Qualitative Research Methods and Data Collection Techniques

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Introduction

One of the essential parts of any business research is the choice of proper research methods and data collection techniques. They need to correspond to the intentions of a scholar in terms of receiving the fullest information possible on the subject of research. Therefore, special attention should be paid to the process of choosing between quantitative or qualitative research methods and the techniques, which comply with them.

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Qualitative Research Methods

In the case of qualitative research methods, there are four basic approaches that allow a researcher to gather enough information in order to make the correct conclusion. One of the methods is a case study, and its purpose is to focus on a specific individual or specific context with their features including the sample size, a period of time, and many others (Trochim, 2020). For this, it includes the use of a sample corresponding to the objective and the applicable data collection methods (Trochim, 2020). The sample populations vary depending on the objective and ability of researchers to find enough people for participation. The primary advantage of this method is the opportunity to receive an in-depth understanding of the chosen topic. However, it might be complicated due to the lack of a clear structure.

Another method of qualitative research is unstructured interviewing, and it provides comprehensive information on the subject. Its purpose is to receive as much information as possible for further processing and making conclusions. The main feature of this method is the lack of structured instruments such as well-prepared questionnaires (Trochim, 2020). Therefore, the use of unstructured interviewing, despite its usefulness in terms of receiving enough data, can be complicated by the need for the analysis of scattered information. As in the use of case studies, the sample populations would vary depending on the objective.

The methods mentioned above are not necessarily used separately as in most studies, researchers tend to combine them in order to receive more information on the subject. The choice of methods is defined by the hypothesis and the expected outcome of the study. In this case, the sample size, a period of time, the used materials, and other characteristics matter. Thus, the combination of the case study and unstructured interviewing would be more beneficial for researchers than the use of a single qualitative research method. As these methods involve a small number of participants and an unspecified amount of questions, their use would allow scholars to receive comprehensive information on the nature of the issue.

One of the examples of such research is the study of cyberbullying among students conducted by Varjas et al. (2010). For its purposes, both case study and unstructured interviewing were used. Thus, the researchers conducted a series of semi-structured interviews among the participants. The chosen sample size contained 20 high-school students, who were willing to share their experience related to the problem (Varjas et al., 2010, p. 269). In this case, the researchers managed to benefit from the combination of methods in order to make a clear conclusion on the issue.

Data Collection Techniques

Once the scholars chose the methods they are going to use in the future study, they need to define the data collection techniques, which can be applied to the case. In the context of qualitative studies, one of the most suitable methods to collect information is the use of in-depth interviews with their participants. They are mostly used when there is a need for assessment or strategic planning (Marshall & Rossman, 2006). As a rule, such interviews include a set of open-ended questions that allow the researchers to receive more information than they are planning. This information would be more diverse than in the case of well-structured questionnaires suitable exclusively for quantitative research.

In-depth interviews are different from any other type of interview used for the purpose of a study. They more closely resemble a simple conversation rather than a formal dialogue but are limited to a specific number of topics of interest (North Dakota Compass, n.d.). Hence, the purpose of this method is to receive as much information as possible on the interviewee’s views on the subject for further systematization. The principal strength of this method is the opportunity to vary the amount of received data by increasing the number of participants and thereby collecting both full and in-depth information (North Dakota Compass, n.d.). However, such an approach requires a higher degree of cooperation between the participants for a more precise conclusion.

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Another type of data collection technique is observation, and this method is common for conducting qualitative research. The use of this technique provides for the inclusion of the researcher in the role of a participant (Marshall & Rossman, 2006). Observation is very time-consuming, and it is difficult to predict the time it would take in each specific case. The reason for it is the necessity for a researcher to become a part of that culture he or she intends to study (Marshall & Rossman, 2006). However, it provides excellent results when combined with other techniques, such as in-depth interviewing.

Observation includes specific elements, which allow the researchers to gather the necessary data. They relate to the systematic recording of events, behaviors, and artifacts (objects) of the study, which are together referred to as field notes (North Dakota Compass, n.d.). Such records allow us to analyze the observations in the future and, therefore, make correct conclusions on the subject of the study. However, sometimes it is impossible for a researcher to become a full participant of the study group, for example, if a teacher makes research on the students’ behavior under various circumstances (North Dakota Compass, n.d.). In this case, he or she acts as an outside observer for the purposes of the study.

The Preferred Qualitative Research Method and Data Collection Technique

In the conditions of availability of various research methods and data collection techniques, the primary task for any scholar is to define the ones that would suit his objective most. In the case of my study, which is connected to military leadership traits transition into a civilian organization, the research would be of a qualitative nature. Therefore, the most suitable method would be a combination of unstructured interviewing and a case study. The interviews would help me to reveal the definition of leadership from the point of view of war veterans as well as their perceptions of this concept. A case study, in its turn, would allow me to make more precise conclusions on the way military officers demonstrate it in the service.

There are numerous studies in the psychology of various social groups conducted with the help of interviewing and consideration of specific cases. Thus, for example, the researchers of rape myth acceptance, male gender role norms, and other perceptions related to military service used interviewing for their study (DeLisle et al., 2019). They surveyed the unit commanders they managed to find on the Internet with the help of four self-report scales to receive the necessary data (DeLisle et al., 2019). The method of observation was used for the research intended to reveal the mental skills of elite military recruits (Fitzwater et al., 2018). As these methods demonstrated excellent results in the studies mentioned above that are somehow similar to my research, they will be beneficial for my case as well.

As for techniques, which can be used for my research, I would prefer in-depth interviews with military officers as one of the most efficient ways to receive qualitative data. This technique is also typical for psychological research of various social groups. Thus, for example, it was used for the research intended to define the way nursing personnel develops their leadership skills (Fischer, 2017). In this study, the researcher received qualitative data from numerous questionnaires of various forms, and it allowed her to reveal how nurses use the acquired skills for their work. This study examined parameters, which are similar to the ones I want to explore, and it allows me to conclude on the usefulness of this data collection technique in the context of skills development and transition.

The correct choice of research methods and data collection techniques contributes to making correct conclusions on the subject, and it is essential for any study. In the case of research based on qualitative data related to the acquisition of skills and their use in various spheres, the most efficient research methods are case studies and unstructured interviewing. Together with such data collection techniques as observation and in-depth interviews, they allow researchers to explore the topic successfully.

References

DeLisle, A., Walsh, H. C., Holtz, P. M., Callahan, J., & Neumann, C. S. (2019). Rape myth acceptance, male gender role norms, attitudes towards women, and psychopathic traits in a military sample. Personality and Individual Differences, 144, 125-131. Web.

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Fischer, S. A. (2017). Developing nurses’ transformational leadership skills. Nursing Standard, 31(51), 54–63. Web.

Fitzwater, J. P. J., Arthur, C. A., & Hardy, L. (2018). “The tough get tougher”: Mental skills training with elite military recruits. Sport, Exercise, and Performance Psychology, 7(1), 93-107. Web.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G.B. (2006). Designing qualitative research. Sage Publications.

North Dakota Compass (n.d.). Qualitative data collection methods. Data collection methods. Web.

Trochim, W. M. K. (2020). Qualitative data. Web.

Varjas, K., Talley, J., Meyers, J., Parris, L., & Cutts, H. (2010). High school students’ perceptions of motivations for cyberbullying: An exploratory study. Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, 11(3), pp. 269-273.

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