Methods of Data Collection for Qualitative Research

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1727 |

Pages: 4|

9 min read

Published: Aug 30, 2022

Words: 1727|Pages: 4|9 min read

Published: Aug 30, 2022

Table of contents

  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction: Qualitative Research
  3. Methods of data collection
  4. Observational methods
  5. Qualitative Data Analysis
  6. Strengths
  7. Limitations
  8. Conclusion
  9. References


This article is based on the qualitative research methods which can be used by the researcher depending on the context. It is written after a literature review of a few articles. This paper has clearly mentioned about the methods of data collection for qualitative research. A researcher can pick any method that can fulfill the requirements and essence of the study. Besides methods of data collection, some of the strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative data as well as qualitative research is discussed briefly.

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Introduction: Qualitative Research

Research that follows a qualitative approach seeks to explain ‘how’ and ‘why’ a particular phenomenon or behavior operates as it does in a particular context. Qualitative research is exploratory research. The aim of this sort of research is to understand the social reality of any individuals, groups, and cultures based on how people live their lives. Thus respondents are studied in their own natural setting.

In qualitative research, different methods are used. The most common methods are interviews, focus group discussions, observational methods, and document analysis. If we combine two or more data collection methods which are called data triangulation, for instance, interviews, as well as focus groups, enhances the credibility of the study. It is very important to maintain a diary during the study, along with reflections on the process and the role and influence of the researcher, irrespective of the data collection method applied.

During qualitative research, the researchers generally use a variety of methods to enhance a deep understanding of how people perceive their social realities. It also looks about the consequences of how they act within the social world. Unstructured interviews generate qualitative data through the use of open questions. This would be a good example of qualitative research. Respondents can choose their own words and hence talk in some depth. From this, qualitative researchers develop an actual sense of a person’s understanding of a situation. Only words or text should not be considered as data for qualitative data. Since qualitative research is subjective and exists in reference to the observer, there is no single reality for the researchers. It provides insights into the problems. The sample size for this kind of research is small.

This research is typically focused on the micro-level of social interaction that is directly relevant to our everyday life and people’s experiences. Qualitative research collects and works with non-numerical data. Researchers interpret meaning from these data. For a better understanding the concept of qualitative data, researchers observe a particular dataset. Here are a few examples of qualitative data as follows:

  • The chocolate is orange, blue, and black in color.
  • Females have brown, black, blond, and red hair.
  • Surveys can show that teen drug use rates are down, but only interviews with teens could reveal personal motivations and reasons behind why that is the case.
  • A marketing group can see that people dislike their brand, but will need qualitative methods to understand in what way they dislike it.
  • Researchers can measure the academic performance of those taking a new drug. But to understand the felt experience of those taking the medication, they will need to conduct open-ended interviews and case studies.

Methods of data collection

Qualitative researchers basically collect in-depth perceptions and descriptions of targeted populations, places, and events by using their own eyes, ears, and intelligence. Their findings are collected through a variety of methods while conducting a qualitative study. They can observe and record the above-mentioned populations, places, and events to get qualitative data. This data type is non-numerical in nature and is collected through observations, one-to-one interviews, conducting focus groups, and other similar methods. Data can be arranged on the basis of the attributes and properties of a thing or a phenomenon.

For example, think of a student reading a paragraph from a book during one of the class sessions. A teacher who is listening to the reading gives feedback on how the child read that paragraph. If the teacher gives feedback based on fluency, intonation, throw of words, and clarity in pronunciation without giving a grade to the child, this is considered as an example of qualitative data.

Here is a list of methods of collecting qualitative data as discussed below:

Observational methods

Observational methods are used to understand phenomena by studying people’s accounts and actions in an everyday context. A researcher studies people as they go about their daily lives without participating or interfering through direct observation. This sort of research must be conducted in public settings where people do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy. There are participant observation and non-participating observations (e.g. by using video recordings). Usually, the researcher participates to observe in people’s daily lives for an extended period of time, watching what happens, listening to what is said, and/or asking questions through informal and formal interviews, collecting documents and artifacts.

Open-ended surveys

Many surveys that are designed to generate quantitative data are also designed with open-ended questions. It allows for the generation and analysis of qualitative data. For example, a survey might be used to investigate not just which political candidates voters chose, but why they chose them, in their own words.

Focus group discussions

In order to examine how knowledge and ideas develop and operate in a given group, the researcher stimulates focus group discussion. Most of the time, a discussion about a particular topic in a group is guided by a facilitator. When persons are acquainted with each other or because of hierarchical relations within the group, some sensitive issues might be more easily discussed within a group. A major role of the facilitator is to build up an open atmosphere, engage participants in the discussion and handle this discussion. During the discussion, a focus group requires careful attention.

Oral history

To create a historical account of any event, group, or community, the oral history method is used. It involves a chain of in-depth interviews with one or multiple participants over an extended period of time.

Document analysis

On the basis of existing sources like government reports, articles in newspapers, personal documents, books, or medical records, the document is analyzed. Qualitative research is actually creative and interpretive with a doubt. The researcher not only collects huge empirical data but also writes up his or her findings.

Record keeping

In order to use the pre-existing reliable documents and similar sources of information as data sources, the researchers use record keeping. This data can be used as a secondary source of data in new research.

Longitudinal studies

If there is the same data source repeatedly over an extended period of time, the researchers perform this method of data collection. Since it is an observational research method, it may go on for a few years and in some cases can go on for even decades. This method helps us find correlations through an empirical study of subjects with common traits.

Case studies

In the case of this method, data is accumulated by in-depth analysis of case studies. The good aspect of this method is to draw inferences by analyzing how judiciously it uses a combination of one or more qualitative data collection methods.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Data analysis is too much essential as the researcher spends time and money collecting it in the study area with huge effort. However, there are no any particular rules for analyzing qualitative data. It is done by understanding the following two main approaches:

Deductive Approach

In the deductive approach, qualitative data is analyzed on the basis of a structure which is predetermined by the researcher. For analyzing the data, the questions can be used as a guide by a researcher. This quick and easy approach can be used when a researcher has a fair idea about the likely responses that s/he is going to receive from the respondents.

Inductive Approach

On the contrary, the inductive approach is not based on a predetermined structure or any particular rules/framework. This approach consumes more time to analyze qualitative data. If a researcher has too little or no idea of the research phenomenon, then s/he uses an Inductive approach.


Qualitative data creates an in-depth understanding of the interactions, behaviors, events, attitudes, and social processes of everyday life. It helps social scientists understand how life is influenced by social structure, order, and forces. This set of methods can be conducted often with minimal cost. The researcher gains an insider's view of the field because of close researcher involvement. It helps in suggesting possible relationships, causes, effects, and dynamic processes as well. It also allows ambiguities/contradictions in the data which in turn reflects social reality.

Qualitative data is essential to determine the particular frequency of traits or characteristics. It assists the researchers to identify parameters through which larger data sets can be observed. For a market researcher, collecting qualitative data helps in answering questions like, who their customers are, what issues or problems they are facing and where do they need to focus their attention so problems or issues are resolved.


Qualitative data has a problem of adequate validity or reliability which is a major criticism. It is tough to apply conventional standards of reliability and validity just because of the subjective nature of qualitative data and its origin in single contexts. Researchers can not replicate contexts, situations, events, conditions, and interactions. Also, generalizations can not be done to a wider context than the studied area. The time required for data collection, analysis, and interpretation is extremely lengthy. Due to highly consuming time and costs, qualitative designs do not generally draw samples from large-scale data sets.

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After analyzing the above-mentioned strengths and limitations of the qualitative data, we can conclude that a researcher can conduct qualitative research for a single context with a low sample population. He/she should not use qualitative data to generalize a wide range of data sets. In order to conduct qualitative research, above mentioned methods for instance, interviews, focus group discussion, data analysis, record keeping, open-ended surveys, case studies, etc. can be done. Any suitable method(s) should be chosen as per the need of the qualitative research.


  1. Bhat, A. (n.d.). Qualitative data- definition, types, analysis and examples. Retrieved from
  2. Braun, V. & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3, 77–101.
  3. Crossman, Ashley. (2019, July 3). An Overview of Qualitative Research Methods. Retrieved from
  4. Glaser, B. G., Strauss, A. L., & Strutzel, E. (1968). The discovery of grounded theory; strategies for qualitative research. Nursing research, 17(4), 364.
  5. Martyn Shuttleworth, Lyndsay T Wilson (Sep 14, 2008). Qualitative Research Design. Retrieved Aug 05, 2019 from
  6. McLeod, S. A. (2019, July 30). Qualitative vs. quantitative research. Retrieved from
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Methods of Data Collection for Qualitative Research. (2022, August 30). GradesFixer. Retrieved May 19, 2024, from
“Methods of Data Collection for Qualitative Research.” GradesFixer, 30 Aug. 2022,
Methods of Data Collection for Qualitative Research. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 May 2024].
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