5 Types of Qualitative Research Methodologies

Qualitative research methodologies are those that collect and analyse data through qualitative means. That is to say, they are focussed on the non-numerical aspects of data collection and analysis. While testing out the recipe for a new candy, a company might employ qualitative research in the form of focus groups in order to ascertain whether the product is enjoyable or not. More on that later. This is different from making a public poll that reflects how much people prefer this product over others of a similar variety, in that case we would be focussing on quantitative or statistical methods of data collection and analysis. To understand better let us look at various kinds of qualitative research starting with the aforementioned ‘focus groups’.

Focus groups

Focus groups are most commonly used in market research. The process of a focus group involves selecting a number of candidates from your target demographic and asking them qualitative questions about your research problem. An easy way of understanding this from the candy example is to initiate a discussion or ask people about the taste of the candy. Whether they found it enjoyable, whether they thought it was too sweet or too sour and so forth. Often focus groups influence each other’s opinions and even break into discussion. This is useful data to collect! However, since there is an element of bias or influence, focus groups are never conducted as monolithic studies but are rather used to compile data by employing numerous focus groups to reach a more unbiased understanding of the research problem.


Ethnographic method of qualitative research focusses on the people or culture. This is widely used in the social sciences as well as policymaking. The method of ethnographic analysis is a rather anthropological one. While the focus group focusses on certain questions or research problems by removing all other variables, ethnographic analysis is more anthropological in the sense that it explores the subject (the people, or the policy depending on what the research question is) in their/its own environment. This is extremely useful in redesigning policy or evaluating its efficacy. It’s also a recommended method to understand the culture and practices of a people. Ethnographic research employs the use of interviews and field observations as a method of collecting data. It is important to find a way to blend into the environment to a certain degree so that your own biases don’t flavour the data you collect.

Oral Histories

Oral histories are either already recorded in an archival format or need to be recorded as a primary source by someone who interviews people or finds a way to collect the testimonials of people regarding an incident or event. Quite often one will find that oral testimonials have conflicting or contradictory views on the same event or issue. That is why it is useful to collect and evaluate a large volume of such events. If the oral histories have to be recorded anew then it is useful to make other observations such as the demeanour of the person who is speaking or the sincerity they projected and so on. Remember that this is qualitative research and we are allowed to take a call on the quality of the data we collect provided we do it responsibly and without bias. Oral histories are commonly used in academia and reportage.

Case studies

Case studies are quite commonly used in many fields, most prominently in law. You may have heard of the term ‘case law’. This is a reflection of the pervasive way in which a case study works. Court proceedings are essentially case studies and one may think of the judge as the researcher (and the members of the jury in countries that follow the jury system). Case studies are efficient ways of understanding the proceedings of an event, or the life of a person or community. These case studies can also be used in other disciplines such as finance, business, and even in parts of STEM (science, technology, engineering, maths).

Grounded theory

The grounded theory methodology of research is quite versatile in that it is capable of unifying various different kinds of research methodology. The popular conception of the theory involves forming hypotheses on available data. However, grounded theory research can have various different kinds of starting points. The main aim of grounded theory research is the rampant collection of data and the formation of hypotheses. Then one might form categories based on these hypotheses from which you will collect more data and form more such hypotheses. As such, the idea is that the hypothesis will emerge from the data collected. An excellent example of well-structured grounded theory research is the design research methodology.

Date added

Filed under:



No spam, just your favourite topics.

Choose Insight topics that you are interested in to subscribe for your personalized newsletter.

A world
of possibilities awaits.
Join the movement.
Find your perfect university,
in one of 40 countries all over the world
Prepare for the future,
whether at university, business or in employment
Secure your future,
through STEM courses
Connect with leading international companies
and unlock the potential of your team
Fill in the form, so we can contact
you and start our journey together.