Types of Qualitative research designs

Qualitative Methodology

Grounded theory, ethnographic, narrative research, historical, case studies, and phenomenology are several types of qualitative research designs.  The proceeding paragraphs give a brief over view several of these qualitative methods.

Grounded theory is a systematic procedure of data analysis, typically associated with qualitative research, that allows researchers to develop a theory that explains a specific phenomenon.  Grounded theory was developed by Glaser and Strauss and is used to conceptualize phenomenon using research; grounded theory is not seen as a descriptive method and originates from sociology.  The unit of analysis in grounded theory is a specific phenomenon or incident, not individual behaviors.   The primary data collection method is through interviews of approximately 20 – 30 participants or until data achieves saturation.

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Ethnographic studies are qualitative procedures utilized to describe, analyze and interpret a culture’s characteristics.  Ethnography was developed in the 19thand 20th centuries and used by anthropologists to explore primitive cultures different from their own; it originated from Anthropology.  Ethnography is used when a researcher wants to study a group of people to gain a larger understanding of their lives or specific aspects of their lives.  The primary data collection method is through observation over an extended period of time.  It would also be appropriate to interview others who have studied the same cultures.

Phenomenology is used to identify phenomena and focus on subjective experiences and understanding the structure of those lived experiences.  It was founded in the early 20th century by Edmund Husserl and Martin Heideggar and originated from philosophy.  Phenomenology is used to describe, in depth, the common characteristics of the phenomena that has occurred.   The primary data collection method is through in-depth interviews.

Case studies are believed to have originated in 1829 by Frederic Le Play.  Case studies are rooted in several disciplines, including science, education, medicine, and law.  Case studies are to be used when (1) the researcher wants to focus on how and why, (2) the behavior is to be observed, not manipulated, (3) to further understand a given phenomenon, and (4) if the boundaries between the context and phenomena are not clear.  Multiple methods can be used to gather data, including interviews, observation, and historical documentation.