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How To Write The Methodology Chapter

The what, why & how explained simply (with examples).

By: Jenna Crossley (PhD). Reviewed By: Dr. Eunice Rautenbach | September 2021

So, you’ve pinned down your research topic and undertaken a review of the literature – now it’s time to write up the methodology section of your dissertation, thesis or research paper. But what exactly is the methodology chapter all about – and how do you go about writing one? In this post, we’ll unpack the topic, step by step .

Overview: The Methodology Chapter

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What (exactly) is the methodology chapter?

Your methodology chapter is where you highlight the philosophical underpinnings of your research and outline the specific research design choices you’ve made. The point of the methodology chapter is to tell the reader exactly how you designed your research and to justify your design choices .

The methodology chapter should comprehensively describe and justify all the research design choices you made. For example, the type of research you conducted (e.g. qualitative or quantitative ), how you collected your data, how you analysed your data and who or where you collected data from (sampling). We’ll explain all the key design choices later in this post .

Why is the methodology chapter important?

The methodology chapter is important for two reasons:

Firstly, it demonstrates your understanding of research design theory, which is what earns you marks. A flawed research design or methodology would mean flawed results, so this chapter is vital as it allows you to show the marker that you know what you’re doing and that your results are credible .

Secondly, the methodology chapter is what helps to make your study replicable – in other words, it allows other researchers to undertake your study using the same design, and compare their findings to yours. This is very important within academic research, as each study builds on previous studies.

The methodology chapter is also important because it allows you to identify and discuss any methodological issues or problems you encountered (i.e. limitations), and to explain how you mitigated the impacts of these. Every research project has its limitations and shortcomings , so it’s important to acknowledge these openly and highlight your study’s value despite its limitations. Again, this demonstrates your understanding of research design, which will earn you marks. We’ll discuss limitations in more detail later in this post.

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example of qualitative methodology in research paper

How to write up the methodology chapter

First off, it’s worth noting that the exact structure and contents of the methodology chapter will vary depending on the field of research (for example, humanities vs chemistry vs engineering) as well as the university . So, it’s always a good idea to check the guidelines provided by your institution for clarity and, if possible, review past dissertations and theses from your university. Here we’re going to discuss a generic structure for a methodology chapter typically found in the sciences, especially the social sciences (e.g. psychology).

Before you start writing, we always recommend that you draw up a rough outline , so that you have a clear direction to head in. Don’t just start writing without knowing what will go where. If you do, you’ll most likely end up with a disjointed, poorly flowing narrative . As a result, you’ll waste a lot of time rewriting in an attempt to try to stitch all the pieces together. Start with the end in mind.

Section 1 – Introduction

As with all chapters in your dissertation or thesis, the methodology chapter should have a brief introduction. In this introduction, you should remind your readers what the focus of your study is, especially the research aims . As we’ve discussed many times on this blog, your research design needs to align with your research aims, objectives and research questions , so it’s useful to frontload this to remind the reader (and yourself!) what you’re trying to achieve with your design and methodology.

In this section, you can also briefly mention how you’ll structure the chapter. This will help orient the reader and provide a bit of a roadmap so that they know what to expect.

The intro provides a roadmap to your methodology chapter

Section 2 – The Research Design

The next section of your methodology chapter should present your research design to the reader. In this section, you need to detail and justify all the key design choices in a logical, intuitive fashion. This is the heart of your methodology chapter, so you need to get specific – don’t hold back on the details here. This is not one of those “less is more” situations.

Let’s have a look at the most common design choices you’ll need to cover.

Design Choice #1 – Research Philosophy

Research philosophy refers to the underlying beliefs (i.e. world view) regarding how data about a phenomenon should be gathered , analysed and used . Your research philosophy  will serve as the core of your study and underpin all of the other research design choices, so it’s critically important that you understand which philosophy you’ll adopt and why you made that choice. If you’re not clear on this, take the time to  get clarity before you make any research design choices.

While several research philosophies exist, two commonly adopted ones are positivism and interpretivism .

Positivism is commonly the underlying research philosophy in quantitative studies. It states that the researcher can observe reality objectively and that there is only one reality, which exists independent of the observer.

Contrasted with this, interpretivism , which is often the underlying research philosophy in qualitative studies, assumes that the researcher performs a role in observing the world around them and that reality is unique to each observer . In other words, reality is observed subjectively .

These are just two philosophies (there are many) , but they demonstrate significantly different approaches to research and have a significant impact on all the research design choices. Therefore, it’s vital that you clearly outline and justify your research philosophy at the beginning of your methodology chapter, as it sets the scene for everything that follows.

The research philosophy is at the core of the methodology chapter

Design Choice #2 – Research Type

The next thing you would typically discuss in your methodology section is the research type. The starting point for this is to indicate whether the research you conducted is inductive or deductive . With inductive research, theory is generated from the ground up (i.e. from the collected data), and therefore these studies tend to be exploratory in terms of approach. Deductive research, on the other hand, starts with established theory and builds onto it with collected data, and therefore these studies tend to be confirmatory in approach.

Related to this, you’ll need to indicate whether your study adopts a qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods methodology. As we’ve mentioned, there’s a strong link between this choice and your research philosophy, so make sure that your choices are tightly aligned . Again, when you write this section up, remember to clearly justify your choices, as they form the foundation of your study.

Design Choice #3 – Research Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your research strategy (i.e., your research “action plan”). This research design choice refers to how you conduct your research based on the aims of your study.

Several research strategies exist, including experiments , case studies , ethnography , grounded theory, action research , and phenomenology . Let’s look at two these, experimental and ethnographic, to see how they contrast.

Experimental research makes use of the scientific method , where one group is the control group (in which no variables are manipulated ) and another is the experimental group (in which a variable is manipulated). This type of research is undertaken under strict conditions in controlled, artificial environments – for example, within a laboratory. By having firm control over the environment, experimental research often allows the researcher to establish causation between variables. Therefore, it can be a good choice if you have research aims that involve identifying or measuring cause and effect.

Ethnographic research , on the other hand, involves observing and capturing the experiences and perceptions of participants in their natural environment (for example, at home or in the office). In other words, in an uncontrolled environment.  Naturally this means that this research strategy would be far less suitable if your research aims involve identifying causation, but it would be very valuable if you’re looking to explore and examine a group culture, for example.

As you can see, the right research strategy will depend largely on your research aims and research questions – in other words, what you’re trying to figure out. Therefore, as with every other design choice, it’s essential to justify why you chose the research strategy you did.

Justify every design/methodology choice

Design Choice #4 – Time Horizon

The next thing you need to cover in your methodology chapter is the time horizon. There are two options here – cross-sectional and longitudinal . In other words, whether the data for your study were all collected at one point in time (i.e. cross-sectional) or at multiple points in time (i.e. longitudinal).

The choice you make here depends again on your research aims, objectives and research questions. If, for example, you aim to assess how a specific group of people’s perspectives regarding a topic change over time , you’d likely adopt a longitudinal time horizon.

Another important factor is simply the practical constraints – in other words, whether you have the time necessary to adopt a longitudinal approach (which could involve collecting data over multiple years). Oftentimes, the time pressures of your degree program will force your hand into adopting a cross-sectional time horizon, so keep this in mind.

Design Choice #5 – Sampling Strategy

Next, you’ll need to discuss your chosen sampling strategy . There are two main categories of sampling, probability and non-probability sampling. Probability sampling involves a random (and therefore representative) selection of participants from a population, whereas non-probability sampling entails selecting participants in a non-randomized (and therefore non-representative) manner. For example, selecting participants based on ease of access (this is called a convenience sample).

The right sampling approach depends largely on what you’re trying to achieve in your study. Specifically, whether you trying to develop findings that are generalisable to a population or not. Practicalities and resource constraints also play a large role here, as it can oftentimes be challenging to gain access to a truly random sample.

Design Choice #6 – Data Collection Method

Next up, you need to explain how exactly you’ll go about collecting the necessary data for your study. Your data collection method (or methods) will depend on the type of data that you plan to collect – in other words, qualitative or quantitative data.

Typically, quantitative research relies on surveys , data generated by lab equipment, analytics software or existing datasets. Qualitative research, on the other hand, often makes use of collection methods such as interviews , focus groups , participant observations, and ethnography.

So, as you can see, there is a tight link between this section and the design choices you outlined in earlier sections. Strong alignment between these sections is therefore very important.

Design Choice #7 – Data Analysis Methods/Techniques

The final major design choice that you need to address is that of analysis techniques . In other words, once you’ve collected your data, how will you go about analysing it. Here it’s important to be specific about your analysis methods and/or techniques – don’t leave any room for interpretation. Also, as with all choices in this chapter, you need to justify each choice you make.

What exactly you discuss here will depend largely on the type of study you’re conducting (i.e., qualitative, quantitative, or mixed methods). For qualitative studies, common analysis methods include content analysis , thematic analysis and discourse analysis . For quantitative studies, you’ll almost always make use of descriptive statistics, and in many cases, you’ll also use inferential statistical techniques (e.g. correlation and regression analysis).

In this section, it’s also important to discuss how you prepared your data for analysis, and what software you used (if any). For example, quantitative data will often require some initial preparation such as removing duplicates or incomplete responses . As always, remember to state both what you did and why you did it.

Time to analyse

Section 3 – The Methodological Limitations

With the key research design choices outlined and justified, the next step is to discuss the limitations of your design. No research design or methodology is perfect – there will always be trade-offs between the “ideal” design and what’s practical and viable, given your constraints. Therefore, this section of your methodology chapter is where you’ll discuss the trade-offs you had to make, and why these were justified given the context.

Methodological limitations can vary greatly from study to study, ranging from common issues such as time and budget constraints to issues of sample or selection bias . For example, you may find that you didn’t manage to draw in enough respondents to achieve the desired sample size (and therefore, statistically significant results), or your sample may be skewed heavily towards a certain demographic, thereby negatively impacting representativeness .

In this section, it’s important to be critical of the shortcomings of your study. There’s no use trying to hide them (your marker will be aware of them regardless). By being critical, you’ll demonstrate to your marker that you have a strong understanding of research design, so don’t be shy here. At the same time, don’t beat your study to death . State the limitations, why these were justified, how you mitigated their impacts to the best degree possible, and how your study still provides value despite these limitations.

Section 4 – Concluding Summary

Finally, it’s time to wrap up the methodology chapter with a brief concluding summary. In this section, you’ll want to concisely summarise what you’ve presented in the chapter. Here, it can be useful to use a figure to summarise the key design decisions, especially if your university recommends using a specific model (for example, Saunders’ Research Onion ).

Importantly, this section needs to be brief – a paragraph or two maximum (it’s a summary, after all). Also, make sure that when you write up your concluding summary, you include only what you’ve already discussed in your chapter; don’t add any new information.

Keep it simple

Wrapping up

And there you have it – the methodology chapter in a nutshell. As we’ve mentioned, the exact contents and structure of this chapter can vary between universities , so be sure to check in with your institution before you start writing. If possible, try to find dissertations or theses from former students of your specific degree program – this will give you a strong indication of the expectations and norms when it comes to the methodology chapter (and all the other chapters!).

Also, remember the golden rule of the methodology chapter – justify every choice ! Make sure that you clearly explain the “why” for every “what”, and reference credible methodology textbooks or academic sources to back up your justifications.

If you need a helping hand with your research methodology (or any other section of your dissertation or thesis), be sure to check out our private coaching service , where we hold your hand through every step of the research journey. Until next time, good luck!

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example of qualitative methodology in research paper

Examples of Methodology in Research Papers (With Definition)

Updated September 30, 2022

Published July 25, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When researchers record their findings, they often include a methodology section that details the research techniques used and outcomes. When writing a thesis or dissertation, or documenting a project for your employer, including details about methodology assists readers in understanding your findings. Learning more about the concept and reviewing examples of methodology is important for providing insight into the validity and reliability of research.

In this article, we explain why it's important to review examples of methodology, explore what a methodology is, highlight what it includes, learn how it differs from research methods, and discover an example of methodology in a research paper.

Why review examples of methodology?

If you're writing a thesis, it may be useful to review some examples of methodology. By reviewing these examples, you can learn more about research approaches that give credibility to studies. You can also learn more about the language used and the details included, which can help you make your own methodology sections of reports more effective.

What is a methodology in a research paper?

In a research paper, thesis, or dissertation, the methodology section describes the steps you took to investigate and research a hypothesis and your rationale for the specific processes and techniques used to identify, collect, and analyze data. The methodology element of your research report enables readers to assess the study's overall validity and reliability and provides an important insight into two key components, namely your data gathering and analysis techniques and your reason for investigating. When composing this section for a research paper, it's important to keep the topic concise and write in the past tense.

What to include in a methodology section

When developing a methodology for research papers, it's worth considering the following elements:

Type of research

The first part of a methodology section typically outlines the type of research you did, and how you established your research procedures. This section highlights the subject of your study and addresses the type of data necessary to conduct evaluations and research assessments. The methodology section commonly contains the criteria that your experimental investigations followed to provide valid and trustworthy data. The material in this section provides readers with an insight into the methods you used to assess validity and reliability throughout your investigations.

Data collection process

The methodology section also contains a description of how you collected the data. Whether you ran experimental testing on samples, conducted surveys or interviews, or created new research using existing data, this section of your methodology describes what you did and how you did it. Key aspects to mention include how you developed your experiment or survey, how you collected and organized data, and what kind of data you measured. Additionally, you may outline how you set particular criteria for qualitative and quantitative data collection.

Data analysis process

Your approach to data analysis is equally important to the processes of data collection. The term data analysis refers to the procedures you employed to organize, classify, and examine the data gathered throughout your research operations. For instance, when presenting your quantitative approaches, you may add information regarding the data preparation and organization procedures you used and a short description of the statistical tests involved. When presenting your qualitative data analysis techniques, you may prefer to concentrate on how you classified, coded, and applied language, text, and other observations throughout your study.

Resources, materials, and tools

The tools, materials, and other resources necessary for conducting your research and analysis are also important factors to include when outlining your approach. In documenting your processes, it's important to outline your use of software programs, mathematical and statistical formulae, and other instruments that assisted you in your study. Additionally, this area of your approach may describe any unique strategies you used to gather data and identify significant factors. The methods you used to investigate your hypothesis and underlying research questions are also key components of your methodology.

The rationale behind the research

Because the methodology section of your research paper demonstrates to readers why your study is legitimate and important, the final part of this section can concentrate on your justification for the research. Details such as why your studies are important, which sectors they pertain to, and how other researchers might reproduce your findings are critical components of this section. It's important to discuss any strategies you intend to employ to continue reviewing your research and to properly reference the primary and secondary sources you utilized.

Differences between the methodology and research methods

While the methodology section of your research paper contains information about the research techniques you employed, there are many distinctions between the methodology and the actual research methods you used, including:

The overall objective of your approach is distinct from the procedures you used to carry out your study. While the methodology section of your research paper describes your processes in detail, the methods section refers to the specific steps you took to collect and analyze data throughout your research. The methodology acts as a summary that proves the validity and dependability of your procedures, while the methods are the scientific ways to test and reach conclusions about the data you investigate.

The structure of the methodology section differs from how you describe and explain your research and analytic approaches. The methodology section is often located at the beginning of your article and takes the form of a summary or essay in paragraphs, outlining the validity, procedure, and justification for your study. The structure in which you discuss your methods varies according to the type of study, data, and evaluations used. For example, when presenting the methods, you may use a graph or chart to illustrate your results.

The objectives and style of your methodology and research techniques ultimately impact on the material that you present. It's important that your methodology provides a succinct review of your research, methods, and findings. As a result, the methodology section of your paper can include the elements you employed to conduct your investigations. The content of your research paper that describes your methods of data collection and analysis techniques may vary, as it's often required to clarify your scientific approaches and research procedures using lists and visual aids, such as charts or graphs, to supplement the material.

Example of a methodology in a research paper

The following example of a methodology in a research paper provides insight into the structure and content to consider when writing your own:

This research article discusses the psychological and emotional impact of a mental health support program for employees. The program provided prolonged and tailored help to job seekers via a job support agency that kept contact with applicants beyond initial job placement to give different forms of assistance. I chose a 50% random selection of respondents who participated in the employment agency's support program between April and October and met the research criteria I created based on prior and comparable studies.

My colleagues and I randomly allocated the 350 resultant patients to the treatment or control groups, which included life skills development and career training in an in-house workshop setting. My colleagues and I assessed the 350 participants upon admission and again after they reached the 90-day employment requirement. The psychological functioning and self-esteem assessments we conducted revealed considerable evidence of the impact of treatment on both measures, including results that contradicted our original premise.

We discovered that, rather than demonstrating better functioning and higher self-esteem, participants in the therapy group exhibited poorer cognitive and emotional functioning and self-esteem. These findings prompted my study team and me to conclude that people who consider themselves unfulfilled in their jobs often endure a substantial decline in performance as a consequence of increased workplace stress and lower emotional well-being, irrespective of their mental health status.

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How to Write an APA Methods Section | With Examples

Published on February 5, 2021 by Pritha Bhandari . Revised on October 17, 2022.

The methods section of an APA style paper is where you report in detail how you performed your study. Research papers in the social and natural sciences often follow APA style. This article focuses on reporting quantitative research methods .

In your APA methods section, you should report enough information to understand and replicate your study, including detailed information on the sample , measures, and procedures used.

Table of contents

Structuring an apa methods section.


Example of an APA methods section

Frequently asked questions about writing an apa methods section.

The main heading of “Methods” should be centered, boldfaced, and capitalized. Subheadings within this section are left-aligned, boldfaced, and in title case. You can also add lower level headings within these subsections, as long as they follow APA heading styles .

To structure your methods section, you can use the subheadings of “Participants,” “Materials,” and “Procedures.” These headings are not mandatory—aim to organize your methods section using subheadings that make sense for your specific study.

Note that not all of these topics will necessarily be relevant for your study. For example, if you didn’t need to consider outlier removal or ways of assigning participants to different conditions, you don’t have to report these steps.

The APA also provides specific reporting guidelines for different types of research design. These tell you exactly what you need to report for longitudinal designs , replication studies, experimental designs , and so on. If your study uses a combination design, consult APA guidelines for mixed methods studies.

Detailed descriptions of procedures that don’t fit into your main text can be placed in supplemental materials (for example, the exact instructions and tasks given to participants, the full analytical strategy including software code, or additional figures and tables).

Begin the methods section by reporting sample characteristics, sampling procedures, and the sample size.

Participant or subject characteristics

When discussing people who participate in research, descriptive terms like “participants,” “subjects” and “respondents” can be used. For non-human animal research, “subjects” is more appropriate.

Specify all relevant demographic characteristics of your participants. This may include their age, sex, ethnic or racial group, gender identity, education level, and socioeconomic status. Depending on your study topic, other characteristics like educational or immigration status or language preference may also be relevant.

Be sure to report these characteristics as precisely as possible. This helps the reader understand how far your results may be generalized to other people.

The APA guidelines emphasize writing about participants using bias-free language , so it’s necessary to use inclusive and appropriate terms.

Sampling procedures

Outline how the participants were selected and all inclusion and exclusion criteria applied. Appropriately identify the sampling procedure used. For example, you should only label a sample as random  if you had access to every member of the relevant population.

Of all the people invited to participate in your study, note the percentage that actually did (if you have this data). Additionally, report whether participants were self-selected, either by themselves or by their institutions (e.g., schools may submit student data for research purposes).

Identify any compensation (e.g., course credits or money) that was provided to participants, and mention any institutional review board approvals and ethical standards followed.

Sample size and power

Detail the sample size (per condition) and statistical power that you hoped to achieve, as well as any analyses you performed to determine these numbers.

It’s important to show that your study had enough statistical power to find effects if there were any to be found.

Additionally, state whether your final sample differed from the intended sample. Your interpretations of the study outcomes should be based only on your final sample rather than your intended sample.

Prevent plagiarism. Run a free check.

Write up the tools and techniques that you used to measure relevant variables. Be as thorough as possible for a complete picture of your techniques.

Primary and secondary measures

Define the primary and secondary outcome measures that will help you answer your primary and secondary research questions.

Specify all instruments used in gathering these measurements and the construct that they measure. These instruments may include hardware, software, or tests, scales, and inventories.

Make sure to report the settings of (e.g., screen resolution) any specialized apparatus used.

For each instrument used, report measures of the following:

Giving an example item or two for tests, questionnaires , and interviews is also helpful.

Describe any covariates—these are any additional variables that may explain or predict the outcomes.

Quality of measurements

Review all methods you used to assure the quality of your measurements.

These may include:

For data that’s subjectively coded (for example, classifying open-ended responses), report interrater reliability scores. This tells the reader how similarly each response was rated by multiple raters.

Report all of the procedures applied for administering the study, processing the data, and for planned data analyses.

Data collection methods and research design

Data collection methods refers to the general mode of the instruments: surveys, interviews, observations, focus groups, neuroimaging, cognitive tests, and so on. Summarize exactly how you collected the necessary data.

Describe all procedures you applied in administering surveys, tests, physical recordings, or imaging devices, with enough detail so that someone else can replicate your techniques. If your procedures are very complicated and require long descriptions (e.g., in neuroimaging studies), place these details in supplementary materials.

To report research design, note your overall framework for data collection and analysis. State whether you used an experimental, quasi-experimental, descriptive (observational), correlational, and/or longitudinal design. Also note whether a between-subjects or a within-subjects design was used.

For multi-group studies, report the following design and procedural details as well:

Describe whether any masking was used to hide the condition assignment (e.g., placebo or medication condition) from participants or research administrators. Using masking in a multi-group study ensures internal validity by reducing research bias . Explain how this masking was applied and whether its effectiveness was assessed.

Participants were randomly assigned to a control or experimental condition. The survey was administered using Qualtrics ( To begin, all participants were given the AAI and a demographics questionnaire to complete, followed by an unrelated filler task. In the control condition , participants completed a short general knowledge test immediately after the filler task. In the experimental condition, participants were asked to visualize themselves taking the test for 3 minutes before they actually did. For more details on the exact instructions and tasks given, see supplementary materials.

Data diagnostics

Outline all steps taken to scrutinize or process the data after collection.

This includes the following:

To ensure high validity, you should provide enough detail for your reader to understand how and why you processed or transformed your raw data in these specific ways.

Analytic strategies

The methods section is also where you describe your statistical analysis procedures, but not their outcomes. Their outcomes are reported in the results section.

These procedures should be stated for all primary, secondary, and exploratory hypotheses. While primary and secondary hypotheses are based on a theoretical framework or past studies, exploratory hypotheses are guided by the data you’ve just collected.

This annotated example reports methods for a descriptive correlational survey on the relationship between religiosity and trust in science in the US. Hover over each part for explanation of what is included.

The sample included 879 adults aged between 18 and 28. More than half of the participants were women (56%), and all participants had completed at least 12 years of education. Ethics approval was obtained from the university board before recruitment began. Participants were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk; We selected for a geographically diverse sample within the Midwest of the US through an initial screening survey. Participants were paid USD $5 upon completion of the study.

A sample size of at least 783 was deemed necessary for detecting a correlation coefficient of ±.1, with a power level of 80% and a significance level of .05, using a sample size calculator (

The primary outcome measures were the levels of religiosity and trust in science. Religiosity refers to involvement and belief in religious traditions, while trust in science represents confidence in scientists and scientific research outcomes. The secondary outcome measures were gender and parental education levels of participants and whether these characteristics predicted religiosity levels.


Religiosity was measured using the Centrality of Religiosity scale (Huber, 2003). The Likert scale is made up of 15 questions with five subscales of ideology, experience, intellect, public practice, and private practice. An example item is “How often do you experience situations in which you have the feeling that God or something divine intervenes in your life?” Participants were asked to indicate frequency of occurrence by selecting a response ranging from 1 (very often) to 5 (never). The internal consistency of the instrument is .83 (Huber & Huber, 2012).

Trust in Science

Trust in science was assessed using the General Trust in Science index (McCright, Dentzman, Charters & Dietz, 2013). Four Likert scale items were assessed on a scale from 1 (completely distrust) to 5 (completely trust). An example question asks “How much do you distrust or trust scientists to create knowledge that is unbiased and accurate?” Internal consistency was .8.

Potential participants were invited to participate in the survey online using Qualtrics ( The survey consisted of multiple choice questions regarding demographic characteristics, the Centrality of Religiosity scale, an unrelated filler anagram task, and finally the General Trust in Science index. The filler task was included to avoid priming or demand characteristics, and an attention check was embedded within the religiosity scale. For full instructions and details of tasks, see supplementary materials.

For this correlational study , we assessed our primary hypothesis of a relationship between religiosity and trust in science using Pearson moment correlation coefficient. The statistical significance of the correlation coefficient was assessed using a t test. To test our secondary hypothesis of parental education levels and gender as predictors of religiosity, multiple linear regression analysis was used.

In your APA methods section , you should report detailed information on the participants, materials, and procedures used.

You should report methods using the past tense , even if you haven’t completed your study at the time of writing. That’s because the methods section is intended to describe completed actions or research.

In a scientific paper, the methodology always comes after the introduction and before the results , discussion and conclusion . The same basic structure also applies to a thesis, dissertation , or research proposal .

Depending on the length and type of document, you might also include a literature review or theoretical framework before the methodology.

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Objectives The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-2019) pandemic has had far-reaching consequences for people’s lives. In the UK, more than 23 million have been infected and nearly 185 000 have lost their lives. Previous research has looked at differential outcomes of COVID-19, based on socio-demographic factors such as age, sex, ethnicity and deprivation. We conducted a qualitative study with a diverse sample of adults living in the UK, to understand their lived experiences and quality of life (QoL) during the pandemic.

Methods Participants were recruited with the help of civil society partners and community organisations. Semi-structured interviews were conducted between May and July 2021. Interviews were recorded with permission and transcribed. Transcripts were analysed following an inductive analytical approach as outlined in the Framework Method.

Results 18 participants (≥16 years) representing different ethnicities, sexes, migration and employment statuses and educational qualifications took part. Five key themes and 14 subthemes were identified and presented using the QoL framework. The five key themes describe how COVID-19 affected the following aspects of QoL: (1) financial and economic, (2) physical health, (3) social, (4) mental health and (5) personal fulfilment and affective well-being. The narratives illustrated inequities in the impact of COVID-19 for individuals with intersecting social, economic, and health disparities.

Conclusion Our findings demonstrate the multidimensional and differential impact of the pandemic on different population groups, with most of the negative economic impacts being borne by people in low-paid and insecure jobs. Similarly, adverse social, physical and mental health impacts particularly affected people already experiencing displacement, violence, physical and mental illnesses or even those living alone. These findings indicate that COVID-19 impacts have been influenced by intersecting health and socioeconomic inequalities, which pre-existed. These inequities should be taken into consideration while designing pandemic recovery and rebuilding packages.

Data availability statement

The data for this study consists of interview transcripts of participants that contain potentially identifying and sensitive information. The data cannot be shared publicly due to concerns of participant confidentiality and ethics requirements. Participants consented to the study with the understanding that only de-identified quotations would be made public, not the entirety of the transcripts. Therefore, only illustrative quotes from the transcripts have been included in this paper. Data for this study could be made available on reasonable request to the corresponding author.

This is an open access article distributed in accordance with the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial (CC BY-NC 4.0) license, which permits others to distribute, remix, adapt, build upon this work non-commercially, and license their derivative works on different terms, provided the original work is properly cited, appropriate credit is given, any changes made indicated, and the use is non-commercial. See: .

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Strengths and limitations of this study

One of the few qualitative studies conducted in the UK that has adopted a comprehensive approach to understand the general population’s quality of life and lived experiences during the pandemic.

Our study includes participants from various ‘underserved’ groups such as ethnic and cultural minorities, migrants (including asylum seekers and refugees) and factory workers, who are under-represented in the other evidence in this area.

The qualitative design of the study enabled greater exploration of individual experiences, which augmented the richness and breadth of the data.

As a qualitative study the findings may not be generalisable.

Our study was a single time-point study hence longitudinal impacts, especially in light of the recent cost of living crisis, need further exploration.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has had devastating and overarching impacts on peoples’ lives all over the world. In the UK, more than 23 million people have been infected, and nearly 185 000 have lost their lives so far in the pandemic. 1 Apart from the direct health costs, measures such as lockdowns and restrictions have had a considerable impact on the economy and society at large. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) had fallen by 25% in April 2020, as compared with February 2020, and was at 0.5% below the pre-pandemic level in October 2021. 2 3 Although GDP growth has picked up since then, the impact of the pandemic on inflation and price rise is increasingly evident now. 4 5 Related to these financial downturns, employment rates in the UK have also seen a dip since pre-pandemic levels, and ethnic minority workers, young workers and those in low-paid jobs have been most affected. 6 The closure of schools and educational institutions has also negatively affected children’s learning and attainment, mental health, nutrition and general well-being. 7 8 While some of these losses may eventually recover, many of the impacts could be irreversible and lead to permanent damage to health and quality of life (QoL) more widely.

Although the pandemic has affected almost everyone, experiences and outcomes have varied depending on individual and social contexts. 9–11 For example, in the UK, death rates from COVID-19 at the start of the pandemic was highest for people from black African, Bangladeshi, black Caribbean and Pakistani ethnicities. 12 Similarly, data from the Office for National Statistics, UK showed that people who lived in the most deprived areas of England and Wales were two times more likely to die after contracting COVID-19. 13 While previous research has looked at differential outcomes of COVID-19, based on socio-demographic factors, qualitative studies examining differences in the impact of the pandemic on holistic QoL are needed to explicate the socioeconomic gradients of health. 14

QoL is a multidimensional concept and is defined by the WHO as, ‘individuals’ perceptions of their position in life in the context of the culture and value systems in which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards and concerns’. 15 In the context of COVID-19, factors such as loss of social contact, economic constraints, concerns about well-being and existing physical and/or mental health conditions are all likely to have a bearing on a person’s QoL. 16 17 Most studies examining QoL during the pandemic have been either conducted among COVID-19 patients or focused on health-related QoL of people with pre-existing physical or mental health conditions. 18–20 We conducted a qualitative study with adults from diverse backgrounds living in the UK, to understand their lived experiences and holistic QoL during the pandemic. In this study, we highlight the range of socioeconomic and health impacts that individuals, families and communities have endured during the pandemic, which in turn can be useful in understanding the socioeconomic gradient of health in general and also informing recovery and rebuilding efforts in post-pandemic times.

Research design

We designed our research as a rapid qualitative inquiry to understand people’s experiences of living through the COVID-19 pandemic and the changes that have come about in their lives on account of it. This is to understand how an individual’s ‘real-life’ context influenced his/her experiences of the pandemic. 21 We wanted to explore how the social, cultural, political and historical contexts that people occupy have determined how different individuals have experienced the pandemic and what impacts it has had on people’s QoL. 9

Study setting, participants and recruitment

The study was conducted with 18 participants living in the UK, and predominantly in Leicester, which is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in England and also ranks very high in the deprivation index. 22 Leicester was also one of the worst COVID-19 affected areas in the country with high case and mortality rates and had to endure longer lockdown and restriction measures on account of this. 23

Participants were adults (>16 years) from different ethnicities, migration statuses, educational qualifications and employment statuses. This enabled us to acquire data saturation by means of having a ‘thick’ data set that is, ‘many layered, intricate, detailed (and), nuanced’. 24 The sample size was not pre-fixed but was determined by how many participants were recruited during the recruitment and data collection period, which was roughly 4 months. Participant recruitment was supported by civil society partners and community organisations that had worked with the research team on previous projects. These included charities working with homeless people and migrants, educational institutions, ethnic and religious groups and employing organisations such as factories. Participants with basic English speaking skills (as interviews were to be in English due to time and resource limitations) were identified and approached by these organisations from among their service users, client groups or staff and the participant information sheet was shared with them prior to participation. These organisations shared the contact details of prospective participants (who expressed interest) with the research team who then made contact to formally recruit them into the study.

Data collection

Data for this study were collected, both remotely and in-person, by two female researchers, MG and FW, who are both experienced in conducting qualitative research with culturally and ethnically diverse communities. Interviews were conducted between May and July 2021, and hence, at the time of data collection participants had endured three national lockdowns, and those from Leicester had experienced additional regional lockdowns between the second and third national lockdowns. Interested participants gave consent online or on paper, and filled in a short demographic questionnaire, which included information on age, sex, ethnicity, qualification, employment status, job role (if employed), home postcode and country of birth. Participants were invited to take part in a one-to-one interview, which was conducted in English and was either through Microsoft Teams, or over the telephone or in-person. Participants were offered the choice of mode that they would prefer to be interviewed and while the majority of interviews were conducted online, some participants also opted to be interviewed telephonically or face-to-face. Although we did not perceive any major differences in the data collected through the three different modes, in retrospect, the telephonic ones probably took longer to establish the initial rapport as non-verbal cues such as smiles and nods could not be exchanged with participants. Despite this limitation, in all the modes, both the interviewers used vocables such as ‘uh-huh’ or where required probed and offered gentle encouragement to demonstrate their involvement and interest which helped with the flow of the discussions.

The topic guide was designed to explore individuals’ experiences of the pandemic with opportunities to probe in-depth about their economic, social and cultural contexts (see online supplemental file 1 ). The topic guide was developed from prompts in the literature, and also informed by the research team’s ongoing as well as past engagements with some of these communities. Interviews lasted for 45–60 mins, and participants were given shopping vouchers as a token of appreciation. Interviews were recorded with prior permission and recordings were transcribed by professional transcribers, and transcripts were checked for accuracy by the research team.

Supplemental material

Data analysis.

The study adopted an inductive approach following the Framework Method enumerated by Gale et al . 25 Data analysis began with the transcription of the interviews, followed by reading of a set of transcripts each by three researchers, MG, IQ and JC, to further familiarise themselves with the interviews and immerse themselves in the data. In the next stage, the researchers conducted manual line-by-line coding of three transcripts each. This preliminary coding was discussed to arrive at a ‘working analytical framework’ which was then applied to all the remaining transcripts 25 with modifications made to the framework until saturation was reached and no new codes emerged from the data. Thereafter, using a Microsoft Excel sheet, data was charted into various categories corresponding with the codes. Finally, the wider team (MG, IQ, JC, AA-O LN and MP) had joint discussions to interpret the charted data, and rearrange categories, collapse codes and identify connections among codes to arrive at the various themes and subthemes of the QoL framework. The QoL categories used in the analysis have evolved from the data and not been determined a priori.

The research team also individually and collectively reflected on their own influences regularly during the study period. Study team members were mindful of their own values, lived experiences and perspectives which could have influenced and added bias to the study results and findings. Importantly, the researchers from this study also recognised their own positionality in that they too, just like their participants, had also lived experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. This helped them comprehend the participants’ experiences better but at the same time they needed to be alert not to influence participants’ responses by asking leading questions or projecting their own experiences. The interview team were also mindful of the different social and cultural backgrounds of the participants and at times the interviewer’s own ethnic minority background or being a woman or being from a migrant background brought greater acceptance from some participants. Furthermore, reflexive group meetings enabled the team to also identify new areas (eg, difficult relationships) to be probed in upcoming interviews and data interpretation.

Patient and public involvement

Patients or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

Demographic data

We recruited 18 participants from diverse social and economic backgrounds, such as asylum seekers, factory workers, full-time family carers and frontline workers, to form our sample. Participants’ demographic characteristics are provided in table 1 .

Participants’ demographic details

Five key themes and 14 subthemes were identified from the data describing how COVID-19 affected the following aspects of QoL: (1) financial and economic, (2) physical health, (3) social, (4) mental health and (5) personal fulfilment and affective well-being. Online supplemental table 1 provides an overview of these themes and subthemes as QoL categories and subcategories with illustrative quotes. These categories and subcategories are also detailed in the following paragraphs.

QoL category 1: financial and economic

Change in household income, unemployment and job precarity.

Almost one-third of our participants reported a reduction in their household income due to the pandemic. Participants who were furloughed (The furlough scheme was launched in the UK in March 2020 to support employers wherein they received funds from the government to cover the majority of wages for employees not working due to COVID-19 restrictions and employees were getting at least 80% of their gross pay.), had lost work, moved to a lower paying job or saw a change in their family circumstances such as divorce or separation said that the pandemic had resulted in a reduction to their household income. The majority of these were women with lower educational qualifications and limited skills and mainly working in low-paid jobs and/or on insecure contracts. Some of the jobs held prior to the COVID-19 pandemic ceased to exist afterwards due to redundancy and staff restructuring.

Despite changes in household income, living expenses such as rent and mortgages remained unchanged. Some participants who had lost their jobs or were furloughed also discussed the uncertainty around their employment and how they found it difficult to find new jobs. The loss of income from self-isolation (due to shielding or infection) concerned some of our working participants. Some of our participants also experienced housing difficulties either due to crowding or changes in their housing circumstances.

The pandemic also resulted in increased financial benefits for some participants due to new working opportunities and longer shifts. Others also experienced reduced expenses from not eating out or savings on travel costs due to working from home. Sometimes, though, these extra work-shifts were not voluntarily opted for by participants and were rather the result of having to keep services running.

Increased cost of living

The cost of living also reportedly increased for some participants during the pandemic. Changes in working circumstances due to working from home and additional costs such as increased food prices were burdening factors on household finances. Some participants also reported an increase in the cost of energy bills from staying home. For most participants, having to work from home or having to home-school children also meant that they had to pay for internet services and/or buy additional equipment or electronic devices.

Lack of social security

Several of our participants were already in economically and socially vulnerable positions before the pandemic. For instance, two of our participants were asylum seekers, one was a recent migrant who worked as a part-time server, one was a full-time carer, one was a taxi driver and one experienced domestic violence. For most of these participants, the pandemic had not only aggravated their financial hardships by way of job-loss or salary cuts, but many also said that public funds such as Universal Credit or childcare benefits were either not available to them or were unsustainable. Furthermore, the closure of communal kitchens and charities during the pandemic severely impacted some of our participants who relied on charitable support.

QoL category 2: physical health

Risk and safety.

Risk to personal physical health was perceived to be low by most of our participants, and many stressed on the hygiene and behavioural changes that they had adopted to protect themselves. However, for participants who themselves or their family members had any comorbid conditions such as diabetes, the risk was perceived to be greater. Moreover, those in frontline jobs such as health or social care acknowledged the exposure risks at work and worried that they might bring the infection home or pass it on at work. These participants, though, felt that they had the appropriate levels of personal protective equipment (PPE) at their workplaces and spoke positively of their employers’ decisions to enforce strict PPE guidance for the benefit of all.

Access to healthcare services

Several participants shared that accessing healthcare services or advice was difficult during the pandemic. They were either unable to make bookings for consultations with their general practitioner (GP) or were required to wait several weeks for an appointment. A few participants also mentioned that they faced inconvenience due to unclear direction and information from healthcare providers, which resulted in them shuttling between GP surgeries and/or pharmacies. Unable to get appointments, some participants also expressed concern that their symptoms and conditions had since worsened. Participants with mental health needs also found that booking appointments and consultations with mental health services were fraught with similar access issues as GP surgeries. One of the participants who had witnessed an acquaintance commit suicide attributed it to the lack of timely help and support from mental health services, and feared that there are others who may take this extreme step if help is further delayed.

COVID-19 vaccination

Among our participants, almost half had at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. While about one-third of participants had not been eligible at the time of interview, some others had declined to get the vaccine. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, that is, delay, refusal or even scepticism about the vaccine, was found to be higher among female and ethnic minority participants. One of the most cited reasons for this hesitancy was doubt surrounding the vaccine’s safety, especially given its rapid development. Reports of blood clots from the AstraZeneca vaccine also concerned some. Some participants also shared how they had encountered rumours and misinformation about the vaccine, which had made them question the safety and efficacy of the vaccine.

QoL category 3: social

Loss of community and relationships.

A profound social impact of the pandemic that participants experienced was the loss of community interaction due to restrictions on gathering, visiting and stay-at-home orders. Participants who were living by themselves found this social isolation most challenging, with some likening it to being in prison. Lockdown changes also seemed to have taken a toll on interpersonal relations of some participants and one participant reported going through a divorce and another reported a break-up with her boyfriend during the pandemic.

Challenges to family functioning

Participants living with families described how changes like closure of schools and working-from-home affected them negatively and added to their stress. Several of our female participants spoke about the problems they encountered in home-schooling their children, and how it led to greater frustrations for them and the children alike. Moreover, some participants also shared that restrictions on meeting and visiting people outside the household meant that care responsibilities could not be shared with extended family or friends like before. Some participants also shared how their household routines changed to accommodate every member’s working-from-home or home-schooling needs.

Experiences of stigma and discrimination

Some of our participants stated that the COVID-19 pandemic had increased stigma and discrimination against individuals from ethnic minority backgrounds. Participants spoke of their experiences of being targeted, stigmatised and discriminated against in public, based on their religious, cultural or ethnic background during or even before the pandemic. For one participant, past experiences of being judged or discriminated against made her opt out of seeking support, even for essential healthcare needs.

QoL category 4: mental health

As mentioned earlier, the limitations on socialising were challenging for most of our participants, and had a significant negative impact on their overall well-being and mental health. Many of our study participants described that their experiences of isolating, shielding or working-from-home made them feel lonely, depressed, frustrated and anxious. Some participants described how being stuck at home during the lockdown days made them feel demotivated and lose sense of time and routine. Some participants also believed that lockdown loneliness was amplified for people with limited digital skills, such as the elderly and those with existing mental health conditions.

Fears and worries

Most participants reported being fearful of the pandemic, and worried about their health and financial circumstances. Fear around the well-being of loved-ones bothered many participants, and for those who had family abroad, the travel restrictions added to their worries. Participants with children also worried about their children’s education and well-being. Some of our participants believed that the media coverage of the pandemic had added further anxiety. Participants who worked in health and social care settings also described how they had personally witnessed or known of people dying from COVID-19, which made them fearful of infection and also inadvertently spreading infection to others.

Pre-existing mental health conditions

Participants who or whose family members had pre-pandemic diagnoses of mental health conditions reported worsening of these conditions during the pandemic. The restrictions on face-to-face consultations left them unable to access counselling or other forms of psychotherapy regularly. Some of these participants also remarked that remote consultations, which were initiated after a while, were not very helpful. Support groups were also temporarily disbanded, which disadvantaged some participants. One participant also said that in lieu of face-to-face consultations and therapies, he was instead prescribed pharmaceutical drugs to treat his anxieties and depression, which he believed was not in his best interest.

QoL category 5: personal fulfilment and affective well-being

Opportunities for personal and professional development.

While the pandemic may have largely negatively impacted the lives of our participants, COVID-19 also provided new opportunities to some of our participants to reflect on their personal circumstances and pursue new personal development targets and ambitions. Other participants had also used the COVID-19 pandemic, and social isolation as a chance to improve social relations. Some of our participants also used the opportunity of working from home or on furlough to undertake career development activities or pursue career changes.

Affective well-being

Several of our participants mentioned that their religious beliefs had helped them cope with their anxieties, stress and fears. For some participants, volunteering also gave them a sense of purpose and helped them live through the pandemic. Many also reported that people had generally become more empathetic, kind and willing to support each other. Some participants also counted it as a blessing to have their family around and be able to spend time with them. However, some participants also reported negative affectivity, and shared about feeling sad at the prolonging of the pandemic or agonising about the future.

In this study we describe the lived experiences and QoL of adults living in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our findings expose the differential impact of the pandemic on people’s lives depending on their circumstances. Interviews revealed that economic impacts of the pandemic were not uniform for all participants, and while a few benefitted from increased income and greater work opportunities, others who were in low-paid jobs, and/or on part-time or temporary contracts faced job losses, or reduction in income. This finding is in line with previous research, which has reported how certain groups have borne the burden of economic constraints brought in by the pandemic. 26 27 Individuals from ethnic minority communities, migrants and single parents face multiple intersecting disadvantages, exacerbating their economic and financial difficulties during the pandemic. 27 28 Furthermore, food insecurity due to the closure of food banks and communal kitchens, increased expenses for food and heating, and difficulties in accessing social security experienced by some of our participants were also elucidated by other researchers. 29 30 It is very likely that these conditions may have worsened in recent times owing to the burgeoning cost of living crisis that the country is witnessing. However, the generations of entrenched intersecting inequalities based on ethnicity, gender, education, age and more that had led to the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on certain groups would continue to be exacerbated by these recent economic downturns. This indicates that recovery and rebuilding efforts after the pandemic have to be multisectoral (including health, education, housing, financial security, etc), coordinated and targeted at those most in need.

Our finding shows that participants felt most at risk if they or their family members had comorbid conditions like diabetes or hypertension. These findings gain significance in light of the fact that most of these comorbidities are proven risk factors for COVID-19, and the elevated prevalence of these conditions in some ethnic minority groups mean that they are at an increased risk of COVID-19 and adverse outcomes. 31 Along with this, it was also observed that for some of our ethnic minority participants, the awareness that they (or their family members) may be at increased risk because of their ethnicity or health condition increased their apprehensions and anxieties. Additionally, a large proportion of our ethnic minority participants worked in frontline roles, had large or multigenerational households and often occupied smaller dwelling units, which increase the chances of transmission and infection. 32

Along with disparities in health, our findings also indicate unmet health needs due to unavailability or cancellation of appointments. While the pandemic put additional pressure on the UK National Health Service and created massive backlogs and long delays for patients, 33 certain communities such as migrants and those living in deprived areas were known to be disproportionately affected by delays or gaps in access to healthcare services even before the pandemic. 34 Our findings corroborate the health inequalities experienced by minoritised and marginalised communities, and highlight the risk that they may present to healthcare with more severe illness due to these delays. To address these inequalities greater investments should also be made in preventive healthcare of communities at risk of developing diseases. Support and awareness campaigns on healthy diet, healthy lifestyle, early screening, etc, should be provided to vulnerable and isolated populations through local charities and organisations which are trusted by these communities.

Among our participants, vaccine hesitancy was observed in some ethnic minority and female participants. Research has shown that vaccine hesitancy is highest in the most deprived areas of the UK, and among ethnic minority communities, which is a cause of concern as these are groups which are most at risk from COVID-19 and experience health inequalities which pre-date the pandemic. 10 Low trust in the safety and efficacy of the vaccine has been found to have driven hesitancy among our participants, which is corroborated by evidence from previous studies. 35 Hence, targeted public health messaging dispelling fears and myths and engagement with communities through trusted organisations and leaders is needed to improve vaccination uptake as new waves and peaks of the pandemic continue to emerge.

Our data reveal that fear and worries were reported by almost all the participants, although the sources of these fears varied, with the most common being the well-being of loved ones. This finding corroborates with other studies examining ‘fear’ among people during the pandemic. 36 37 There are other domains of fear and worry as well that participants have experienced, such as fear of being ill themselves, worrying about finances and facing uncertainty. 36 While for most, these fears can be overcome or regulated, there is a chance that for some, these fears may have an impact on mental health and daily functioning. This is especially true for people with pre-existing mental health conditions, or those experiencing greater stressors or barriers to care, for example, asylum seekers and those experiencing domestic violence. 38 The inadequacy and gaps in mental health services and care during the pandemic, as reported by our participants, could worsen mental health. Hence, if mental health needs and improving services are not prioritised, the likelihood of a mental health epidemic is very real.

Social isolation due to physical distancing measures has been found to have a considerable impact on the quality of life of our participants. Such stressful situations combined with personal vulnerabilities and social conditions may have negatively impacted on interpersonal relationships as indicated by some of our participants. 39 Similarly, additional burden put on families by closure of schools, home-schooling and working from home have been shown to increase anxiety among parents and children, and disrupt family functioning. 40 Research has also shown that the burden of unpaid care work has been borne disproportionately by women during the pandemic, impacting their health and well-being. 41 Most of our female participants with school-aged children shared similar anxieties about managing home-schooling and household chores. Apart from this, the racial and religious discrimination faced by ethnic minority communities, both before and during the pandemic put additional strain on participants from these communities to protect themselves not just from the virus but also from the wider experiences of marginalisation and violence which were seen during the pandemic. 42

Personal and occupational fulfilment are important benchmarks in QoL 43 and are dependent on an individual’s spiritual fulfilment and social support. The strong association between better social support and affective well-being during crises indicates that individuals whose support systems are compromised are at higher risk of experiencing negative feelings. 44 It was also observed in our study that participants who had limited social support (eg, more isolated participants, including those who were experiencing domestic violence or asylum seekers) had difficulties in overcoming the adverse impacts of the pandemic, which overwhelmed them emotionally. This underscores that there are intersecting factors influencing the impact of pandemic on different individuals and groups and thus, coordinated and long-term efforts are required if we wish to build back society better and fairer.


Our study has certain limitations, including our sampling frame. Our focus was on recruiting participants from a range of socioeconomic backgrounds, and particularly from certain ‘underserved’ groups such ethnic minorities and migrants. However, we did not identify participants from certain other ‘underserved’ groups including gender minorities or people with disability. Despite this limitation, we recruited a sample which is diverse in terms of ethnicity, educational and migration status, and social and economic conditions such as survivors of domestic violence, factory workers and asylum seekers. Our ethnically and socioeconomically diverse sample meant that our data provide insight into a range of pandemic experiences, and highlight the unique issues and concerns that each of these individuals and families had encountered. However, this also means that findings may not be generalisable, and larger quantitative studies are needed to validate the findings at a population-level. Moreover, the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19 policies and vaccination may mean that some views expressed on this topic by the participants at the time of the interview may have changed. However, we believe other areas of life such as economic instability and increasing cost of living continue to be relevant and need further studies to ascertain the full impact.

Our findings demonstrate the multidimensional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on people’s lives. This study brings to light the differential impact of the pandemic depending on people’s intersecting socioeconomic circumstances. The data reveal that most of the negative economic impacts have been borne by people in low-paid and insecure jobs. Similarly, adverse social and mental health impacts particularly affected people experiencing displacement, violence, pre-existing mental illnesses or isolation. Thus, these findings indicate that COVID-19 responses should take into account existing health, social and economic inequalities while designing recovery and rebuilding packages.

Ethics statements

Patient consent for publication.

Consent obtained directly from patient(s).

Ethics approval

Ethical approval for the study was granted by the Medicine and Biological Sciences Research Ethics Committee, University of Leicester, UK (Reference number 30058-cjg29-ls:healthsciences). All participants provided written formal consent to participate.


The authors would like to thank the participants for their time and inputs. We would also like to thank the organisations who supported us with participant recruitment. MP acknowledges support from a National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Development and Skills Enhancement Award and also from the NIHR Leicester BRC and NIHR ARC East Midlands. LN acknowledges support from the Academy of Medical Sciences (SBF005/1047) outside of the submitted work. MG, JC, IQ, FW and AA-O’s research time was also supported by the UK-REACH project funded by the MRC-UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the Department of Health and Social Care through the NIHR (Grant Number: MR/V027549/1) outside of the submitted work. We would also like to thank the following organisations and individuals for their support in recruiting for this study: Leicester College, Leicester City of Sanctuary, Samworth Brothers Limited, Dr. Margaret Byron, Dr. Idil Osman, Mr. Riaz Khan, City Retreat Leicester, and Women 4 Change. Finally, we thank all our participants for taking part in our study.

Supplementary materials

Supplementary data.

This web only file has been produced by the BMJ Publishing Group from an electronic file supplied by the author(s) and has not been edited for content.

LN and MP are joint senior authors.

Twitter @jonchaloner

Contributors MP: Conceptualisation; Funding Acquisition; Methodology Development; Writing-Review & Editing. LBN: Conceptualisation; Funding Acquisition; Methodology Development; Formal Analysis; Writing-Review & Editing. MG: Data Curation; Formal Analysis; Writing- Original draft and preparation; Writing-Review & Editing. JC: Formal Analysis; Writing- Original draft and preparation; Writing-Review & Editing. IQ: Formal Analysis; Writing- Original draft and preparation; Writing-Review & Editing. FW: Data Curation; Writing-Review & Editing. AAO: Formal Analysis; Writing-Review & Editing. HW: Writing-Review & Editing. MS: Conceptualisation; Methodology Development; Writing-Review & Editing. MP is responsible for the overall content as the guarantor.

Funding This study was sponsored by the Health Foundation, UK (Grant Number: 2583173).

Competing interests MP reports grants from Sanofi, grants and personal fees from Gilead Sciences and personal fees from QIAGEN, outside the submitted work. All other authors declare no conflict of interest.

Patient and public involvement Patients and/or the public were not involved in the design, or conduct, or reporting, or dissemination plans of this research.

Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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The article selected for this review uses qualitative methodology in order to understand how a young athlete’s choice of music can influence his/her mood. In order to explore this connection, the author uses a qualitative methodology known as “grounded theory.”  Grounded theory is a methodology that collects data, usually in the form of interviews and conversation, and analyzes common themes found throughout different data streams (Bishop, Karagorghis, Loizou, 2007).

In order to explore the question, researchers selected 14 tennis players, 7 of which ultimately enrolled in the study.  After the subjects were given a baseline survey, they were then given a weekly interview in addition to keeping a diary over a couple of months time.  After the interviews were conducted and the diaries gathered, the researchers began to code the “data” based on a number of different categories.  The data was separated into three categories: 1) Raw data themes (n=42); 2) First order themes (n=18); 3) general dimensions (n=5).  The researchers then created a data scale for the music in order to understand what themes were most prevalent in the music, and what impact they had on an individual’s mood.   The researchers found a connection between certain types of music (R&B) and the mood of the participants.  The article also published snippets of the personal interviews and diaries in order to support claims of  causality in music choice and mood.

Overall, the article did a sufficient job explaining the theory underpinning the research question and the methodology employed to answer the question.  The researchers make it clear that the study is trying to understand how a young athlete’s choice of music may potentially impact his/her mood.  They also explain how grounded theory is particularly relevant in this problem: Grounded theory uses a diverse set of data sources, in this study interview and data, to try and understand underpinning individual choices.

One of the perennial problems with qualitative methodology is sample size.  While quantitative methodology is heavily dependent on methodology due to the use of statistical analysis, qualitative analyses usually have a smaller sample size: this is due to time and funding constraints more than anything else.  This study interviews a total of 7 young athletes, mapping a choice in certain music to a change in mood.  There is not clear evidence that this sample size is adequate, or that the study’s findings can be generalized to other young athlete’s choice of music.

Causality is another main problem involved in the study.  It is difficult for the authors to conclude that music alone is the cause of the rise in the mood.  For example, perhaps the athlete was thinking about a date later on in the evening or a sports team at the team he reflected on his thoughts of music.  The disentangling of causality is a major problem in qualitative studies, and one this article did not do a good job of ultimately addressing.

Finally, the article did a good job of addressing the assumptions of the researchers in the article.


Bishop, D.T., Karageorghis, C.I., Loizou, G. (2007).  A grounded theory of young tennis players’ use of music to manipulate emotional state.  Human Kinetics , 29(1), 584-607.

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example of qualitative methodology in research paper

Methodology in a Research Paper: Definition and Example

Updated December 12, 2022

Published May 11, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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When researchers document their studies, they typically include a methodology to describe the processes and outcomes of their research. If you're covering a thesis topic, submitting a dissertation or documenting a project for your employer, including a methodology helps summarize your studies for readers who review your work. The methodology is also important to provide insight into the validity and reliability of your research.

In this article, we explore what a methodology is, what to include in this part of your paper and how it differs from your research methods with an example of methodology in a research paper.

What is a methodology in a research paper?

The methodology in a research paper, thesis paper or dissertation is the section in which you describe the actions you took to investigate and research a problem and your rationale for the specific processes and techniques you use within your research to identify, collect and analyze information that helps you understand the problem.

The methodology section of your research paper allows readers to evaluate the overall validity and reliability of your study and gives important insight into two key elements of your research: your data collection and analysis processes and your rationale for conducting your research. When writing a methodology for a research paper, it's important to keep the discussion clear and succinct and write in the past tense.

Quantitative and qualitative methodologies

There are two main approaches to methodology; quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research methodology relies on concrete facts and data-driven research, and qualitative research methodology relies on non-data-driven research, such as surveys and polls, to identify patterns and trends.

What to include in a methodology

Students, graduates and other researchers often include several key sections within the methodology section. Consider the following elements when developing a methodology in research papers:

Type of research

The first part of a methodology section usually describes the type of research you perform and how you develop your research methods. This section also discusses the question or problem you investigate through your research and the type of data you need to perform evaluations and research assessments. Additionally, the methodology often includes the criteria your experimental studies need to meet to produce valid and reliable evidence. The information you cover in this part of your methodology allows readers to gain insight into how you measure validity and reliability during your studies.

Data collection process

The methodology also includes an explanation of your data collection process. For instance, if you perform experimental tests on samples, conduct surveys or interviews or use existing data to form new studies, this section of your methodology details what you do and how you do it. Several key details to include in this section of a methodology focus on how you design your experiment or survey, how you collect and organize data and what kind of data you measure. You may also include specific criteria for collecting qualitative and quantitative data.

Data analysis process

Your data analysis approaches are also important in your methodology. Your data analysis describes the methods you use to organize, categorize and study the information you collect through your research processes. For instance, when explaining quantitative methods, you might include details about your data preparation and organization methods along with a brief description of the statistical tests you use. When describing your data analysis processes regarding qualitative methods, you may focus more on how you categorize, code and apply language, text and other observations during your analysis.

Resources, materials and tools

The tools, materials and other resources you need for your research and analysis are also important elements to describe in your methodology. Software programs, mathematical and statistical formulas and other tools that help you perform your research are essential in documenting your methodology. This section of your methodology can also detail any special techniques you apply to collect data and identify important variables. Additionally, your approaches to studying your hypothesis and underlying research questions are essential details in your methodology.

Rationale behind the research

Since your methodology aims to show readers why your research is valid and relevant, the last part of this section of your research paper needs to focus on your rationale. Details like why your studies are relevant, what industries your studies relate to and how other researchers can replicate your results are essential components of this part of your methodology. It's important to address any approaches you plan to take to continue evaluating your research over time and to cite the primary and secondary sources you use in your research.

Differences between the methodology and methods

Although the methodology section of your research paper includes details about the methods you use in your research, there are several differences between a methodology and the research methods you apply:

The overall purpose of your methodology differs from the set of methods you use to apply to your research. While the methodology is the entire section of your research paper that describes your processes, the methods refer to the actual steps you take throughout your research to collect and analyze data. The methodology serves as a summary that demonstrates the validity and reliability of your methods, while the methods you detail in this section of your paper are the scientific approaches to test and make conclusions about the data you study.

The format for a methodology differs from the format you use to list and explain your research and analysis methods. The methodology usually appears at the beginning of your paper and looks like a summary or essay in paragraph form detailing your research validity, process and rationale. The format you use to describe your research and analysis methods can take various forms, depending on the type of research, type of data and type of assessments you use.

For instance, when describing the methods you use to perform quantitative and statistical analyses, the format you use may focus on a graph or chart to display your data. Additionally, the methods you describe within each part of your methodology can include tables or lists to demonstrate your research process and outcomes.

The purpose and format ultimately influence the content that you include in both your methodology and your research method details. However, the content within your entire methodology focuses on delivering a concise summary of your research, approaches and outcomes. Therefore, the content of your methodology includes all aspects of performing your studies. The content in your research paper that details your collection and analysis methods differs because it's often necessary to explain your scientific approaches and research processes with lists and visual aids (like charts or graphs) to support the information.

Example of a methodology in a research paper

The following example of a methodology in a research paper can provide additional insight into what to include and how to structure yours:

This research paper explains the psychological and emotional effects of a support program for employees with mental illness. The program involved extended and individualized support for employment candidates through a job support agency that maintained contact with candidates after initial job placement to offer support in various ways. I used a 50% random sampling of individuals who took part in the support program through the job support agency between April and October, and who fit the study criteria I developed from previous and similar studies.

My team and I randomly assigned the resulting 350 cases to either the treatment group or the control group, which comprised life skills development and employment training within an in-house workshop environment. My team and I measured all 350 participants upon intake and again at the 90-day threshold of employment. The psychological functioning and self-esteem measurements we used provided significant data on the effects of treatment within both measures, including opposing outcomes that differed from our initial hypothesis.

We found through our research that instead of improved function and higher self-esteem, the individuals within the treatment group displayed lower levels of cognitive and emotional function and lower self-esteem. These results led my research team and I to conclude that individuals who work in roles they find unfulfilling often experience significant decreases in performance due to higher job stress and diminished emotional well-being, regardless of their mental health conditions.

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Qualitative Methodology Research Paper

example of qualitative methodology in research paper

View sample sociology research paper on qualitative methodology. Browse other research paper examples for more inspiration. If you need a thorough research paper written according to all the academic standards, you can always turn to our experienced writers for help. This is how your paper can get an A! Feel free to contact our custom writing service for professional assistance. We offer high-quality assignments for reasonable rates.

Qualitative research is a field of inquiry in its own right. It cuts across disciplines, subfields, and subject matter. 1 A complex, interconnected family of terms, concepts, and assumptions surrounds the qualitative research orientation. These include the traditions associated with positivism, poststructuralism, and the many qualitative research perspectives or methods connected to cultural and interpretive studies.

In North America, qualitative research operates in a complex historical field that cross-cuts seven historical moments. These seven moments overlap and simultaneously operate in the present. They can be defined as the traditional (1900–1950), the modernist, or golden age (1950–1970), blurred genres (1970–1986), the crisis of representation (1986–1990) and postmodern, a period of experimental and new ethnographies (1990–1995), postexperimental inquiry (1995–2000), and the future, which is now (2000–). The future, the seventh moment, is concerned with moral discourse, with the development of a sacred texture. The seventh and eighth moments suggest that the social sciences and the humanities become sites for critical conversations about democracy, race, gender, class, nation, freedom, and community.

Successive waves of epistemological theorizing move across these moments. The traditional period is associated with the positivist, foundational paradigm. The modernist or golden age and blurred genres moments are connected to the appearance of postpositivist arguments. At the same time, a variety of new interpretive, qualitative perspectives were taken up, including hermeneutics, structuralism, semiotics, phenomenology, cultural studies, and feminism.   In the blurred genres phase, the humanities became central resources for critical, interpretive theory and the qualitative research project broadly conceived. The researcher became a bricoleur, learning how to borrow from many different disciplines.

The blurred genres phase produced the next stage, the crisis of representation. Here, researchers struggled with how to locate themselves and their subjects in reflexive texts. A kind of methodological diaspora took place, a twoway exodus. Humanists migrated to the social sciences, searching for new social theory and new ways to study popular culture and its local, ethnographic contexts. Social scientists turned to the humanities, hoping to learn how to do complex structural and poststructural readings of social texts. The line between a text and a context blurred. In the postmodern, experimental moment, researchers continued to move away from foundational and quasi-foundational criteria. Alternative evaluative criteria were sought, those that were evocative, moral, critical, and based on local understandings.

North Americans are not the only scholars struggling to create postcolonial, nonessentialist, feminist, dialogic performance texts, texts informed by the rhetorical, narrative turn in the human disciplines (Delamont, Coffey, and Atkinson 2000). This international work troubles the traditional distinctions between science, the humanities, rhetoric, literature, facts, and fiction. As Atkinson and Hammersley (1994) observe, this discourse recognizes “the literary antecedents of the ethnographic text, and affirms the essential dialectic” underlying these aesthetic and humanistic moves (p. 255).

Moreover, this literature is reflexively situated in a multiple, historical, and national context. It is clear that America’s history with qualitative inquiry cannot be generalized to the rest of the world (Atkinson, Coffey, and Delamont 2001). Nor do all researchers embrace a politicized, cultural studies agenda that demands that interpretive texts advance issues surrounding social justice and racial equality.

Lopez (1998) observes that “there is a large-scale social movement of anti-colonialist discourse” (p. 226), and this movement is evident in the emergence of African American, Chicano, Native American, and Maori standpoint theories. These theories question the epistemologies of Western science that are used to validate knowledge about indigenous peoples. The Maori scholar Russell Bishop (1998) presents a participatory and participant perspective (Tillman 1998:221) that values an embodied and moral commitment to the research community one is working with. This research is characterized by the absence of a need to be in control (Bishop 1998:203; Heshusius 1994). Such a commitment reflects a desire to be connected to and a part of the moral community. The goal is compassionate understanding (Heshusius 1994).

These understandings are only beginning to enter the literatures on social problems and deviance. As they do, a blurring of the spaces between the hyphens that join researchers and those studied occurs. Definitions of sociological phenomena, including social problems and deviance, are thereby made problematic.

Queering the Inquiry

In the context of discussing the study of same-sex experience, Kong, Mahoney, and Plummer (2002) present compelling historical evidence to support the conclusion that “ the sensibilities of interviewing are altered with the changing social phenomena that constitute ‘the interviewee’ ” (p. 240, italics in original). Reviewing the interviewing of gays in North America and Europe over the past 100 years, they trace a movement from a “highly positivist mode of research through one where the boundaries become weaker, and on to a situation where interviewing has been partially deconstructed” (p. 240).

These authors distinguish three historical moments: (1) traditional, (2) modernizing, and (3) postmodern. Their analysis contrasts the three periods in terms of assumptions about interviewers, gays, lesbians, questions asked, approaches taken, wider cultural discourses, and politics. Interviewers are presumed to be objective and heterosexual in the traditional period, closeted in the modern period, and out in the postmodern moment. Same-sex experiences are approached clinically, in terms of pathologies in the traditional period, while they are normalized in the postmodern period, when discourses on disease give way to talk of liberation, politics, and postmodern ethics.

Kong et al. (2002:254) offer three conclusions relevant to the arguments presented in this research paper. Interviewing gays and lesbians today is very different from interviewing them at the end of the nineteenth century. With the arrival of postmodern understandings, new forms of interviewing and new kinds of findings are appearing. A form of reflexive, radical historicity should now be a part of all interpretive inquiry. Of equal importance, any form of inquiry, such as the interview, is itself a cultural form, in which questions and answers become self-validating.

Reading History

Several conclusions can be drawn from this brief history, which is, like all histories, somewhat arbitrary. First, each of the earlier historical moments is still operating in the present, either as a legacy or as a set of practices that researchers continue to follow or argue against. The multiple, and fractured histories of qualitative research now make it possible for any given researcher to attach a project to a canonical text from any of the above-described historical moments. Multiple criteria of evaluation compete for attention in this field. Second, an embarrassment of choices now characterizes the field of qualitative research. There have never been so many paradigms, strategies of inquiry, or methods of analysis to draw upon and utilize. Third, we are in a moment of discovery and rediscovery, as new ways of looking, interpreting, arguing and writing are debated and discussed. Fourth, the qualitative research act can no longer be viewed from within a neutral or objective positivist perspective. Class, race, gender, and ethnicity shape the process of inquiry, making research a multicultural process.

Qualitative Research as a Process

Any definition of qualitative research must work within this complex historical field. Qualitative research means different things in each of these moments. Nonetheless, an initial, generic definition can be offered.

Qualitative research is multimethod in focus, involving an interpretive, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of or interpret these things in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials—case study, personal experience, introspection, life story, interview, and observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts—that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in an individual’s life.

Three interconnected, generic activities define the qualitative research process. They go by a variety of different labels, including theory, method, and analysis, and ontology, epistemology, and methodology. Behind these last three terms stands the personal biography of the gendered researcher, who speaks from a particular class, racial, cultural, and ethnic community perspective. The gendered, multiculturally situated researcher approaches the world with a set of ideas, a framework (theory, ontology) that specifies a set of questions (epistemology), which are then examined (analysis, methodology) in specific ways. That is, empirical materials bearing on the question are collected and then analyzed and written about. Every researcher speaks from within a distinct interpretive community, which configures, in its special way, the multicultural, gendered components of the research act. This community has its own historical research traditions, which constitute a distinct point of view. This perspective leads the researcher to adopt particular views of the “other” who is studied. At the same time, the politics and the ethics of research must also be considered, for these concerns permeate every phase of the research process.

Resistances to Qualitative Studies

The academic and disciplinary resistances to qualitative research illustrate the politics embedded in this field of discourse. The challenges to qualitative research are many. Qualitative researchers are called journalists, or soft scientists. Their work is termed unscientific, or only exploratory, or entirely personal and full of bias. It is called criticism and not theory, or it is interpreted politically as a disguised version of Marxism or humanism (see Huber 1995; also Denzin 1997:258–61 for a review).

These resistances reflect an uneasy awareness that the traditions of qualitative research commit one to a critique of the positivist or postpositivist project. But the positivist resistance to qualitative research goes beyond the “everpresent desire to maintain a distinction between hard science and soft scholarship” (Carey 1989:99). The positive sciences (e.g., physics, chemistry, economics, and psychology) are often seen as the crowning achievements of Western civilization, and in their practices it is assumed that “truth” can transcend opinion and personal bias (Carey 1989:99). Qualitative research is seen as an assault on this tradition, whose adherents often retreat into a “value-free objectivist science” (Carey 1989:104) model to defend their position. They seldom attempt to make explicit and critique the “moral and political commitments in their own contingent work” (Carey 1989:104).

Positivists further allege that the so-called new experimental qualitative researchers write fiction, not science, and they have no way of verifying their truth statements. Ethnographic poetry and fiction signal the death of empirical science, and there is little to be gained by attempting to engage in moral criticism. These critics presume a stable, unchanging reality that can be studied with the empirical methods of objective social science. The province of qualitative research, accordingly, is the world of lived experience, for this is where individual belief and action intersect with culture. Under this model, there is no preoccupation with discourse and method as material interpretive practices that constitute representation and description. Thus is the textual, narrative turn rejected by the positivist orientation.

The opposition to positive science by the postpositivists and the poststructuralists is seen, then, as an attack on reason and truth. At the same time, the attack by positive science on qualitative research is regarded as an attempt to legislate one version of truth over another.

Politics and Reemergent Scientism

The scientifically based research (SBR) movement initiated by the National Research Council (NRC) has created a new and hostile political environment for qualitative research. Connected to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, SBR embodies a reemergent scientism (Maxwell 2004), a positivist, evidence-based epistemology. Researchers are encouraged to employ “rigorous, systematic, and objective methodology to obtain reliable and valid knowledge” (Ryan and Hood 2004:80). The preferred methodology has well-defined causal models using independent and dependent variables. Causal models are examined in the context of randomized controlled experiments that allow replication and generalization (Ryan and Hood 2004:81).

Under this framework, qualitative research becomes suspect. There are no well-defined variables or casual models. Observations and measurements are not based on random assignment to experimental groups. Hard evidence is not generated by these methods. At best, case study, interview, and ethnographic methods offer descriptive materials that can be tested with experimental methods. The epistemologies of critical race, queer, postcolonial, feminist, and postmodern theories are rendered useless, relegated at best to the category of scholarship, not science (Ryan and Hood 2004:81; St. Pierre 2004:132).

Critics of the evidence movement are united on the following points. “Bush Science” (Lather 2004:19), and its experimental, evidence-based methodologies, represents a radical masculine backlash to the proliferation of qualitative inquiry methods over the last two decades (Lather 2004). The movement endorses a narrow view of science (Maxwell 2004), celebrating a “neoclassical experimentalism that is a throwback to the Campbell-Stanley era and its dogmatic adherence to an exclusive reliance on quantitative methods” (Howe 2004:42). There is “nostalgia for a simple and ordered universe of science that never was” (Popkewitz 2004:62). With its emphasis on only one form of scientific rigor, the NRC ignores the need and value of complex historical, contextual, and political criteria for evaluating inquiry (Bloch 2004).

Neoclassical experimentalists extol evidence-based “medical research as the model for educational research, particularly the random clinical trial” (Howe 2004:48). But the random clinical trial—dispensing a pill—is quite unlike “dispensing a curriculum” (Howe 2004:48), nor can the “effects” of the educational experiment be easily measured, unlike a “10-point reduction in diastolic blood pressure” (Howe 2004:48).

Qualitative researchers must learn to think outside the box of positivism and postpositivism as they critique the NRC and its methodological guidelines (Atkinson 2004). We must apply our critical imagination to the meaning of terms such as randomized design, causal model, policy studies, and public science (Cannella and Lincoln 2004; Weinstein 2004). Furthermore, we must resist conservative attempts to discredit qualitative inquiry by placing it back inside the box of positivism.

Mixed-Methods Experimentalism

Howe (2004) observes that the NRC finds a place for qualitative methods in mixed-methods experimental designs. In such designs, qualitative methods may be “employed either singly or in combination with quantitative methods, including the use of randomized experimental designs (p. 49). Mixed methods are direct descendants of classical experimentalism. They presume a methodological hierarchy, with quantitative methods at the top, relegating qualitative methods to “a largely auxiliary role in pursuit of the technocratic aim of accumulating knowledge of ‘what works’” (pp. 53–54).

The mixed-methods movement takes qualitative methods out of their natural home, which is within the critical, interpretive framework (Howe 2004:54; but see Teddlie and Tashakkori 2003:15). It divides inquiry into dichotomous categories, exploration versus confirmation. Qualitative work is assigned to the first category, quantitative research to the second (Teddlie and Tashakkori 2003:15). Like the classic experimental model, it excludes stakeholders from dialogue and active participation in the research process. This weakens its democratic and dialogical dimensions and reduces the likelihood that the previously silenced voices will be heard (Howe 2004:56–57).

Howe (2004) cautions that it is not just the “‘methodological fundamentalists’ who have bought into [this] approach. A sizeable number of rather influential . . . educational researchers . . . have also signed on. This might be a compromise to the current political climate; it might be a backlash against the perceived excesses of postmodernism; it might be both. It is an ominous development, whatever the explanation” (p. 57).

The Pragmatic Criticisms of Antifoundationalism

Seale et al. (2004:2) contest what they regard as the excesses of an antimethodological, “any thing goes,” romantic postmodernism that is associated with this project. They assert that too often the approach valued produces “low quality qualitative research and research results that are quite stereotypical and close to common sense” (p. 2).

In contrast, Seale et al. (2004) propose a practice-based, pragmatic approach that places research practice at the center. Research involves an engagement “with a variety of things and people: research materials . . . social theories, philosophical debates, values, methods, tests . . . research participants” (p. 2). (Actually this approach is quite close to my own view of the bricoleur and bricolage.)

Seale et al.’s (2004) situated methodology rejects the antifoundational claim that there are only partial truths, that the dividing line between fact and fiction has broken down (p. 3). They believe that this dividing line has not collapsed, that we should not accept stories if they do not accord with the best available facts (p. 6). Oddly, these pragmatic procedural arguments reproduce a variant of the evidence-based model and its criticisms of poststructural, performative sensibilities.

I turn now to a brief discussion of the major differences between the qualitative and quantitative approaches to research.

Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research

Qualitative implies an emphasis on processes and meanings that are not rigorously examined or measured (if measured at all) in terms of quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency. Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the situational constraints that shape inquiry. Such researchers emphasize the value-laden nature of inquiry. They seek answers to questions that stress how social experience is created and given meaning. In contrast, quantitative studies emphasize the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes. Proponents claim that their work is done from within a value-free framework.

Research Styles: Doing the Same Things Differently?

Of course, both qualitative and quantitative researchers “think they know something about society worth telling to others, and they use a variety of forms, media and means to communicate their ideas and findings” (Becker 1986:122). Qualitative research differs from quantitative research in five significant ways (Becker 1996). These points of difference turn on different ways of addressing the same set of issues.

1. Uses of Positivism and Postpositivism

First, both perspectives are shaped by the positivist and postpositivist traditions in the physical and social sciences. These two positive science traditions hold naive and critical realist positions concerning reality and its perception. In the positivist version, it is contended that there is a reality out there to be studied, captured, and understood, while the postpositivists argue that reality can never be fully apprehended, only approximated (Guba 1990:22). Postpositivism relies on multiple methods as a way of capturing as much of reality as possible. At the same time, emphasis is placed on the discovery and verification of theories. Traditional evaluation criteria such as internal and external validity are stressed, as is the use of qualitative procedures that lend themselves to structured (sometimes statistical) analysis.

Historically, qualitative research was defined within the positivist paradigm, where qualitative researchers attempted to do good positivist research with less rigorous methods and procedures. Some midcentury qualitative researchers (Becker et al. 1961) reported participant observation findings in terms of quasi-statistics. As recently as 1999, two leaders of the grounded theory approach to qualitative research attempted to modify the usual canons of good (positivistic) science to fit their own postpositivist conception of rigorous research (Strauss and Corbin 1999).

Flick (1998) usefully summarizes the differences between these two approaches to inquiry. He observes that the quantitative approach has been used for purposes of isolating “causes and effects . . . operationalizing theoretical relations . . . [and] measuring and . . . quantifying phenomena . . . allowing the generalization of finding” (p. 3). But today, doubt is cast on such projects:

Rapid social change and the resulting diversification of life worlds are increasingly confronting social researchers with new social contexts and perspectives . . . traditional deductive methodologies . . . are failing . . . thus research is increasingly forced to make use of inductive strategies instead of starting from theories and testing them . . . knowledge and practice are studied as local knowledge and practice. (P. 2)

2. Acceptance of Postmodern Sensibilities

The use of quantitative, positivist methods and assumptions has been rejected by a new generation of qualitative researchers who are attached to poststructural, postmodern sensibilities. These researchers argue that positivist methods are but one way of telling a story about society or the social world. They may be no better or no worse than any other method; they just tell a different kind of story.

This tolerant view is not shared by everyone. Many members of the critical theory, constructivist, poststructural, and postmodern schools of thought reject positivist and postpositivist criteria when evaluating their own work. They see these criteria as irrelevant to their work and contend that it reproduces only a certain kind of science, a science that silences too many voices. These researchers seek alternative methods for evaluating their work, including verisimilitude, emotionality, personal responsibility, an ethic of caring, political praxis, multivoiced texts, and dialogues with subjects.

3. Capturing the Individual’s Point of View

Both qualitative and quantitative researchers are concerned about the individual’s point of view. However, qualitative investigators think they can get closer to the actor’s perspective by detailed interviewing and observation. They argue that quantitative researchers are seldom able to capture the subject’s perspective because they have to rely on more remote, inferential empirical materials.

4. Examining the Constraints of Everyday Life

Qualitative researchers are more likely to confront and come up against the constraints of the everyday social world. They see this world in action and embed their findings in it. Quantitative researchers abstract from this world and seldom study it directly. They seek a nomothetic or etic science based on probabilities derived from the study of large numbers of randomly selected cases. These kinds of statements stand above and outside the constraints of everyday life. Qualitative researchers, on the other hand, are committed to an emic, ideographic, case-based position, which directs their attention to the specifics of particular cases.

5. Securing Rich Descriptions

Qualitative researchers believe that rich descriptions of the social world are valuable, while quantitative researchers, with their etic, nomothetic commitments, are less concerned with such detail. They are deliberately unconcerned with such descriptions because such detail interrupts the process of developing generalizations.

These five points of difference described above (uses of positivism and postmodernism, acceptance of postmodern sensibilities, capturing the individual’s point of view, examining the constraints of everyday life, securing thick descriptions) reflect commitments to different styles of research, different epistemologies, and different forms of representation. Each work tradition is governed by a different set of genres, each has its own classics, its own preferred forms of representation, interpretation, and textual evaluation. Qualitative researchers use ethnographic prose, historical narratives, first-person accounts, still photographs, life history, fictionalized facts, and biographical and autobiographical materials, among others.

Quantitative researchers use mathematical models, statistical tables, and graphs and usually write in an impersonal, third-person prose.

Working the Hyphen: the “Other” as Research Subject

From its turn-of-the-century birth in modern, interpretive form, qualitative research has been haunted by a doublefaced ghost. On the one hand, qualitative researchers have assumed that qualified, competent observers could with objectivity, clarity, and precision report on their own observations of the social world, including the experiences of others. Second, researchers have held to the belief in a real subject or real individual who is present in the world and able, in some form, to report on his or her experiences. So armed, the researchers could blend their own observations with self-reports provided by subjects through interviews, life story, personal experience, and case study documents.

These two beliefs have led qualitative researchers across disciplines to seek a method that would allow them to record their own observations accurately while also uncovering the meanings their subjects brought to their life experiences. This method would rely on the subjective verbal and written expressions of meaning given by the individuals studied, these expressions being windows to the inner life of the person. Since Dilthey ([1900] 1976), this search for a method has led to a perennial focus in the human disciplines on qualitative, interpretive methods.

Recently, as noted above, this position and its beliefs have come under assault. Poststructuralists and postmodernists have contributed to the understanding that there is no clear window into the inner life of an individual. Any gaze is always filtered through the lenses of language, gender, social class, race, and ethnicity. There are no objective observations, only observations socially situated in the worlds of the observer and the observed. Subjects, or individuals, are seldom able to give full explanations of their actions or intentions; all they can offer are accounts or stories about what they did and why. No single method can grasp the subtle variations in ongoing human experience. Consequently, qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected interpretive methods, always seeking better ways to make more understandable the worlds of experience that have been studied.

Interpretive Paradigms

All qualitative researchers are philosophers in that “universal sense in which all human beings . . . are guided by highly abstract principles” (Bateson 1972:320). These principles combine beliefs about ontology (What kind of being is the human being? What is the nature of reality?), epistemology (What is the relationship between the inquirer and the known?), and methodology (How do we know the world or gain knowledge of it?) (see Guba and Lincoln 2000). These beliefs shape how the qualitative researcher sees the world and acts in it. The researcher is “bound within a net of epistemological and ontological premises which—regardless of ultimate truth or falsity— become partially self-validating” (Bateson 1972:314).

The net that contains the researcher’s epistemological, ontological, and methodological premises may be termed a paradigm (Guba 1990:17) or interpretive framework, a “basic set of beliefs that guides action” (Guba 1990:17). All research is interpretive and guided by a set of beliefs and feelings about the world and how it should be understood and studied. These beliefs may be taken for granted, only assumed, while others are highly problematic and controversial. Each interpretive paradigm makes particular demands on the researcher, including the questions that are asked and the interpretations that are brought to them.

At the most general level, four major interpretive paradigms structure qualitative research: (1) positivist and postpositivist, (2) constructivist-interpretive, (3) critical (Marxist, emancipatory), and (4) feminist-poststructural. These four abstract paradigms become more complicated at the level of concrete specific interpretive communities. At this level, it is possible to identify not only the constructivist but also multiple versions of feminism (Afrocentric and poststructural), 4 as well as specific ethnic, Marxist, and cultural studies paradigms.

The positivist and postpositive paradigms work from within a realist and critical realist ontology and objective epistemologies and rely on experimental, quasiexperimental, survey, and rigorously defined qualitative methodologies. The constructivist paradigm assumes a relativist ontology (there are multiple realities), a subjectivist epistemology (knower and subject create understandings), and a naturalistic (in the natural world) set of methodological procedures. Findings are usually presented in terms of the criteria of grounded theory. Terms such as credibility, transferability, dependability, and confirmability replace the usual positivist criteria of internal and external validity, reliability, and objectivity.

Feminist, Ethnic, Marxist, Cultural Studies, and Queer Theory Models

Critical theory is a materialist-realist ontology—that is, the real world makes a material difference in terms of race, class, and gender. Subjectivist epistemologies and naturalistic methodologies (usually ethnographies) are also employed. Empirical materials and theoretical arguments are evaluated in terms of their emancipatory implications. Criteria from gender and racial communities (e.g., African American) may be applied (emotionality and feeling, caring, personal accountability, dialogue).

Poststructural feminist theories emphasize problems with the social text, its logic, and its inability to ever fully represent the world of lived experience. Positivist and postpositivist criteria of evaluation are replaced by other terms, including the reflexive, multivoiced text that is grounded in the experiences of oppressed people.

The cultural studies and queer theory paradigms are multifocused, with many different strands drawing from Marxism, feminism, and the postmodern sensibility. There is a tension between humanistic cultural studies that stress lived experiences and a more structural cultural studies project that stresses the structural and material determinants (race, class, gender) of experience. The cultural studies and queer theory paradigms use methods strategically—that is, as resources for understanding and for producing resistances to local structures of domination. Such scholars may do close textual readings and discourse analysis of cultural texts, as well as local ethnographies, open-ended interviewing, and participant observation. The focus is on how race, class, and gender are produced and enacted in historically specific situations.

Bridging the Historical Moments: into the Present

Two theses have organized the discussion to this point. First, in its relationship to the field of sociological inquiry, the history of qualitative research is defined more by breaks and ruptures than by a clear, evolutionary, progressive movement from one stage to the next. These breaks and ruptures move in cycles and phases, so that which is passé today may be in vogue a decade from now. Just as the postmodern, for example, reacts to the modern, someday there may well be a neomodern phase that extols Malinowski and the Chicago School and finds the current poststructural, postmodern moment abhorrent.

The second assumption builds on the tensions that now define qualitative sociological inquiry. There is an elusive center to this contradictory, tension-riddled enterprise, which seems to be moving further and further away from grand narratives, and single, overarching ontological, epistemological, and methodological paradigms. This center lies in the humanistic commitment of the researcher to always study the world from the perspective of the interacting individual. From this simple commitment flow the liberal and radical politics of qualitative sociological research on social problems. Action, feminist, clinical, constructionist, ethnic, critical, and cultural studies researchers are all united on this point. They all share the belief that a politics of liberation must always begin with the perspective, desires, and dreams of those individuals and groups who have been oppressed by the larger ideological, economic, and political forces of a society or a historical moment.

This commitment defines an ever-present, but always shifting, center in the discourses of qualitative research. The center shifts and moves as new, previously oppressed, or silenced voices enter the discourse. Thus, for example, feminists and ethnic researchers have articulated their own relationship to the postpositivist and critical paradigms. These new articulations then refocus and redefine previous ontologies, epistemologies, and methodologies, including positivism and postpositivism. These two theses suggest that only the broad outlines of the future can be predicted, as the field confronts and continues to define itself in the face of four fundamental issues.

The first and second issues are what we have called the crises of representation and legitimization. These two crises speak, respectively, to the other and its representations in our texts and to the authority we claim for our texts. Third, there is the continued emergence of a cacophony of voices speaking with varying agendas from specific gender, race, class, ethnic, and Third World perspectives.

Fourth, throughout its history, qualitative sociological research has been defined in terms of shifting scientific, moral, sacred, and religious discourses. Since the Enlightenment, science and religion have been separated, but only at the ideological level, for in practice religion and the sacred have constantly informed science and the scientific project. The divisions between these two systems of meaning are becoming more and more blurred. Critics increasingly see science from within a magical, shamanistic framework (Rosaldo 1989:219). Others are moving science away from its empiricist foundations and closer to a critical, interpretive project that stresses morals and moral standards of evaluation (Clough 1998:136–37).

Three understandings shape the present moment; these are,
The qualitative sociological researcher is not an objective, authoritative, politically neutral observer standing outside and above the social world (Bruner 1993:1).
The qualitative researcher is “historically positioned and locally situated [as] an all-too-human [observer] of the human condition” (Bruner 1993:1).
Meaning is “radically plural, always open, and . . . there is politics in every account” (Bruner 1993:1).

The problems of representation and legitimation flow from these three understandings.

The Crisis of Representation

As indicated, this crisis asks the questions, “Who is the Other? Can we ever hope to speak authentically of the experience of the Other, or an Other? And if not, how do we create a social science that includes the Other?” The short answer to these questions is that we move to include the other in the larger research processes that have been developed. For some, this means participatory or collaborative research and evaluation efforts. These activities can occur in a variety of institutional sites, including clinical, educational, and social welfare settings.

For other researchers, it means a form of liberatory investigation wherein the others are trained to engage in their own social and historical interrogative efforts and are then assisted in devising answers to questions of historical and contemporary oppression that are rooted in the values and cultural artifacts that characterize their communities.

For still other social scientists, it means becoming coauthors in narrative adventures. And for still others, it means constructing what are called “experimental,” or “messy,” texts where multiple voices speak, often in conflict, and where the reader is left to sort out which experiences speak to his or her personal life. For still others, it means presenting to the inquiry and policy community a series of autohistories, personal narratives, lived experiences, poetic representations, and sometimes fictive and/or fictional texts that allow the other to speak for himself or herself. The inquirer or evaluator becomes merely the connection between the field text, the research text, and the consuming community in making certain that such voices are heard. Sometimes, increasingly, it is the “institutionalized other” who speaks, especially as the other gains access to the knowledge-producing corridors of power and achieves entry into the particular group of elites known as intellectuals and academics or faculty.

The point is that both the other and more mainstream social scientists recognize that there is no such thing as unadulterated truth, that speaking from a faculty, an institution of higher education, or a corporate perspective automatically means that one speaks from a privileged and powerful vantage point, and that this vantage point is one to which many do not have access, by dint of either social station or education.

Judith Stacey (1988) speaks of the difficulties involved in representing the experiences of the other about whom texts are written. Writing from a feminist perspective, she argues that a major contradiction exists in this project, despite the desire to engage in egalitarian research characterized by authenticity, reciprocity, and trust. This is so because actual differences of power, knowledge, and structural mobility still exist in the researcher-subject relationship. The subject is always at grave risk of manipulation and betrayal by the ethnographer (p. 23). In addition, there is the crucial fact that the final product is too often that of the researcher, no matter how much it has been modified or influenced by the subject. Thus, even when research is written from the perspective of the other, for example, women writing about women, the women doing the writing may “unwittingly preserve the dominant power relations that they explicitly aim to overcome” (Bruner 1993:23).

The Author’s Place in the Text

The feminist solution clarifies the issue of the author’s place in the text. This problem is directly connected to the problem of representation. It is often phrased in terms of a false dichotomy—that is, “the extent to which the personal self should have a place in the scientific scholarly text” (Bruner 1993:2). This false division between the personal and the ethnographic self rests on the assumption that it is possible to write a text that does not bear the traces of its author. Of course, this is incorrect. All texts are personal statements.

The correct phrasing of this issue turns on the amount of the personal, subjective, poetic self that is in fact openly given in the text. Bruner (1993) phrases the problem this way: “The danger is putting the personal self so deeply back into the text that it completely dominates, so that the work becomes narcissistic and egotistical. No one advocates ethnographic self-indulgence” (p. 6). The goal is to openly return the author to the text in a way that does “not squeeze out the object of study” (p. 6).

There are many ways to openly return the author to the qualitative research text. Fictional narratives of the self may be written. Performance texts can be produced. Dramatic readings can be given. Field interviews can be transformed into poetic texts, and poetry, as well as short stories and plays, can be written. The author can engage in a dialogue with those studied. The author may write through a narrator, “directly as a character . . . or through multiple characters, or one character may speak in many voices, or the writer may come in and then go out of the [text]” (Bruner 1993:6).

The Crisis of Legitimation

It is clear that critical race theory, queer theory, and feminist arguments are moving farther and farther away from postpositivist models of validity and textual authority. This is the crisis of legitimization that follows the collapse of foundational epistemologies. This so-called crisis arose when anthropologists and other social scientists addressed the authority of the text. By the authority of the text, I refer to the claim any text makes to being accurate, true, and complete. That is, is a text faithful to the context and the individuals it is supposed to represent? Does the text have the right to assert that it is a report to the larger world that addresses not only the researcher’s interests but also the interests of those who are studied?

This is not an illegitimate set of questions, and it affects all of us and the work that we do. And while many social scientists might enter the question from different angles, these twin crises are confronted by everyone.

Coping With the Present

A variety of new and old voices, critical theory, and feminist and ethnic scholars have also entered the present situation, offering solutions to the problems surrounding the crises of representation and legitimating. The move is toward pluralism, and many social scientists now recognize that no picture is ever complete, that what is needed is many perspectives, many voices, before we can achieve a deep understanding of social phenomena and before we can assert that a narrative is complete.

The modernist dream of a grand or master narrative is now a dead project. The postmodern era is defined, in part, by the belief that there is no single umbrella in the history of the world that might incorporate and represent fairly the dreams, aspirations, and experiences of all peoples.

Critical Theorists, Critical Pedagogy

The critical theorists from the Frankfurt to the Annales world systems and participatory action research schools continue to be a major presence in qualitative research, and they occupy a central place in social theory (Freire 1998; Kincheloe and McLaren 2000; Denzin 2003). The critique and concern of the critical theorists have been an effort to design a pedagogy of resistance within communities of differences. The pedagogy of resistance, of taking back “voice,” of reclaiming narrative for one’s own rather than adapting to the narratives of a dominant majority, was most explicitly laid out by Paolo Freire (1998) working with adults in Brazil. Critical pedagogy seeks to overturn oppression and to achieve social justice through empowerment of the marginalized, the poor, the nameless, and the voiceless. This program is nothing less than the radical restructuring of society toward the ends of reclaiming historic cultural legacies, social justice, the redistribution of power, and the achievement of truly democratic societies.

Feminist Researchers

Poststructural feminists urge the abandonment of any distinction between empirical science and social criticism. That is, they seek a morally informed social criticism that is not committed to the traditional concerns or criteria of empirical science. This traditional science, they argue, rests a considerable amount of its authority on the ability to make public what has traditionally been understood to be private (Clough 1998:137; Olesen 2000; Lather 2004). Feminists dispute this distinction. They urge a social criticism that takes back from science the traditional authority to inscribe and create subjects within the boundaries and frameworks of an objective social science. Feminist philosophers question the scientific method’s most basic premises, namely, the idea that scientific objectivity is possible.

Critical Race and Queer Theory Scholars

There is yet another group of concerned scholars determining the course of qualitative social problems research: They are critical race (Ladson-Billings 2000) and queer theory scholars (Kong et al. 2002), who examine the question of whether history has deliberately silenced, or misrepresented, them and their cultures.

This new generation of scholars, many of them persons of color, challenge both historical and contemporary social scientists on the accuracy, veracity, and authenticity of the latter’s work, contending that no picture can be considered final when the perspectives and narratives of so many are missing, distorted, or self-serving to dominant majority interests. The result of such challenges has been threefold: (1) the reconsideration of the Western canon; (2) the increase in the number of historical and scientific works that recognize and reconstruct the perspectives of those whose perspectives have been previously written out of the present; and (3) an emphasis on life stories and case studies, stories that tell about lives lived under the conditions of racism and sexism.

Back to the Future

The press for a civic social science remains (Agger 2000). We want a civic sociology—by which we mean not just fieldwork located in sociology but rather an extended, enriched, cultivated social science embracing all the disciplines. Such a project characterizes a whole new generation of qualitative researchers: educationists, sociologists, political scientists, clinical practitioners in psychology and medicine, nurses, communications and media specialists, cultural studies workers, and researchers in a score of other assorted disciplines.

The moral imperatives of such work cannot be ignored. Not only do we have several generations of social science that have solved serious human problems, but many times, such work only worsened the plight of those studied. Beyond morality is something equally important: The mandates for such work come from our own sense of the human community. A detached social science frequently serves only those with the means, the social designation, and the intellectual capital to remain detached. We face a choice, in the seventh and eighth moments, of declaring ourselves committed to detachment, or solidarity with the human community. We come to know each other and we come to exist meaningfully only in community. We have the opportunity to rejoin that community as its resident intellectuals and change agents.

And as we wait, we remember that our most powerful effects as storytellers come when we expose the cultural plots and the cultural practices that guide our writing hands. These practices and plots lead us to see coherence where there is none or to create meaning without an understanding of the broader structures that tell us to tell things in a particular way. Erasing the boundaries between self, other, and history, we seek to learn how to tell new stories, stories no longer contained within, or confined to, the tales of the past. And so we embark together on a new project, a project with its own as yet not fully understood cultural plots and cultural practices.

And what remains, throughout, will be the steady, but always changing, commitment of all qualitative social problems researchers. The commitment, that is, to study human experience and its problems from the ground up, from the point of interacting individuals who together and alone make and live histories that have been handed down to them from the ghosts of the past.



example of qualitative methodology in research paper

Research Paper Guide

Types Of Qualitative Research

Nova A.

Types Of Qualitative Research - Overview & Examples

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Published on: Dec 29, 2017

Last updated on: Dec 15, 2022

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The design of qualitative research is a general way of thinking about writing a qualitative  research paper . It also helps to describe the purpose, stages, types, and methods of qualitative research.

Mainly, there are six types of qualitative research. They are considered as the most flexible research techniques that provide learners with the appropriate knowledge. Similarly, it also helps you to understand the behavior, beliefs, and opinions of individuals.

Nevertheless, these types use similar data collection methods but have different purposes of the study.

If you are new to the concept, we recommend you to go through this blog until the end. You will also find examples to get an in-depth understanding of the approaches.

What is Qualitative Research?

As per the qualitative research definition, it is exploratory research that is used to understand the reasons and opinions of individuals. Moreover, it is an important market-based research study that focuses on obtaining qualitative data through open-ended conversations.

The purpose is to comprehend the main problem and develop ideas and methods for future quantitative research.

People typically use qualitative study in opposition to quantitative research. However, sometimes, they are not completely aware of the differences between  qualitative vs. quantitative research . Many think that both serve the same purpose, which is not true.

Moreover, the methods of qualitative research have a long history in the field of social science. It is used to obtain and use qualitative data to understand the social life of the targeted population. Here, the primary focal point is the micro-level interaction.

Types of Qualitative Research Methods

Researchers collect data of the targeted population, place, or event by using different types of qualitative research analysis.

Below are the most commonly used qualitative research types for writing a research paper.

The following is a detailed description of these research types.

Ethnography Method

The table shows the basic elements of the ethnography method.

Ethnography is a branch of anthropology that provides a scientific explanation of human societies and cultures. It is one of the most popular and widely used techniques of qualitative research.

The fieldwork requires the researcher to get involved in the environment and live with the focus group. Such an interaction is done to understand the goals, motivations, challenges, and cultures of the individuals.

Similarly, it also helps to illustrate the cultural characteristics such as:

Rather than conducting surveys and interviews, researchers experience the environment and act as an observer. Thus, the primary data collection method is observation over an extended period.

However, it would also be appropriate to interview those who have studied the same cultures.

Ethnographic research becomes difficult if the researcher is not familiar with the social morals and language of the group. Furthermore, interpretations by outsiders may also lead to confusion.

Thus, it requires the researcher to validate the data before presenting the findings.

For Example:

A good approach to understand the needs of the customers is by observing their daily activities. Notice how they interact with the product.

For this, you don’t have to come up with any hypotheses to test. However, you only need it in the social life of the subjects.

Narrative Method

Have a look at the table given below.

The narrative research method occurs over a long period for compiling the data. It takes a sequence of events to form a cohesive story. However, similar to a story narrative, it takes a subject from a starting point and reviews different situations of life.

Here, the researcher conducts in-depth interviews and reads various documents. Moreover, it also reviews the events that largely impact the personality of an individual.

Sometimes, interviews are conducted even after weeks, months, or years. Nevertheless, this method requires the outcomes to be presented in a short story with themes.

It may also include the conflicts, tensions, and challenges that have become a great opportunity for innovation.

The narrative method can be used in a business to understand the different challenges faced by the target audience. Moreover, it can be utilized for further innovation and development of products.

Phenomenological Method

The following are the essential aspects of this research method.

The word phenomenological means the study of a phenomenon such as events, situations, or experiences. It is the best approach to describe something from different angles and add to the existing knowledge. Similarly, it focuses on subjective experiences.

Here, a researcher uses different methods to gather data and understand the phenomenon. These methods include interviews, visiting places, observation, surveys, and reading documents.

Lastly, this technique takes into account how participants feel about things during an event or activity. Thus, a database with themes is formed to validate the findings.

You can use this method to understand why students prefer to take online courses. Moreover, it will also identify the reason behind the rise in the number of students from the last few years.

Grounded Theory Method

Check out the table below to understand the elements of a grounded theory method.

A phenomenological study describes an event. Whereas, a grounded theory approach provides an explanation, reasons, or theory behind that event. It aims to develop new theories by collecting and analyzing data about a phenomenon.

Here, a researcher makes use of various data collection techniques. It includes observation, interview, literature review, and relevant document analysis. Moreover, the unit of content analysis is a specific phenomenon or incident and not individual behaviors.

Usually, different coding techniques and large sample sizes are used to identify themes and develop a better theory.

This method can be used in businesses to conduct surveys. It also helps to demonstrate why the consumer uses the company’s product or services.

The data collected through these surveys help companies to improve and maintain their customer’s satisfaction and loyalty.

Here are the main characteristics of a case study method.

The case study approach occurs over extended periods of time to compile information. It involves an in-depth understanding of a subject such as an event, person, business, or place.

Similarly, the data is collected from various sources, including interviews, direct observation, and historical documentation.

Case studies are carried out in different disciplines like law, education, medicine, and sciences. Therefore, they can be descriptive or explanatory in nature.

Furthermore, this method is used when the researcher wants to focus on:

Businesses can use case studies to show their business solutions effectively. Similarly, it also helps them to identify how they can solve a particular problem for the subject.

Let suppose a company AB introduces new UX designs into an agile environment. It would be considered as enlightening to many companies.

Historical Method

Have a look at the below table to understand the historical method.

The historical method describes past events to understand present scenarios and predict future choices. It answers the research questions based on a hypothetical idea. Later this technique used multiple resources to test the idea for any potential challenges.

It also requires the development of the research outline to organize the whole process. Lastly, the historical method presents the findings in the form of a biography.

For creating new ads, businesses can use historical data of previous ad campaigns and the targeted demographics.

Types of Qualitative Research Examples

Check out the document for some more examples of qualitative research types for better understanding.

View Types of Qualitative Research Example Here

If you are assigned to submit a qualitative research paper soon, the above guide will help you.

Here, different types of qualitative research methodology can assist in understanding the behavior and motivations of people. Similarly, it will also help in generating original ideas and formulate a better research problem.

However, not everyone can write a good research paper. Thus, if you get stuck at any stage of writing your qualitative research paper, you can take professional help.  is the best  online essay writing service , where you can get a professional writer. They have the expertise and advanced degrees from U.S. based institutes. 

Similarly, our top-notch  paper writer  will help you to use different qualitative examples and methods to write your research paper. However, if you are still confused about trusting us, check out the paper samples and  customer reviews  on our website. 

We assure you that you will receive a high-quality paper at the most reasonable rates. Simply contact our writing team now and place your  order .

Nova A. (Literature, Marketing)

Nova Allison is a Digital Content Strategist with over eight years of experience. Nova has also worked as a technical and scientific writer. She is majorly involved in developing and reviewing online content plans that engage and resonate with audiences. Nova has a passion for writing that engages and informs her readers.

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Qualitative Research Methodology

Provide an overview of qualitative research methodology, discuss two different types of qualitative research design.

Qualitative research methodology has become an essential aspect of developing knowledge in health sciences and nursing practice. Its primary purpose is explaining, exploring, and describing the phenomenon being studied. Qualitative research methodology is inductive instead of deductive, and it starts with broad exploratory concepts and questions. It is mainly used in health sciences and nursing in situations where not much is known about a phenomenon or in scenarios of existing gaps in knowledge. The primary distinguishing characteristics of qualitative research methodology is that the researcher is regarded as an essential instrument in data collection and the ensuing data is either narrative descriptions or words instead of numbers (Choy, 2014). In qualitative research methodology, the participants are primarily selected for their knowledge and familiarity with the phenomenon of concern instead of sampling or random selection.

example of qualitative methodology in research paper

This paper explores grounded theory and phenomenology qualitative research designs. Grounded theory refers to a methodical procedure of analyzing data that provides researchers with an opportunity to establish a theory or an explanation behind an event or phenomenon. The theory originates from Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss in the late 1960’s. Grounded theory is characterized by continuous comparison of data and theoretical sampling. Researchers prefer grounded theory when dealing with a phenomenon dealing with social processes fundamental to human behavior and experiences. The primary data collection methods include the use of existing documents and interviews. Data analysis and collection take place concurrently, and each piece of data is continuously contrasted and compared with existing established concepts (Lewis, 2015). Phenomenology research design originated from philosophy and was developed by Martin Heideggar and Edmund Husserl in the early 20th century. The main aim of phenomenology is to describe a phenomenon of concern as it is experienced and lived by the participants (Lewis, 2015). The key data collection method employed by this research design is in-depth interviews.

1. Choy, L. T. (2014). The strengths and weaknesses of research methodology: Comparison and complimentary between qualitative and quantitative approaches. IOSR Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 19(4), 99-104.

2. Lewis, S. (2015). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Health promotion practice, 16(4), 473-475.

example of qualitative methodology in research paper

Organizing Your Social Sciences Research Paper

The word qualitative implies an emphasis on the qualities of entities and on processes and meanings that are not experimentally examined or measured [if measured at all] in terms of quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency. Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the situational constraints that shape inquiry. Such researchers emphasize the value-laden nature of inquiry. They seek answers to questions that stress how social experience is created and given meaning. In contrast, quantitative studies emphasize the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes. Qualitative forms of inquiry are considered by many social and behavioral scientists to be as much a perspective on how to approach investigating a research problem as it is a method.

Denzin, Norman. K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. “Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research.” In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman. K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. 3 rd edition. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005), p. 10.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

Below are the three key elements that define a qualitative research study and the applied forms each take in the investigation of a research problem.

The Collection of Data

The Analysis

Berg, Bruce Lawrence. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences . 8th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2012; Denzin, Norman. K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Handbook of Qualitative Research . 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000; Marshall, Catherine and Gretchen B. Rossman. Designing Qualitative Research . 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1995; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009.

Basic Research Design for Qualitative Studies

Unlike positivist or experimental research that utilizes a linear and one-directional sequence of design steps, there is considerable variation in how a qualitative research study is organized. In general, qualitative researchers attempt to describe and interpret human behavior based primarily on the words of selected individuals [a.k.a., “informants” or “respondents”] and/or through the interpretation of their material culture or occupied space. There is a reflexive process underpinning every stage of a qualitative study to ensure that researcher biases, presuppositions, and interpretations are clearly evident, thus ensuring that the reader is better able to interpret the overall validity of the research. According to Maxwell (2009), there are five, not necessarily ordered or sequential, components in qualitative research designs. How they are presented depends upon the research philosophy and theoretical framework of the study, the methods chosen, and the general assumptions underpinning the study. Goals Describe the central research problem being addressed but avoid describing any anticipated outcomes. Questions to ask yourself are: Why is your study worth doing? What issues do you want to clarify, and what practices and policies do you want it to influence? Why do you want to conduct this study, and why should the reader care about the results? Conceptual Framework Questions to ask yourself are: What do you think is going on with the issues, settings, or people you plan to study? What theories, beliefs, and prior research findings will guide or inform your research, and what literature, preliminary studies, and personal experiences will you draw upon for understanding the people or issues you are studying? Note to not only report the results of other studies in your review of the literature, but note the methods used as well. If appropriate, describe why earlier studies using quantitative methods were inadequate in addressing the research problem. Research Questions Usually there is a research problem that frames your qualitative study and that influences your decision about what methods to use, but qualitative designs generally lack an accompanying hypothesis or set of assumptions because the findings are emergent and unpredictable. In this context, more specific research questions are generally the result of an interactive design process rather than the starting point for that process. Questions to ask yourself are: What do you specifically want to learn or understand by conducting this study? What do you not know about the things you are studying that you want to learn? What questions will your research attempt to answer, and how are these questions related to one another? Methods Structured approaches to applying a method or methods to your study help to ensure that there is comparability of data across sources and researchers and, thus, they can be useful in answering questions that deal with differences between phenomena and the explanation for these differences [variance questions]. An unstructured approach allows the researcher to focus on the particular phenomena studied. This facilitates an understanding of the processes that led to specific outcomes, trading generalizability and comparability for internal validity and contextual and evaluative understanding. Questions to ask yourself are: What will you actually do in conducting this study? What approaches and techniques will you use to collect and analyze your data, and how do these constitute an integrated strategy? Validity In contrast to quantitative studies where the goal is to design, in advance, “controls” such as formal comparisons, sampling strategies, or statistical manipulations to address anticipated and unanticipated threats to validity, qualitative researchers must attempt to rule out most threats to validity after the research has begun by relying on evidence collected during the research process itself in order to effectively argue that any alternative explanations for a phenomenon are implausible. Questions to ask yourself are: How might your results and conclusions be wrong? What are the plausible alternative interpretations and validity threats to these, and how will you deal with these? How can the data that you have, or that you could potentially collect, support or challenge your ideas about what’s going on? Why should we believe your results? Conclusion Although Maxwell does not mention a conclusion as one of the components of a qualitative research design, you should formally conclude your study. Briefly reiterate the goals of your study and the ways in which your research addressed them. Discuss the benefits of your study and how stakeholders can use your results. Also, note the limitations of your study and, if appropriate, place them in the context of areas in need of further research.

Chenail, Ronald J. Introduction to Qualitative Research Design. Nova Southeastern University; Heath, A. W. The Proposal in Qualitative Research. The Qualitative Report 3 (March 1997); Marshall, Catherine and Gretchen B. Rossman. Designing Qualitative Research . 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999; Maxwell, Joseph A. "Designing a Qualitative Study." In The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods . Leonard Bickman and Debra J. Rog, eds. 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009), p. 214-253; Qualitative Research Methods. [email protected] Colorado State University; Yin, Robert K. Qualitative Research from Start to Finish . 2nd edition. New York: Guilford, 2015.

Strengths of Using Qualitative Methods

The advantage of using qualitative methods is that they generate rich, detailed data that leave the participants' perspectives intact and provide multiple contexts for understanding the phenomenon under study. In this way, qualitative research can be used to vividly demonstrate phenomena or to conduct cross-case comparisons and analysis of individuals or groups.

Among the specific strengths of using qualitative methods to study social science research problems is the ability to:

Anderson, Claire. “Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 74 (2010): 1-7; Denzin, Norman. K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Handbook of Qualitative Research . 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009.

Limitations of Using Qualitative Methods

It is very much true that most of the limitations you find in using qualitative research techniques also reflect their inherent strengths . For example, small sample sizes help you investigate research problems in a comprehensive and in-depth manner. However, small sample sizes undermine opportunities to draw useful generalizations from, or to make broad policy recommendations based upon, the findings. Additionally, as the primary instrument of investigation, qualitative researchers are often embedded in the cultures and experiences of others. However, cultural embeddedness increases the opportunity for bias generated from conscious or unconscious assumptions about the study setting to enter into how data is gathered, interpreted, and reported.

Some specific limitations associated with using qualitative methods to study research problems in the social sciences include the following:

Research Tip

Human Subject Research and Institutional Review Board Approval

Almost every socio-behavioral study requires you to submit your proposed research plan to an Institutional Review Board. The role of the Board is to evaluate your research proposal and determine whether it will be conducted ethically and under the regulations, institutional polices, and Code of Ethics set forth by the university. The purpose of the review is to protect the rights and welfare of individuals participating in your study. The review is intended to ensure equitable selection of respondents, that you have obtained adequate informed consent , that there is clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university [read: no lawsuits!], and that privacy and confidentiality are maintained throughout the research process and beyond. Go to the USC IRB website for detailed information and templates of forms you need to submit before you can proceed. If you are  unsure whether your study is subject to IRB review, consult with your professor or academic advisor.

Chenail, Ronald J. Introduction to Qualitative Research Design. Nova Southeastern University; Labaree, Robert V. "Working Successfully with Your Institutional Review Board: Practical Advice for Academic Librarians." College and Research Libraries News 71 (April 2010): 190-193.

Another Research Tip

Finding Examples of How to Apply Different Types of Research Methods

SAGE publications is a major publisher of studies about how to design and conduct research in the social and behavioral sciences. Their SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases database includes contents from books, articles, encyclopedias, handbooks, and videos covering social science research design and methods including the complete Little Green Book Series of Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences and the Little Blue Book Series of Qualitative Research techniques. The database also includes case studies outlining the research methods used in real research projects. This is an excellent source for finding definitions of key terms and descriptions of research design and practice, techniques of data gathering, analysis, and reporting, and information about theories of research [e.g., grounded theory]. The database covers both qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as mixed methods approaches to conducting research.

SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases

NOTE :  For a list of online communities, research centers, indispensable learning resources, and personal websites of leading qualitative researchers, GO HERE .

For a list of scholarly journals devoted to the study and application of qualitative research methods, GO HERE .

Mixed Methods in Social Inquiry

TL;DR:  This book discusses Mixing Methods at Different Stages of Social Inquiry: Mixed Methods and Mixed Model Designs, and the Nature of Philosophical Paradigms for Social Inquiry, and Mental Models, Too.

Abstract :  List of Tables, Figures, and Exhibits. Introduction. The Author. PART ONE. CHAPTER ONE: MENTAL MODELS AND MIXED METHODS INQUIRY. Group Discussion. Making Sense of These Conversations: The Concept of Mental Models. Mixed Methods Social Inquiry as Mixing Mental Models. An Invitation to Read This Book. Who Is Invited. CHAPTER TWO: ADOPTING A MIXED METHODS WAY OF THINKING. A Mixed Methods Way of Thinking. Looking Ahead. CHAPTER THREE: THE HISTORICAL ROOTS OF THE CONTEMPORARY MIXED METHODS CONVERSATION. The Philosophical Seeds of Discontent. The Seeds of Discontent in Practice. The Great Qualitative-Quantitative Debate. Rapprochement and the Emergence of the Idea of Mixing Methods. But Troubled Waters Remained. CHAPTER FOUR: CONTESTED SPACES: PARADIGMS AND PRACTICE IN MIXED METHODS SOCIAL INQUIRY. On the Nature of Philosophical Paradigms for Social Inquiry, and Mental Models, Too. Interlude. On the Relationships of Mental Models (and Paradigms) to Practice. A Reflective Stance. My Mixed Methods Story. CHAPTER FIVE: STANCES ON MIXING PARADIGMS AND MENTAL MODELS WHILE MIXING METHODS. Various Stances on Mixing Paradigms While Mixing Methods-An Overview. Reprise. INTERLUDE ONE: AN ILLUSTRATION OF A MIXED METHODS WAY OF THINKING. Study Purpose. Mixed Methods Research Design. Mixed Methods Analysis. Sample Results. PART TWO. CHAPTER SIX: MIXING METHODS ON PURPOSE. Mixing Methods for Better Understanding. Purposes for Mixing Methods. An Illustration of Mixed Methods Purposes in Practice. Practical Procedures for Thinking About and Identifying Mixed Methods Purposes. Mixed Methods Purposes and Stances on Mixing Paradigms While Mixing Methods. CHAPTER SEVEN: DESIGNING MIXED METHODS STUDIES. Mixing Methods at Different Stages of Social Inquiry: Mixed Methods and Mixed Model Designs. Mixing Methods Within a Single Study or Across Studies in a Program of Research. Dimensions of Difference in Mixed Methods Design. Component and Integrated Mixed Methods Designs. Other Formulations of Mixed Methods Design. Illustrations of Mixed Methods Designs in Practice. Connecting Mixed Methods Designs to Mixed Methods Paradigm Stances and Mixed Methods Purposes. INTERLUDE TWO: MIXED METHODS PURPOSES AND DESIGNS IN ACTION. Overall Mixed Methods Purposes and Design. Mixed Methods Contributions to the MTO Study. CHAPTER EIGHT: MIXED METHODS DATA ANALYSIS. Thinking About Mixed Methods Data Analysis. Mixed Methods Data Analysis Strategies. Mixed Methods Data Analysis Exemplars. Reprise. CHAPTER NINE: JUDGING THE QUALITY OF MIXED METHODS SOCIAL INQUIRY. Thinking About Inquiry Criteria in Mixed Methods Social Inquiry. Inference Quality in Mixed Methods Social Inquiry. Legitimation as Quality in Mixed Methods Social Inquiry. Warranting the Quality of Inferences in Mixed Methods Inquiry. An Illustration. CHAPTER TEN: WRITING UP AND REPORTING MIXED METHODS SOCIAL INQUIRY. Writing Up Mixed Methods Social Inquiry: Representation in Social Inquiry. Writing Up Mixed Methods Social Inquiry: Two Preliminary Principles. INTERLUDE THREE: MORE CREATIVITY IN MIXED METHODS DATA ANALYSIS AND DISPLAY. The Metaphor. The Example. An Application of the Archipelago Metaphor. PART THREE. CHAPTER ELEVEN: THE POTENTIAL AND PROMISE OF MIXED METHODS SOCIAL INQUIRY. References. Index. TABLES, FIGURES, & EXHIBITS. TABLES. 6.1. A " Roughly Hewn " List of Inquiry Purposes. 6.2. Connections Between Mixed Methods Paradigm Stances and Purposes. 7.1. Component Mixed Methods Design Examples. 7.2. Integrated Mixed Methods Design Examples. 7.3. Mixed Methods Design Features of the SHATIL Evaluation. 7.4. Mixed Methods Design Features of the RESA Evaluation. 7.5. Connecting Mixed Methods Designs to Mixed Methods Paradigm Stances and Mixed Methods Purposes. 8.1. Summary of Mixed Methods Data Analysis Strategies. 8.2. Classroom and Family Measures in the Ecological Systems Study. 8.3. Site-level Implementation of the REA Reading Principles, by Data Set. FIGURES. 10.1. Standard Representation of Survey Results. 10.2. Alternative Representation of Survey Results. EXHIBIT. 5.1. Mixing Methods and Mixing Paradigms or Mental Models? more

Citation Count

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Cites background or methods from "Mixed Methods in Social Inquiry"

... …and demands of the inquiry, instead of paradigms, should be the guiding principle in a research inquiry); and (3) substantive theory stance (i.e., traditional or emergent paradigms may be embedded in or intertwined with substantive theories) (Greene 2007, 2008; Teddlie and Tashakkori 2003). ...

... They employed a concurrent mixed methods approach in which trust (i.e., dependent variable) was measured using a quantitative approach and various aspects of behavioral control (i.e., independent variables) were assessed using a qualitative approach. ...

719  citations

Cites background from "Mixed Methods in Social Inquiry"

... In these ways, a mixed methods way of thinking actively engages us with difference and diversity in service of both better understanding and greater equity of voice (Greene, 2007). ...

... These represent what I have come to call a ‘‘mixed methods way of thinking’’ (Greene, 2007). ...

670  citations

... Review methods: Guided by a proposal, we conducted a qualitative thematic data analysis of the quality appraisal procedures used in the 17 systematic MSRs (SMSRs). ...

... …sciences as qualitative or quantitative has its roots in the different ‘world views’ of constructivism and logical empiricism, which are usually presented as competing paradigms (Creswell and Plano Clark, 2007; Greene, 2007; Johnson et al., 2007; Pluye et al., 2009b; Teddlie and Tashakkori, 2003). ...

657  citations

624  citations

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Cites methods from "Mixed Methods in Social Inquiry"

... I believe that the main value of mixed-method research, as Greene (2007) argued, is in creating a dialogue between different ways of seeing, interpreting, and knowing, not simply in combining different methods and types of data. ...

Related Papers (5)

Social Science & Medicine

ISSN: 0277-9536

Guidelines for Qualitative Papers

August 2010

There is no one qualitative method, but rather a number of research approaches which fall under the umbrella of ‘qualitative methods’. The various social science disciplines tend to have different conventions on best practice in qualitative research. However SS&M has prepared the following general guidance for the writing and assessment of papers which present qualitative data (either alone or in combination with quantitative methods). General principles of good practice for all research will also apply.

Fitness for purpose

Are the methods of the research appropriate to the nature of the question(s) being asked, i.e.

Methodology and methods

Principles of selection

Qualitative research is often based on or includes non-probability sampling. The unit(s) of research may include one or a combination of people, events, institutions, samples of natural behaviour, conversations, written and visual material, etc.

The research process

In most papers there should be consideration of

Research ethics

Any ethical concerns that arose during the research should be discussed.

The process of analysis should be made as transparent as possible (notwithstanding the conceptual and theoretical creativity that typically characterises qualitative research). For example

Presentation of findings

Consideration of context

The research should be clearly contextualised. For example

Presentation of data:

Amended February 2010


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