative data. Its features and capabilities make it the leading choice for handling complex data sets across a range of disciplines. The benefits of using NVivo include increased accuracy, time-saving automation, collaboration capabilities, and access to support resources. With NVivo, researchers can analyze their data more efficiently and effectively than ever before.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


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  • What Is Qualitative Research? | Methods & Examples

What Is Qualitative Research? | Methods & Examples

Published on June 19, 2020 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on June 22, 2023.

Qualitative research involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data (e.g., text, video, or audio) to understand concepts, opinions, or experiences. It can be used to gather in-depth insights into a problem or generate new ideas for research.

Qualitative research is the opposite of quantitative research , which involves collecting and analyzing numerical data for statistical analysis.

Qualitative research is commonly used in the humanities and social sciences, in subjects such as anthropology, sociology, education, health sciences, history, etc.

  • How does social media shape body image in teenagers?
  • How do children and adults interpret healthy eating in the UK?
  • What factors influence employee retention in a large organization?
  • How is anxiety experienced around the world?
  • How can teachers integrate social issues into science curriculums?

Table of contents

Approaches to qualitative research, qualitative research methods, qualitative data analysis, advantages of qualitative research, disadvantages of qualitative research, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about qualitative research.

Qualitative research is used to understand how people experience the world. While there are many approaches to qualitative research, they tend to be flexible and focus on retaining rich meaning when interpreting data.

Common approaches include grounded theory, ethnography , action research , phenomenological research, and narrative research. They share some similarities, but emphasize different aims and perspectives.

Note that qualitative research is at risk for certain research biases including the Hawthorne effect , observer bias , recall bias , and social desirability bias . While not always totally avoidable, awareness of potential biases as you collect and analyze your data can prevent them from impacting your work too much.

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Each of the research approaches involve using one or more data collection methods . These are some of the most common qualitative methods:

  • Observations: recording what you have seen, heard, or encountered in detailed field notes.
  • Interviews:  personally asking people questions in one-on-one conversations.
  • Focus groups: asking questions and generating discussion among a group of people.
  • Surveys : distributing questionnaires with open-ended questions.
  • Secondary research: collecting existing data in the form of texts, images, audio or video recordings, etc.
  • You take field notes with observations and reflect on your own experiences of the company culture.
  • You distribute open-ended surveys to employees across all the company’s offices by email to find out if the culture varies across locations.
  • You conduct in-depth interviews with employees in your office to learn about their experiences and perspectives in greater detail.

Qualitative researchers often consider themselves “instruments” in research because all observations, interpretations and analyses are filtered through their own personal lens.

For this reason, when writing up your methodology for qualitative research, it’s important to reflect on your approach and to thoroughly explain the choices you made in collecting and analyzing the data.

Qualitative data can take the form of texts, photos, videos and audio. For example, you might be working with interview transcripts, survey responses, fieldnotes, or recordings from natural settings.

Most types of qualitative data analysis share the same five steps:

  • Prepare and organize your data. This may mean transcribing interviews or typing up fieldnotes.
  • Review and explore your data. Examine the data for patterns or repeated ideas that emerge.
  • Develop a data coding system. Based on your initial ideas, establish a set of codes that you can apply to categorize your data.
  • Assign codes to the data. For example, in qualitative survey analysis, this may mean going through each participant’s responses and tagging them with codes in a spreadsheet. As you go through your data, you can create new codes to add to your system if necessary.
  • Identify recurring themes. Link codes together into cohesive, overarching themes.

There are several specific approaches to analyzing qualitative data. Although these methods share similar processes, they emphasize different concepts.

Qualitative research often tries to preserve the voice and perspective of participants and can be adjusted as new research questions arise. Qualitative research is good for:

  • Flexibility

The data collection and analysis process can be adapted as new ideas or patterns emerge. They are not rigidly decided beforehand.

  • Natural settings

Data collection occurs in real-world contexts or in naturalistic ways.

  • Meaningful insights

Detailed descriptions of people’s experiences, feelings and perceptions can be used in designing, testing or improving systems or products.

  • Generation of new ideas

Open-ended responses mean that researchers can uncover novel problems or opportunities that they wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

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Researchers must consider practical and theoretical limitations in analyzing and interpreting their data. Qualitative research suffers from:

  • Unreliability

The real-world setting often makes qualitative research unreliable because of uncontrolled factors that affect the data.

  • Subjectivity

Due to the researcher’s primary role in analyzing and interpreting data, qualitative research cannot be replicated . The researcher decides what is important and what is irrelevant in data analysis, so interpretations of the same data can vary greatly.

  • Limited generalizability

Small samples are often used to gather detailed data about specific contexts. Despite rigorous analysis procedures, it is difficult to draw generalizable conclusions because the data may be biased and unrepresentative of the wider population .

  • Labor-intensive

Although software can be used to manage and record large amounts of text, data analysis often has to be checked or performed manually.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Chi square goodness of fit test
  • Degrees of freedom
  • Null hypothesis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Control groups
  • Mixed methods research
  • Non-probability sampling
  • Quantitative research
  • Inclusion and exclusion criteria

Research bias

  • Rosenthal effect
  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Selection bias
  • Negativity bias
  • Status quo bias

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

There are five common approaches to qualitative research :

  • Grounded theory involves collecting data in order to develop new theories.
  • Ethnography involves immersing yourself in a group or organization to understand its culture.
  • Narrative research involves interpreting stories to understand how people make sense of their experiences and perceptions.
  • Phenomenological research involves investigating phenomena through people’s lived experiences.
  • Action research links theory and practice in several cycles to drive innovative changes.

Data collection is the systematic process by which observations or measurements are gathered in research. It is used in many different contexts by academics, governments, businesses, and other organizations.

There are various approaches to qualitative data analysis , but they all share five steps in common:

  • Prepare and organize your data.
  • Review and explore your data.
  • Develop a data coding system.
  • Assign codes to the data.
  • Identify recurring themes.

The specifics of each step depend on the focus of the analysis. Some common approaches include textual analysis , thematic analysis , and discourse analysis .

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Writing a qualitative research report


  • 1 School of Nursing and Midwifery Studies, University of Wales College of Medicine, Heath Park, Cardiff, UK. [email protected]
  • PMID: 15234716
  • DOI: 10.1016/j.aaen.2003.11.006

A research project in nursing or nursing education is probably only complete once the findings have been published. This paper offers a format for writing a qualitative research report for publication. It suggests, at least, the following sections: introduction, aims of the study, review of the literature, sample, data collection methods, data analysis methods, findings, discussion, conclusion, abstract. Each of these sections is addressed along with many written-out examples. In some sections, alternative approaches are suggested. The aim of the paper is to help the neophyte researcher to structure his or her report and for the experienced researcher to reflect on his or her current practice. References to other source material on qualitative research are given.

Publication types

  • Nursing Research / methods*
  • Periodicals as Topic / standards
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design / standards
  • Writing* / standards
  • Open access
  • Published: 16 November 2020

Navigating the qualitative manuscript writing process: some tips for authors and reviewers

  • Chris Roberts   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8613-682X 1 ,
  • Koshila Kumar   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-8504-1052 2 &
  • Gabrielle Finn   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0002-0419-694X 3  

BMC Medical Education volume  20 , Article number:  439 ( 2020 ) Cite this article

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Qualitative research explores the ‘black box’ of how phenomena are constituted. Such research can provide rich and diverse insights about social practices and individual experiences across the continuum of undergraduate, postgraduate and continuing education, sectors and contexts. Qualitative research can yield unique data that can complement the numbers generated in quantitative research, [ 1 ] by answering “how” and “why” research questions. As you will notice in this paper, qualitative research is underpinned by specific philosophical assumptions, quality criteria and has a lexicon or a language specific to it.

A simple search of BMC Medical Education suggests that there are over 800 papers that employ qualitative methods either on their own or as part of a mixed methods study to evaluate various phenomena. This represents a considerable investment in time and effort for both researchers and reviewers. This paper is aimed at maximising this investment by helping early career researchers (ECRs) and reviewers new to the qualitative research field become familiar with quality criteria in qualitative research and how these can be applied in the qualitative manuscript writing process. Fortunately, there are numerous guidelines for both authors and for reviewers of qualitative research, including practical “how to” checklists [ 2 , 3 ]. These checklists can be valuable tools to confirm the essential elements of a qualitative study for early career researchers (ECRs). Our advice in this article is not intended to replace such “how to” guidance. Rather, the suggestions we make are intended to help ECRs increase their likelihood of getting published and reviewers to make informed decisions about the quality of qualitative research being submitted for publication in BMC Medical Education. Our advice is themed around long-established criteria for the quality of qualitative research developed by Lincoln and Guba [ 4 ]. (see Table  1 ) Each quality criterion outlined in Table 1 is further expanded in Table  2 in the form of several practical steps pertinent to the process of writing up qualitative research.

As a general starting point, the early career writer is advised to consult previously published qualitative papers in the journal to identify the genre (style) and relative emphasis of different components of the research paper. Patton [ 5 ] advises researchers to “FOCUS! FOCUS! FOCUS!” in deciding which components to include in the paper, highlighting the need to exclude side topics that add little to the narrative and reduce the cognitive load for readers and reviewers alike. Authors are also advised to do significant re-writing, rephrasing, re-ordering of initial drafts, to remove faulty grammar, and addresses stylistic and structural problems [ 6 ]. They should be mindful of “the golden thread,” that is their central argument that holds together the literature review, the theoretical and conceptual framework, the research questions, methodology, the analysis and organisation of the data and the conclusions. Getting a draft reviewed by someone outside of the research/writing team is one practical strategy to ensure the manuscript is well presented and relates to the plausibility element.

The introduction of a qualitative paper can be seen as beginning a conversation. Lingard advises that in this conversation, authors need to persuade the reader and reviewer of the strength, originality and contributions of their work [ 7 ]. In constructing a persuasive rationale, ECRs need to clearly distinguish between the qualitative research phenomenon (i.e. the broad research issue or concept under investigation) and the research context (i.e. the local setting or situation) [ 5 ]. The introduction section needs to culminate in a qualitative research question/s. It is important that ECRs are aware that qualitative research questions need to be fine-tuned from their original state to reflect gaps in the literature review, the researcher/s’ philosophical stance, the theory used, or unexpected findings [ 8 ]. This links to the elements of plausibility and consistency outlined in Table 1 .

Also, in the introduction of a qualitative paper, ECRs need to explain the multiple “lenses” through which they have considered complex social phenomena; including the underpinning research paradigm and theory. A research paradigm reveals the researcher/s’ values and assumptions about research and relates to axiology (what do you value?), ontology (what is out there to know?) epistemology (what and how can you know it?), and methodology (how do you go about acquiring that knowledge?) [ 9 ] ECRs are advised to explicitly state their research paradigm and its underpinning assumptions. For example, Ommering et al., state “We established our research within an interpretivist paradigm, emphasizing the subjective nature in understanding human experiences and creation of reality.” [ 10 ] Theory refers to a set of concepts or a conceptual framework that helps the writer to move beyond description to ‘explaining, predicting, or prescribing responses, events, situations, conditions, or relationships.’ [ 11 ] Theory can provide comprehensive understandings at multiple levels, including: the macro or grand level of how societies work, the mid-range level of how organisations operate; and the micro level of how people interact [ 12 ]. Qualitative studies can involve theory application or theory development [ 5 ]. ECRs are advised to briefly summarise their theoretical lens and identify what it means to consider the research phenomenon, process, or concept being studied with that specific lens. For example, Kumar and Greenhill explain how the lens of workplace affordances enabled their paper to draw “attention to the contextual, personal and interactional factors that impact on how clinical educators integrate their educational knowledge and skills into the practice setting, and undertake their educational role.” [ 13 ] Ensuring that the elements of theory and research paradigm are explicit and aligned, enhances plausibility, consistency and transparency of qualitative research. The use of theory can also add to the currency of research by enabling a new lens to be cast on a research phenomenon, process, or concept and reveal something previously unknown or surprising.

Moving to the methods, methodology is a general approach to studying a research topic and establishes how one will go about studying any phenomenon. In contrast, methods are specific research techniques and in qualitative research, data collection methods might include observation or interviewing, or photo elicitation methods, while data analysis methods may include content analysis, narrative analysis, or discourse analysis to mention a few [ 8 ]. ECRs will need to ensure the philosophical assumptions, methodology and methods follow from the introduction of a manuscript and the research question/s, [ 3 ] and this enhances the consistency and transparency elements. Moreover, triangulation or the combining of multiple observers, theories, methods, and data sources, is vital to overcome the limitation of singular methods, lone analysts, and single-perspective theories or models [ 8 ]. ECRs should report on not only what was triangulated but also how it was performed, thereby enhancing the elements of plausibility and consistency. For example, Touchie et al., describe using three researchers, three different focus groups, and representation of three different participant cohorts to ensure triangulation [ 14 ]. When it comes to the analysis of qualitative data, ECRs may claim they have used a specific methodological approach (e.g. interpretative phenomenological approach or a grounded theory approach) whereas the analytical steps are more congruent with a more generalist approach, such as thematic analysis [ 15 ]. ECRs are advised that such methodological approaches are founded on a number of philosophical considerations which need to inform the framing and conduct of a study, not just the analysis process. Alignment between the methodology and the methods informs the consistency, transparency and plausibility elements.

Comprehensively describing the research context in a way that is understandable to an international audience helps to illuminate the specific ‘laboratory’ for the research, and how the processes applied or insights generated in this ‘laboratory’ can be adapted or translated to other contexts. This addresses the relevancy element. To further enhance plausibility and relevance, ECRs should situate their work clearly on the evaluation–research continuum. Although not a strictly qualitative research consideration, evaluation focuses mostly on understanding how specific local practices may have resulted in specific outcomes for learners. While evaluation is vital for quality assurance and improvement, research has a broader and strategic focus and rates more highly against the currency and relevancy criteria. ECRs are more likely to undertake evaluation studies aimed at demonstrating the impact and outcomes of an educational intervention in their local setting, consistent with level one of Kirkpatrick’s criteria [ 16 ]. For example, Palmer and colleagues explain that they aimed to “develop and evaluate a continuing medical education (CME) course aimed at improving healthcare provider knowledge” [ 17 ]. To be competitive for publication, evaluation studies need to (measure and) report on at least level two and above of Kirkpatrick’s criteria. Learning how to problematise and frame the investigation of a problem arising from practice as research, provides ECRs with an opportunity to adopt a more critical and scholarly stance.

Also, in the methods, ECRs may provide detail about the study context and participants but little in the way of personal reflexive statements. Unlike quantitative research which claims that knowledge is objective and seeks to remove subjective influences, qualitative research recognises that subjectivity is inherent and that the researcher is directly involved in interpreting and constructing meanings [ 8 ]. For example, Bindels and colleagues provide a clear and concise description about their own backgrounds making their ‘lens’ explicit and enabling the reader to understand the multiple perspectives that have informed their research process [ 18 ]. Therefore, a clear description of the researcher/s position and relationship to the research phenomenon, context and participants, is vital for transparency, relevance and plausibility. We three are all experienced qualitative researchers, writers, reviewers and are associate editors for BMC Medical Education. We are situated in this research landscape as consumers, architects, and arbiters and we engage in these roles in collaboration with others. This provides a useful vantage point from which to provide commentary on key elements which can cause frustration for would-be authors and reviewers of qualitative research papers [ 19 ].

In the discussion of a qualitative paper, ECRs are encouraged to make detailed comments about the contributions of their research and whether these reinforce, extend, or challenge existing understandings based on an analysis that is theoretically or socially significant [ 20 ]. As an example, Barratt et al., found important data to inform the training of medical interns in the use of personal protective equipment during the COVID 19 pandemic [ 21 ]. ECRs are also expected to address the “so what” question which relates to the the consequence of findings for policy, practice and theory. Authors will need to explicitly outline the practical, theoretical or methodological implications of the study findings in a way that is actionable, thereby enhancing relevance and plausibility. For example, Burgess et al., presented their discussion according to four themes and outlined associated implications for individuals and institutions [ 22 ]. A balanced view of the research can be presented by ensuring there is congruence between the data and the claims made and searching the data and/or literature for evidence that disconfirms the findings. ECRs will also need to put forward the sources of uncertainty (rather than limitations) in their research and argue what these may mean for the interpretations made and how the contributions to knowledge could be adopted by others in different contexts [ 23 ]. This links to the plausibility and transparency elements.

In conclusion

Qualitative research is underpinned by specific philosophical assumptions, quality criteria and a lexicon, which ECRs and reviewers need to be mindful of as they navigate the qualitative manuscript writing and reviewing processes. We hope that the guidance provided here is helpful for ECRs in preparing submissions and for reviewers in making informed decisions and providing quality feedback.

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Qualitative Research: Lead Your Business to Success

Qualitative Research: Definition

How to write qualitative research methods description, qualitative research methods description, useful tips on how to collect data, professional qualitative research help.

Qualitative research is useful for those people who are trying to learn more about the market their business is trying to succeed in. In this article our experts will explain you how to write qualitative research and make everything properly. Continue reading and find out what is the difference between qualitative method of research and quantitative research itself. Or you can contact our thesis writer service  having years of experience in academic writing and boasting qualified professional who can solve your problem.

Let’s identify the qualitative research . It is a special method for market analysis. It should focus on getting information from communicating with customers.

The main reason why you should provide such an analysis is to find out what your customer thinks about your service or good. Also, the question “why” is important for this type of work. You need to find out the reason a person has a particular opinion. In case you need to find out why people are purchasing some particular item instead of another one, the best way would be to provide a qualitative research.

You need to visit other local stores and get some women and men interviewed. This method will help you to get the clearest picture of what people really think and like. Just like the executive report . The most objective result is possible only in case you will interview all people equally. You will have to interact with them personally to understand their point of view and get entire market tendencies covered.

Qualitative analysis will give you an opportunity to understand your customer and build your further relationships including their answers to the whole picture. The main goal is not just to find out the opinion of the customer but also to understand their motivation.

The advantage of using qualitative methods is that they generate rich, detailed data that leave the participants' perspectives intact and provide multiple contexts for understanding the phenomenon under study. In this way, qualitative research can be used to vividly demonstrate phenomena or to conduct cross-case comparisons and analysis of individuals or groups. Among the specific strengths of using qualitative methods to study social science research problems is the ability to: Obtain a more realistic view of the lived world that cannot be understood or experienced in numerical data and statistical analysis; Provide the researcher with the perspective of the participants of the study through immersion in a culture or situation and as a result of direct interaction with them; Allow the researcher to describe existing phenomena and current situations; Develop flexible ways to perform data collection, subsequent analysis, and interpretation of collected information; Yield results that can be helpful in pioneering new ways of understanding; Respond to changes that occur while conducting the study ]e.g., extended fieldwork or observation] and offer the flexibility to shift the focus of the research as a result; Provide a holistic view of the phenomena under investigation; Respond to local situations, conditions, and needs of participants; Interact with the research subjects in their own language and on their own terms; and, Create a descriptive capability based on primary and unstructured data. Anderson, Claire “Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research.”  

The main purpose of all qualitative research methods is to help you to understand the opinion and behaviour of your clients. The main methods can be divided into this useful list:

  • Ethnographic analysis
  • In-depth interview
  • Focus groups
  • Content analysis

You do not need to provide some complicated analysis of the information provided by a research. Just describe people’s opinions and nature of their decisions. The opportunities for a modern customer is too wide sometimes. That is why this type of paper is so important these days and more complicated.

Here is the list with short descriptions of the most relevant qualitative research methods:

  • Personal Interview: this is the most popular and effective analysis method of all. Just talk to a person asking about the reasons of their decision. Then you can gather all the answers from all people you were talking to and get the clearest picture possible.
  • Focus groups: is another popular way to analyze the entire market and get customers opinions. Just gather few respondents (from six to ten people will be enough) that are involved and interested in your particular market part to find out their opinion.
  • Ethnographic research: this would be the deepest qualitative method of all. You need to interview a certain group of people from a certain geographical region. Their opinion should be connected to their location drastically.
  • Case study research: this is one of the most recent qualitative methods. It was developed just few years ago completely. It may seem to be too complicated for a beginner to deal with. You should use a great number of factors such as education, background, location, social position, and so on.
  • Record keeping: for this particular method you should use already existing interviews and data. The information should be still relevant to get your research done correctly. You may just visit a library to collect information and conduct your research.
  • Process of observation: this is just the simplest and the most subjective qualitative method of research to gather info. You need to collect information building your analysis on your subjective observations and opinion.

There are two main ways of how to collect relevant information before writing a thesis  or research paper:

  • Qualitative data collection
  • Qualitative data analysis

Here are some tips you can use for both of them to conduct your work correctly:

  • The most important point you need to recon with is the amount of collected data. It should be wide enough to get the most valuable and truest picture of the market tendencies.
  • You need to decide regarding your notes taking method before starting your analysis. If you are doing a personal interview, you need to take handwritten notes or even use a video and audio recorder.
  • You should be ready it will take time to transcribe all your notes before you start writing. Sometimes it may take you few days and dozens of pages to get all the notes transcribed and analyzed. So you should be ready and keep this time in mind before you even start your paper. Also, note the time you may need if your deadline is too short and time frames are very short. Some researchers also create separate folders for various groups of respondents.
  • Also, do not forget to leave some comments about the environment the interview were help in, the character of the respondent, and all the details that can be important for you and your qualitative research. Such notes will also be useful when you are will be transcribing all those interviews.

Hope this information prepared by our experts will help you to understand the main purpose and methods of qualitative research and now you know how to write a master thesis better. In case any problems occur you may ask a professional writer to help you. Our team consists of absolute writing masters. They can deal with any type of academic assignment no matter how tough the prompt is and how soon the deadline will expire. Just fill in the order form and your paper will be done perfectly with all the instructions followed.

What comes first, the research design or research problem selection? Read on this guide from our dissertation writing service if you are struggling to answer this question. Any research paper is based on the hypothesis, datum, and methodology. These things though are not written down in the instruct...

The methodology is an important part of your dissertation. It describes a broad philosophical underpinning to your chosen research methods, either quantitative or qualitative, to explain to readers your approach better. Make sure that you’re clear about an academic basis for your choice of research ...

If we read the case study definition, this is a published report about an event, situation, person or group that has been studied. The main idea of this document is to deeply investigate the chosen subject. Depending on the topic, all the case studies could be separated into next 4 groups:illustrati...

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How to write a qualitative paper in seven easy steps

By this stage in your postgrad journey, you have probably read thousands of academic papers – or at least it feels that way. Indeed, you may have written one or two as well. But was the process quick and painless – or did it involve tears, tantrums and having to cut far too many of your carefully honed words? If you fall into the latter camp, you’ve come to the right place. Don’t panic; paper writing is challenging at first. But the more you practice, the slicker the process gets.

We already looked at how to get your qualitative study ready for publication in a previous blog. In this entry, we look at the more practical steps for writing a paper as efficiently as possible. 

1. Start with the method

The method section is the simplest section of the paper. What did you do? Can you remember? If so, write it down. Check your target journal to see whether they have certain subheadings they want you to include (examples might be data collection, analysis, ethics and so on). If they don’t, have a look at other papers and copy their headings. Writing this short, factual series of paragraphs gets you into your stride and breaks that terrifying ‘blank page’ syndrome.

If you can, it’s often a good idea to start writing your method section while you’re still conducting the research. This ensures that you don’t forget any of those details about exactly where you found participant 14 or when you made those all-important changes to your interview schedule.

2. Use your table of themes to create your findings section

The findings are the most important section of a qualitative paper. This should be the longest and most detailed element and will guide the material you include in your introduction and discussion sections. This is why, once you’ve got started with the super-simple method, you should tackle the findings next.

You’ve got a table of themes that you lovingly created during your analysis, right? Well – I say lovingly created – what I mean is wrote, crossed out, re-created, kicked down the stairs a few times and cried over until you reached this final draft. Am I right?

Well, there’s good news and bad news. The good news is that (nearly all) of the hard work is already done. Created correctly, your table of themes should be the blueprint for your findings section. This means that you already know what points you want to make, in what order, and supported by which quotes. Brilliant, right? Well done past you. In theory, all you need to do now is turn write about why you named the themes and subthemes as you did, how those ideas are supported by the quotes and any interplay between the themes. With the right table of themes, this is easier than it sounds – the section almost writes itself.

The bad news – which really isn’t all that bad – is that analysis continues during writing . This means that, as you write your findings up, you are likely to realise that some quotes don’t quite do the right job, or that some points need shuffling around. You might need to seek out some different quotes, or re-order things. That’s fine; it’s good, in fact, as it shows you’re really engaging with the material. In this instance, use your new findings section to re-order the table.

3. Introduction

The next stage is the introduction. These can be tough to write when you start writing papers as opposed to a thesis. They are somewhat equivalent to the lit review chapter of the thesis – but much, much shorter. And shorter does not mean easier!

Start by making a bullet point list of all the points you need to make in your introduction. These should include:

  • Setting the scene for your research question
  • The main points which need addressing from that question. So, for example, if you’re asking what it is like to work in criminal law (a heteronormative culture) as an LGBTQ person, you might have a bullet point on heteronormativity, a bullet point on the culture in criminal law and a bullet point on the challenges faced by LGBTQ people working in heteronormative environments. (I kinda want to read that paper now…)
  • Why your approach is the best way to answer your question

Once you have the list, approach this in the same way you did the method section – just fill in the blanks and write a paragraph (two at most) for each bullet point. If you’re lucky, you’ll already have done all the relevant reading. If you’re not, you’ll need to conduct a lit review at this point. However, knowing exactly what areas you’re interested in will make this quicker and easier than if you were just exploring the topic as a whole. Search for relevant, recent papers, plug them into EndNote or whichever referencing system you’re using, whizz through the relevant sections and make notes on anything useful. As you go, slot useful points into your skeleton intro, following the bullet points. You can refine it later. Ensure you don’t just look for papers that back up your pre-existing point of view; remember to be critical at all times, even of your own ideas.

Think of your introduction as a funnel. You’re starting with the wider context of the question and then narrowing down to the point where the reader agrees with you that answering this is question is essential, and that your stance is the best way to do so.

4. Discussion

Once you’ve presented your findings and shown the reader why they are important via the introduction, the next stage is to discuss them (hence the name!) in the light of other people’s work. Discussion sections can be notoriously tricky, which is why we have an entire blog post dedicated to getting them just right.

Qualitative discussions will generally follow the same structure as your findings. Work through each theme in the same order you presented them, showing how your findings confirm, contradict or build on existing work.

If time is of the essence, you can start your discussion section simultaneously with the introduction – after all, the two map onto each other to a certain extent. As you read the papers and make notes in a skeleton discussion section too. Write out your theme names under the ‘discussion’ title and note down any useful findings from others. All you need is to polish up your notes (and potentially look for a few more papers), and voila! You’re nearly done.

5. References

Please tell me you’ve been doing these the whole time? And that you’re using a handy piece of referencing software like EndNote or Zotero ? If so – easy peasy. Use your software to set the references to the right system for your chosen journal (APA 7, Chicago or Harvard, most likely), and away you go. If you haven’t been using software, step one is to amend this immediately for next time. I know it feels like an intimidating pain before you get started, but it is SUCH a lifesaver in the end. Step two, for now, is to get onto Google Scholar and copy and paste those bad boys in by hand.

6. Abstract

And finally, the abstract. Journals often have tight rules for how long an abstract should be and what structure it should follow, so check those first. Your abstract needs to give a small flavour of all the other elements of the paper. They can be hard to get right and might be best left for a week or so (if you have time) so that you can get a bit of distance from the work. Or, if you’ve done the bulk of the writing, you might ask another member of your research team to have a crack at this bit.

7. Send to PGPR

Whether you’re a total paper-newbie or an old hand, we can all use an extra pair of eyes now and then. If you’re struggling with any element of your paper writing, just get in touch with us using the form below, and we’ll be happy to help.

writing a qualitative research

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How to Do Qualitative Research

Last Updated: October 26, 2022 Fact Checked

This article was co-authored by Jeremiah Kaplan . Jeremiah Kaplan is a Research and Training Specialist at the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy at Arizona State University. He has extensive knowledge and experience in motivational interviewing. In addition, Jeremiah has worked in the mental health, youth engagement, and trauma-informed care fields. Using his expertise, Jeremiah supervises Arizona State University’s Motivational Interviewing Coding Lab. Jeremiah has also been internationally selected to participate in the Motivational Interviewing International Network of Trainers sponsored Train the Trainer event. Jeremiah holds a BS in Human Services with a concentration in Family and Children from The University of Phoenix. There are 10 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been fact-checked, ensuring the accuracy of any cited facts and confirming the authority of its sources. This article has been viewed 737,432 times.

Qualitative research is a broad field of inquiry that uses unstructured data collections methods, such as observations, interviews, surveys and documents, to find themes and meanings to inform our understanding of the world. [1] X Trustworthy Source PubMed Central Journal archive from the U.S. National Institutes of Health Go to source Qualitative research tends to try to cover the reasons for behaviors, attitudes and motivations, instead of just the details of what, where and when. Qualitative research can be done across many disciplines, such as social sciences, healthcare and businesses, and it is a common feature of nearly every single workplace and educational environment.

Preparing Your Research

Step 1 Decide on a question you want to study.

  • The research questions is one of the most important pieces of your research design. It determines what you want to learn or understand and also helps to focus the study, since you can't investigate everything at once. Your research question will also shape how you conduct your study since different questions require different methods of inquiry.
  • You should start with a burning question and then narrow it down more to make it manageable enough to be researched effectively. For example, "what is the meaning of teachers' work to teachers" is too broad for a single research endeavor, but if that's what you're interested you could narrow it by limiting the type of teacher or focusing on one level of education. For example, "what is the meaning of teachers' work to second career teachers?" or "what is the meaning of teachers' work to junior high teachers?"

Tip: Find the balance between a burning question and a researchable question. The former is something you really want to know about and is often quite broad. The latter is one that can be directly investigated using available research methods and tools.

Step 2 Do a literature review.

  • For example, if your research question focuses on how second career teachers attribute meaning to their work, you would want to examine the literature on second career teaching - what motivates people to turn to teaching as a second career? How many teachers are in their second career? Where do most second career teachers work? Doing this reading and review of existing literature and research will help you refine your question and give you the base you need for your own research. It will also give you a sense of the variables that might impact your research (e.g., age, gender, class, etc.) and that you will need to take into consideration in your own study.
  • A literature review will also help you to determine whether you are really interested and committed to the topic and research question and that there is a gap in the existing research that you want to fill by conducting your own investigation.

Step 3 Evaluate whether qualitative research is the right fit for your research question.

For example, if your research question is "what is the meaning of teachers' work to second career teachers?" , that is not a question that can be answered with a 'yes' or 'no'. Nor is there likely to be a single overarching answer. This means that qualitative research is the best route.

Step 4 Consider your ideal sampling size.

  • Consider the possible outcomes. Because qualitative methodologies are generally quite broad, there is almost always the possibility that some useful data will come out of the research. This is different than in a quantitative experiment, where an unproven hypothesis can mean that a lot of time has been wasted.
  • Your research budget and available financial resources should also be considered. Qualitative research is often cheaper and easier to plan and execute. For example, it is usually easier and cost-saving to gather a small number of people for interviews than it is to purchase a computer program that can do statistical analysis and hire the appropriate statisticians.

Step 5 Choose a qualitative research methodology.

  • Action Research – Action research focuses on solving an immediate problem or working with others to solve problem and address particular issues. [7] X Research source
  • Ethnography – Ethnography is the study of human interaction in communities through direct participation and observation within the community you wish to study. Ethnographic research comes from the discipline of social and cultural anthropology but is now becoming more widely used. [8] X Research source
  • Phenomenology – Phenomenology is the study of the subjective experiences of others. It researches the world through the eyes of another person by discovering how they interpret their experiences. [9] X Research source
  • Grounded Theory – The purpose of grounded theory is to develop theory based on the data systematically collected and analyzed. It looks at specific information and derives theories and reasons for the phenomena.
  • Case Study Research – This method of qualitative study is an in-depth study of a specific individual or phenomena in its existing context. [10] X Research source

Collecting and Analyzing Your Data

Step 1 Collect your data.

  • Direct observation – Direct observation of a situation or your research subjects can occur through video tape playback or through live observation. In direct observation, you are making specific observations of a situation without influencing or participating in any way. [12] X Research source For example, perhaps you want to see how second career teachers go about their routines in and outside the classrooms and so you decide to observe them for a few days, being sure to get the requisite permission from the school, students and the teacher and taking careful notes along the way.
  • Participant observation – Participant observation is the immersion of the researcher in the community or situation being studied. This form of data collection tends to be more time consuming, as you need to participate fully in the community in order to know whether your observations are valid. [13] X Research source
  • Interviews – Qualitative interviewing is basically the process of gathering data by asking people questions. Interviewing can be very flexible - they can be on-on-one, but can also take place over the phone or Internet or in small groups called "focus groups". There are also different types of interviews. Structured interviews use pre-set questions, whereas unstructured interviews are more free-flowing conversations where the interviewer can probe and explore topics as they come up. Interviews are particularly useful if you want to know how people feel or react to something. For example, it would be very useful to sit down with second career teachers in either a structured or unstructured interview to gain information about how they represent and discuss their teaching careers.
  • Surveys – Written questionnaires and open ended surveys about ideas, perceptions, and thoughts are other ways by which you can collect data for your qualitative research. For example, in your study of second career schoolteachers, perhaps you decide to do an anonymous survey of 100 teachers in the area because you're concerned that they may be less forthright in an interview situation than in a survey where their identity was anonymous.
  • "Document analysis" – This involves examining written, visual, and audio documents that exist without any involvement of or instigation by the researcher. There are lots of different kinds of documents, including "official" documents produced by institutions and personal documents, like letters, memoirs, diaries and, in the 21st century, social media accounts and online blogs. For example, if studying education, institutions like public schools produce many different kinds of documents, including reports, flyers, handbooks, websites, curricula, etc. Maybe you can also see if any second career teachers have an online meet group or blog. Document analysis can often be useful to use in conjunction with another method, like interviewing.

Step 2 Analyze your data.

  • Coding – In coding, you assign a word, phrase, or number to each category. Start out with a pre-set list of codes that you derived from your prior knowledge of the subject. For example, "financial issues" or "community involvement" might be two codes you think of after having done your literature review of second career teachers. You then go through all of your data in a systematic way and "code" ideas, concepts and themes as they fit categories. You will also develop another set of codes that emerge from reading and analyzing the data. For example, you may see while coding your interviews, that "divorce" comes up frequently. You can add a code for this. Coding helps you organize your data and identify patterns and commonalities. [15] X Research source tobaccoeval.ucdavis.edu/analysis-reporting/.../CodingQualitativeData.pdf
  • Descriptive Statistics – You can analyze your data using statistics. Descriptive statistics help describe, show or summarize the data to highlight patterns. For example, if you had 100 principal evaluations of teachers, you might be interested in the overall performance of those students. Descriptive statistics allow you to do that. Keep in mind, however, that descriptive statistics cannot be used to make conclusions and confirm/disprove hypotheses. [16] X Research source
  • Narrative analysis – Narrative analysis focuses on speech and content, such as grammar, word usage, metaphors, story themes, meanings of situations, the social, cultural and political context of the narrative. [17] X Research source
  • Hermeneutic Analysis – Hermeneutic analysis focuses on the meaning of a written or oral text. Essentially, you are trying to make sense of the object of study and bring to light some sort of underlying coherence. [18] X Research source
  • Content analysis / Semiotic analysis – Content or semiotic analysis looks at texts or series of texts and looks for themes and meanings by looking at frequencies of words. Put differently, you try to identify structures and patterned regularities in the verbal or written text and then make inferences on the basis of these regularities. [19] X Research source For example, maybe you find the same words or phrases, like "second chance" or "make a difference," coming up in different interviews with second career teachers and decide to explore what this frequency might signify.

Step 3 Write up your research.

Community Q&A

Community Answer

Video . By using this service, some information may be shared with YouTube.

  • Qualitative research is often regarded as a precursor to quantitative research, which is a more logical and data-led approach which statistical, mathematical and/or computational techniques. Qualitative research is often used to generate possible leads and formulate a workable hypothesis that is then tested with quantitative methods. [20] X Research source Thanks Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0
  • Try to remember the difference between qualitative and quantitative as each will give different data. Thanks Helpful 4 Not Helpful 0

writing a qualitative research

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Do a Case Study

  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470395/
  • ↑ https://owl.purdue.edu/owl/research_and_citation/conducting_research/writing_a_literature_review.html
  • ↑ https://academic.oup.com/humrep/article/31/3/498/2384737?login=false
  • ↑ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4275140/
  • ↑ http://www.qual.auckland.ac.nz/
  • ↑ http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualapp.php
  • ↑ http://www.socialresearchmethods.net/kb/qualdata.php
  • ↑ tobaccoeval.ucdavis.edu/analysis-reporting/.../CodingQualitativeData.pdf
  • ↑ https://statistics.laerd.com/statistical-guides/descriptive-inferential-statistics.php
  • ↑ https://explorable.com/qualitative-research-design

About This Article

Jeremiah Kaplan

To do qualitative research, start by deciding on a clear, specific question that you want to answer. Then, do a literature review to see what other experts are saying about the topic, and evaluate how you will best be able to answer your question. Choose an appropriate qualitative research method, such as action research, ethnology, phenomenology, grounded theory, or case study research. Collect and analyze data according to your chosen method, determine the answer to your question. For tips on performing a literature review and picking a method for collecting data, read on! Did this summary help you? Yes No

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