Qualitative research

Qualitative research is so called because its emphasis lies in producing data that is rich in insight, understanding, explanation and depth of information, but which cannot be justified statistically. Qualitative research is typically carried out with only a few respondents: often fewer than 50 individuals may be surveyed. While the findings from this number of people may be very important to the researcher in giving clues to the thinking of other members of the target group under investigation, the database is far too small to make such statements as, '10 per cent thought this ...' and '15 per cent did that ...'. It is in this sense then, that the data is qualitative rather than quantitative: the emphasis is on meaning rather than number.

The main methods used in qualitative research are depth interviews and group discussions, and these are described in Chapter 6. Their relatively small scale means that qualitative studies can generally be completed more quickly and less expensively than quantitative surveys. They can be used early in the research process to generate hypotheses which a subsequent quantitative survey will investigate further.

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