Discuss the meaning, types and relevance of qualitative research. Explain the ethical guidelines in qualitative research

Discuss the meaning, types and relevance of qualitative research. Explain the ethical guidelines in
qualitative research



Qualitative research can be defined as a type of scientific research that tries to bridge the gap of incomplete information, systematically collects evidence, produces findings and thereby seeks answer to a problem or question. It is widely used in collecting and understanding specific information about the behaviour, opinion, values and other social aspects of a particular community, culture or population. An example of a qualitative research can be studying the concepts of spiritual development amongst college students. David (1995) had done such a study at a fairly conservative school. He actually tried to analyse whether there is uniformity or considerable diversity in people’s understanding of spiritual development or not. Qualitative research helps in providing an in depth knowledge regarding human behaviour and tries to find out reasons behind decision making tendencies of humans.




Attempting to understand human nature, market research purposes, current trends, changing tastes and preferences of people, there are certain approaches of qualitative research. They are: 


  1. i) Case study: With the help of this method a case of an individual, group, event, institution or society is studied. It helps in providing an in depth knowledge of the nature, process or phenomena of a specific case under study. Multiple methods of data collection are often used in case study research (example, interviews, observation, documents, and questionnaires). The final report of the case study provides a rich (i.e., vivid and detailed) and holistic (i.e., describes the whole and its parts) description of the case and its context.


  1. ii) Ethnography: This approach mainly focuses on a particular community. It is more of a kind of closefield observation and basically tries to study a socio cultural phenomena. For example, judging others based on the researchers’ cultural standards. Ethnography can be used for comparative analysis of cultural groups (e.g. eating habits of North Indians and South Indians), also known ‘Ethnology’. Further it can also be used to analyse the cultural past of group of people (e.g. Harrapan civilisation), also known as ‘Ethnohistory’.


 iii) Historical method: This method helps in understanding and analysing the causal relationships. With the help of this technique, the data related to the occurrence of an event is collected and evaluated in order to understand the reasons behind occurrence of such events. It helps in testing hypothesis concerning cause, effects and trends of events that may help to explain present events and anticipate future events as well.


  1. iv) Grounded theory: This approach involves an active participation of the researcher in the activities of the group, culture or the community under study. The data regarding the required information is collected with the help of observation. It is generally used in generating or developing theories. This means that the ground theorists can not only work upon generation of new theories, they can test or elaborate previously grounded theories.


  1. v) Phenomenology: In this method, the behavioural phenomena is explained with the help of conscious experience of events, without using any theory, calculations or assumptions from other disciplines. The concept can be best understood with the help of one of the studies that was done in which patients were asked to describe about caring and non caring nurses in hospitals Creswell, 1998.The patients explained those nurses to be caring who show their existential presence and not mere their physical presence. The existential presence of caring nurses referred to the positive response showed by them to the patient’s request. The relaxation, comfort and security that the client expresses both physically and mentally are an immediate and direct result of the client’s stated and unstated needs being heard and responded to by the nurse.




Qualitative research methods has gained much importance in the discipline of psychology leaving other human sciences far below such as sociology and nursing, with the main motive of maintaining the historical attempt to frame psychology as a natural science. Comparatively, natural science methods use experimental means in order to examine the causal relationships, wherein, this approach uses a large number of participants and effectively captures aspects of our human nature. Qualitative research is less interested in explaining phenomena than in understanding them and that is why it has several good relevance and implications in psychology.


It has several implications in the discipline of psychology, as it:


  1. i) Helps in textual description of experiences of people.


  1. ii) Helps in identifying and explaining social norms, religion, roles of gender and socio economic status.


 iii) Helps in understanding those behavioural phenomena which can not be quantified.


  1. iv) Helps in collecting data under more natural situations. 


  1. v) Helps in determining those factors which are meaningful and are important to the respondents under study.



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