What is qualitative research?
- Interview tapes and transcripts
- Newspaper clippings
- Personal Journal
What are the key advantages and strengths of the qualitative method of research?
Qualitative methods of research employ open-ended questions and probing, allowing participants to react in their own words rather than being forced to choose from predetermined responses, as is the case with quantitative methods. Open-ended questions can elicit responses that are:
- meaningful and culturally significant for the
- unexpected by the researcher
- rich and explanatory in nature
Open-ended questions are those that don’t have a simple “yes” or “no” answer and need the respondent to elaborate on their arguments. Open-ended inquiries allow you to see things from the customer’s point of view because you obtain feedback in their own words rather than canned responses.
Another benefit of qualitative method approaches is that they allow the researcher to explore initial participant replies – to question why or how they responded. This makes qualitative research particularly useful for gathering culturally relevant information on a population’s beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, relationships, and social circumstances.
Qualitative methods are also useful for identifying intangible aspects like social norms, authority, position, gender roles, ethnicity, and religion, which may or may not play a role in development results. It is extremely difficult to establish policy and program initiatives that deliver good value for money without first addressing these concerns. Qualitative research, when combined with quantitative research (known as a ‘Q-square’ technique), can help us evaluate and better understand the complicated reality of a situation as well as the implications of quantitative data. While Q-squared techniques are generally superior to employing one or the other strategy in isolation, it may be sensible to commission only one type of study when some information on an issue already exists (or time and resources are limited).
When should you commission qualitative method of research?
Should you commission a qualitative or quantitative exercise when you discover a knowledge gap that has to be filled with information? If there is a scarcity of data on the topic you wish to investigate, qualitative research might be a good place to start. This will allow you to better characterize and investigate the phenomenon, as well as outline the questions you wish to investigate in a more concentrated study.
If enough qualitative research exists to understand and explain the phenomenon, but you don’t know the extent to which the phenomenon exists and for whom, whether there is causality, or how different phenomena are related to one another (e.g., if there is causality), quantitative research is the way to go.
If quantitative research exists, but there is insufficient data to enable you to understand and explain variation, relationships, individual experiences, or group norms then you need to commission qualitative research.
Why do you want to do the interviews in the first place?
We’ll be concentrating on evaluating data from one-on-one individual interviews and a good place to start is by deciding whether you’ll conduct a structured, unstructured, or semi-structured interview.
What is the definition of a structured interview? Questions for structured interviews are planned and written ahead of time. The same questions are asked to all candidates in the same sequence.
An unstructured interview is one in which the interviewer asks questions that have not been prepared ahead of time. Instead, in a free-flowing conversation, questions occur spontaneously, which implies that various responses are asked different questions.
Isn’t it possible to do semi-structured interviews? A semi-structured interview is one in which the interviewer just asks a few predefined questions, and the rest of the questions are not scheduled ahead of time. Semi-structured interviews are a hybrid of organized and unstructured interviews.
Before discussing the pros and disadvantages of various qualitative research approaches or methodologies, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the various instruments that these approaches employ and why they are used. In-depth interviews or interviews, focus group discussions, participant observation, and participatory approaches are the most prevalent tactics.
In-depth key informant interviews
In-depth interviews are usually semi-structured, meaning they don’t ask pre-determined questions and instead focus on the dynamic flow of dialogue between the researcher and the participant (s). The following are some of the benefits of semi-structured in-depth interviews:
- They acquire valid information about participants’ ideas, opinions, attitudes, and experiences, as well as how they explain and contextualize these topics, by allowing them to answer in as much depth as they wish.
- Because of the more relaxed and conversational tone generated, participants are encouraged to be open and honest.
- The researcher can be flexible, adjusting questions and changing direction as the interview takes place; The researcher is able to probe, explore, challenge, and ask for clarification.
Key informant interviews are a type of in-depth semi-structured interviews used with participants who have particularly informed perspectives and specialized or first-hand knowledge of issues.
Focus Group Discussions
A focus group discussion brings together a group of people (usually 6–8) with comparable backgrounds or experiences to discuss a given issue. The moderator uses a discussion guide to facilitate the discussion. A good moderator can create an atmosphere in which all members of the group are encouraged to engage in a vibrant and natural discussion among themselves.
Focus group discussions have the advantage of allowing participants to agree or disagree with one another, revealing how a group thinks about an issue, the range of opinions and ideas, and the inconsistencies and variations that exist in a particular community in terms of beliefs, experiences, and practices. As a result, focus group discussions are a good method to use both before designing a questionnaire – to ensure that the questionnaire includes relevant topics and frames questions in a way that respondents will understand – and after a questionnaire has been administered – to explore the meanings of survey findings that cannot be explained statistically, as well as the reasons behind common or outlier opinions, views, and experiences.
The practice of enabling researchers to learn about the activities of the individuals under investigation by seeing and engaging in those activities is known as participant observation. Its goal is to get a close and intimate understanding of a certain group of people (such as a religious, occupational, subcultural, or community) and it is practiced through active participation with people in their natural setting, usually over a long period of time.
It is the most common till used in ethnographic research. Conversations about the topic areas the study wants to look into are usually unstructured. Relaxed, informal, and participant-led interactions are the Centre. Because participant observation is usually done over a long period of time, the researcher is able to:
- Obtain more thorough and precise information on the individuals, community, and/or population under study (though the method is often defined as qualitative research); – include quantitative dimensions (though the method is generally characterized as qualitative research).
- Collect data on observable aspects (such as daily time allocation) as well as less visible information (such as prohibited behavior) that are best interpreted over time.
- Find inconsistencies between what participants say should happen (the formal system) and what actually happens, or between different components of the formal system.
Ethnographic research is a qualitative research method in which researchers watch and/or interact with study participants in their natural surroundings. While anthropology popularised ethnography, it is now employed in a variety of social science disciplines.
Participatory qualitative method
The goal of participatory tools and exercises is to transfer power from the researcher to the study participants. After the researcher has explained the exercise, research participants utilize the application to generate their own data. This data is frequently visual (making these tools appropriate for use with children and less literate participants), and it is generated in a participatory manner in group settings, with group members working and debating together.
The researcher encourages participants in the qualitative method to examine and reflect on the data gathered during the activity in order to draw any conclusions or insights. Ranking and scoring exercises, social mapping, and body mapping are examples of participatory tools. Participatory research tools can be used on their own or in conjunction with other qualitative methodologies as part of a larger participatory research project. A researcher might employ a rating exercise as part of an in-depth interview or a focus group discussion, or a mapping exercise as part of participant observation.
In practice, after deciding on a topic for qualitative research and conducting a thorough assessment of the literature on the subject, we conduct interviews in which respondents are asked a series of open-ended questions.
- It has the ability to generate both quantitative and qualitative data.
- It might be official or casual, scheduled, or unstructured, and the number of persons involved can vary.
Questioning, prompting, listening, and analyzing are all part of this process.
The procedure for transcribing interviews for qualitative research indicates that you should perform it by hand, that is, listen to or watch the full interview and begin transcribing it. Manual transcription, it is argued, encourages you to sit down and study all of your video or audio footage, resulting in a more thorough analysis of your interview videos. There is another option: find reliable transcription software.
Here’s an example of an interview transcription:
Transcript of Respondent Two’s Interview
(I:Interviewer R: Respondent two)
I: What is the importance of CSR for any organization in general and especially for your organization?
R: There is an importance of CSR in our society generally and in our organization (there is importance).
We do things in the community because we believe it’s the right and important thing to do. We try to treat people as we would as they would treat us. (it’s our social responsibility)
The right thing to do Reversibility
I: So, what events led your firm to consider CSR activities? What CSR activities are important for your firm?
R Ammm… basically you can’t say any event but as per our social responsibility we are adopting voluntary (No event is involved). Due to lack of education in interior Sindh we felt to participate in CSR
activities. We help poor people and distribute books among children for their smooth educational requirements. To make better employee policies and to help them, arrangement of free dastarkhwans in Ramzan, donations to NGOs. (Donations to NGOs, better employee policies, charity work, education support activities).
I Are there any issues that you face related to organizing activities?
R No… we don’t face any issues to do any CSR activity. But we are doing it at small level. Amm.. but we intend to do more for our society ethically in future. (no any issues)
Example of Coding & Focus Coding
Thematic (map) analysis can be used to examine qualitative data from user studies like interviews, focus groups, workshops, diary studies, or contextual inquiries. A thematic map analysis can be used to examine data with behavioral elements or attitudes (thoughts, beliefs, and reported needs, for example).
Significant data segments are first discovered and then summarized in keywords or key phrases during the analysis phase.
These keywords or key phrases are then used to derive underlying “themes” in an iterative process. In the data, “themes” are recurring mental patterns or notions. A mind map can be used to visualize the “themes” that emerged from the investigation.
What is the outcome?
Based on the above-mentioned steps, the abstract of the paper is as follows:
The purpose of this study was to learn how SMEs in Karachi see and practice their corporate social responsibilities. Using a purposive sample technique, we conducted semi-structured interviews with nineteen CEOs, executives, and managers of various SMEs operating in Karachi. The data were analyzed using a technique called thematic analysis. We discovered that SMEs prefer to provide assistance in the form of donations for the benefit of society, most commonly in the form of free medical treatment. Donations to schools or running these institutions for poor children are the second most popular CSR action. The management of these SMEs indicated that their staff is more productive and positive as a result of their CSR initiatives within the firm. CSR activities are an effective tool for image building and provide a competitive advantage. Trade organizations and the government must do more to promote CSR initiatives, which is currently lacking. SME management practices CSR not only as a required activity but also as a humanitarian endeavor. This research will aid policymakers at the federal, state, and local levels in developing policies and laws to promote CSR. These policies are required when poverty levels rise, and the economy is experiencing inflationary conditions.
The complete paper, “Perceptions and
Practices of Corporate Social Responsibility among Small and Medium Enterprises
in Karachi,” is available to read.