Quick reads: What are three popular qualitative research methods?

As you might know, qualitative research methods can be traced as far back as the early 19th century. It has since developed into different research methodologies. In this short newsletter article, we describe three popular qualitative research methodologies that might be useful in your projects. It is important to note this article only offers a high-level overview of these qualitative research methods. Please follow the links for further information regarding the three noted qualitative research methods.

Grounded Theory

Grounded Theory is a widely used qualitative research method that enables qualitative researchers to derive new theories through the iterative collection and analysis of real-world data. Other common research approaches would start with a hypothesis and researchers would seek to either prove or disprove the hypothesis through collecting and analyzing data. A Grounded Theory approach would first collect and analyze data iteratively and then derive a theory. When should a qualitative researcher use the Grounded Theory method?

The Grounded Theory research method is appropriate when there is no prevailing theory to answer a question or explain a phenomenon or the data of the existing theory is incomplete. A researcher will first collect data by interviewing a group of recruited individuals. The audio or video of the interviews will be transcribed and separated into excerpts that will then be grouped into codes. Each time a researcher goes through the cycle of collecting and analyzing data, they are closer to deriving a theory.

Further grounded theory reading:
The Practical Guide to Grounded Theory 

Content Analysis

Content Analysis is a qualitative research method to summarize qualitative data in a quantitative manner. Data from different sources such as text and transcripts from interviews, video, and audio recordings can be used in Content Analysis. The overall objective of this research approach is to organize large amounts of text and derive a succinct summary of key results.

The first step in Content Analysis is for the qualitative researcher to divide their data into smaller parts and apply codes according to meaning. The codes will then be grouped with other related codes into categories. Once the data has been analyzed, it is summarized in a frequency table with illustrative quotes and a tally of the number of times an identified coding category was observed in the data.

Content Analysis method is easy to use, can be used with other research techniques, and allows for statistical analysis. However, Content Analysis only describes the analyzed data and deeper meanings or causality cannot be established from patterns observed in the data.

Further content analysis reading:
Qualitative Content Analysis 101

Thematic Analysis

Thematic Analysis is a common qualitative research approach that involves identifying patterns in a data set, coding and extracting themes from the data, and then creating a narrative. There are a number of ways to apply Thematic Analysis, and this article explains the stepped approach described by Virginia Braun and Victoria Clarke.

The first step the qualitative researcher will follow is to familiarize themselves with the data once it has been transcribed and create an initial set of codes based on the observed patterns in the data. The researcher will then identify interesting excerpts from their data and apply an appropriate code. The codes and corresponding excerpts will be collated and the researcher will then attempt to determine themes between codes. The process of determining meaningful themes between the collated codes is a time-intensive iterative process. Once the qualitative researcher has confidence in the final research themes, they can move to the remaining step in the Thematic Analysis Process, writing the narrative. The narrative will tell the story of the data and includes the researchers’ interpretation and arguments for the assertions they presented.

Further thematic analysis reading:
Thematic Analysis: Striving to Meet the Trustworthiness Criteria 

We hope you found this article helpful,

Team LiGRE

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