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Qualitative Research

A guide to help with qualitative research methods and finding qualitative data.

What is Qualitative Research?

Denzin and Lincoln provide a definition of qualitative research in Chapter 1 of the Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials--case study, personal experience, introspection, life story, interview, artifacts, and cultural texts and productions, along with observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts--that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals' lives.

The Sage Glossary of the Social and Behavioral Sciences details some important aspects of qualitative research: 

The purposes of qualitative research are to explore, discover, construct, and describe phenomena experienced by people in specific contexts. 

A strength of qualitative research is its ability to provide an in-depth understanding of humans and their circumstances. A potential weakness is the inability to generalize findings to other populations. 


Qualitative or Quantitative?

There are two main categories into which most methods of research will fall into--qualitative and qualitative. It's important to be able understand these two differing approaches.

Watch the video below and check out the Library's FAQ Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research to learn more.

Learning Resource for Research Methods

Books About Qualitative Research

Books on Qualitative Research Methods