Qualitative Approaches to Research

Qualitative research techniques are very useful in doing research for the objectives or problems are complex. These are particularly useful where quantitative methods do not help. There are various problem areas like analyzing human perception, human behavior, experiences and others that can not be quantified. Qualitative research provides response in the text form which can be analyzed. Qualitative methods are used where hypothesis support is required for the experiments. It is an effective way for analyzing context of research. Qualitative research enables the researcher to “make sense of a single phenomenon” (Alasuutari, 1995).

Robson (2002) states that “Qualitative data are characterized by their richness and fullness based on your opportunity to explore a subject in as real manner possible”. Advantages of using qualitative data include the focus on understanding, having a rational approach, making observations and measurements in natural settings and furthermore the ability to be explorative (Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2002). Qualitative research techniques are a creative means of ascertaining consumer’s perceptions. It provides a ground for hypothesis and explanations for the research.

This is particularly useful in providing future areas of study in the same field. It helps in starting research on various topics, particularly the one where least work has been conducted. The basic reason for any qualitative research would be complexity of variable and lack of interpretable quantitative results. There are various techniques used for qualitative research. These are interviews, observations, surveys and document/ artifacts collections. Each of the method requires specific data analysis techniques. Document/ artifacts collections require proper study and auditing of the available material.

Qualitative research data is analyzed on the basis of similarities and dissimilarities or understanding particular pattern. The simplest form of studding pattern can be frequencies of data. Pattern can be in the form of similarity of dissimilarity in structure, cases, magnitudes, processes and consequences and others. Collecting Data in Education: Qualitative results are explanatory and more relevant results. Findings can be explained and clarified. In most of the cases data is collected by interviews wit open ended questions with the respondent. It requires involvement of researcher at each stage of data collection method.

The structure of interview can vary from respondent to respondent. It allows flexibility and adaptable to the requirements of the research. Qualitative research is useful with small sample size. Different groups of students and teachers can be interviewed for their view, perceptions, behavior and understanding of various teaching methods or during different time. Qualitative research requires fieldwork and involvement in the processes by researcher. Researcher is involved in entire process of data collection, data processing, analysis and relating it with research objectives.

Researchers are required to have information regarding respondents, research methods, objectives and aims of the research. Most of the qualitative methods are time taking and requires involvement of researcher and respondents. It provides thematic descriptions. It studies live experiences of respondents. Naturalistic Qualitative research methods utilize natural settings for the research purpose. It is therefore known as naturalistic approach of research. Research is conducted with the people in their setting, site or location. It provides insider points of views. Realities which are studied in this study usually multiple in numbers.

Research findings are resulted by interactivity with the subjects. It is particularly useful in sensitive and complex issues. Ethnography According to Williams (2004) Ethnography is “A type of qualitative inquiry that involves an in-depth study of an intact cultural group in a natural setting”. Ethnography has originated from Anthropology. It studies culture and its impact on the subjects. The observations are usually structured with the interviews with respondents. It provides holistic description. It studies the natural change processes of respondent’s sites or culture and its impact on the respondents and other concerned people.

It can be conducted through observations like participant observation, structured interviews with respondents or secondary data available. Phenomenology According to Williams (2004) Phenomenology is “A qualitative research methods that methods that attempts to understand participants’ perspectives and views of social realities”. It considered the entire phenomenon relevant to the research. These can be subjective or objective. Subjectivism projects human imagination whereas objectivism provides concrete process and structure of the context and research. Phenomenology roots from Philosophy.

Experience of people varies with various factors like time, age, location, environment and others. Phenomenology analyses meaning of various experiences with respect to the subjects experiencing the same. It focuses on different meanings of different phenomenon on different respondents or group of respondents from similar background. Induction method is utilized for developing ideas fro the qualitative data collected. It focuses on meaning and totality of the phenomenon. The sample size is small. Investigation utilizes different methods and aims to study various phenomenons with in depth study and analysis.

Respondent need to be part of phenomenon to be studied or must have experienced it. In a class, students can be observed for the fear of particular subject or topic or phenomenon that has influence on others as well. It is conducted through in depth interviews with respondents. Conclusion Each of the above mentioned techniques are useful in different types of study in education. Ethnography can be useful when a change is studied in particular educational segment or student groups. Phenomenology can be useful when there is a need to study impact and meaning of particular phenomenon among particular group of people from education sector.

Each of the above mentioned techniques has its own advantages and disadvantages. Each of these requires involvement of researcher. Ethnography can be used in study the changing belief of parents, teachers and students for education and particular fields. Phenomenology can be used in studying impact of education or particular stream of education on students, parents and teachers. Each provides different sets of results that can be useful in education depending on the aims and objectives of the study.