Qualitative research methods

October 2023 | Mirjam Horz
last updated on 30. October 2023

What does qualitative research mean?

Qualitative research is a research method that aims to gain a deep understanding of human behavior, experiences, and social phenomena. Unlike quantitative research, which aims to collect and analyze numerical data, qualitative research focuses on the collection and analysis of non-numerical data such as text, images, and sound.


Where is qualitative research applied?

Qualitative research can be used in a variety of disciplines including sociology, psychology, anthropology, and health sciences.


What qualitative research methods are available?

Expert interviews

Expert interview is a method of qualitative research that enables researchers to gain deep insights into the knowledge, experiences and opinions of experts. Experts are characterized by their professional experience, expertise, or research findings. Expert interviews can be a valuable source of information for researchers as they allow to gather detailed information about complex topics.


Qualitative content analysis

Qualitative content analysis is a method of analyzing texts that aims to identify hidden meanings and patterns. This method is particularly useful in the study of complex or abstract topics. Qualitative content analysis can be both inductive and deductive. Inductive analysis means that the themes and categories are derived from the data itself, whereas in deductive analysis the themes and categories are defined in advance.


Utility analysis

Utility analysis is a method of evaluating decisions that aims to quantify the benefits of different options. This method is often used in business and healthcare. In utility analysis, various criteria are defined to be used to evaluate the options. These criteria are then weighted and the options are ranked according to their score with respect to each criterion.


Case study

A case study is an in-depth investigation of a single case or group of cases. Case studies can be used to investigate complex phenomena that cannot be well understood in other contexts. They can also be used to test and develop theories. A case study can include a variety of data sources, including interviews, observations, documents, and other sources.


Group discussion

A group discussion, or focus group interview, is a data collection method in which a group of people discuss a specific topic. Group discussions can help to understand people's perspectives and opinions and can also help to study the dynamics of group interactions. In group discussions, researchers can observe and analyze the interactions between participants.


How are qualitative research methods evaluated?

Qualitative research methods are usually evaluated through careful analysis of the data collected. Analysis is an iterative process that aims to identify patterns and themes in the data, answer the research questions, and generate new insights.

There are several approaches to analyzing qualitative data, but in general, analysis involves the following steps:


The collected data, such as interview recordings or notes, are transcribed to put them into text form. Automated transcription software such as GoSpeech is suitable for this purpose.


The text is systematically analyzed and coded to identify patterns and themes. There are different approaches to coding, for example inductive coding, where categories are derived from the data itself, or deductive coding, where pre-existing theories serve as a starting point.


The coded segments are grouped into categories that reflect similar concepts or ideas.


The results of the categorization are summarized and interpreted to find answers to the research questions and provide new insights.


The results are compared to the original data and other research findings to ensure their validity and reliability.


It is important to note that the evaluation of qualitative research methods can be subjective in nature and depends on the researcher's perspective and interpretation. To minimize this subjective bias, researchers can use different methods such as peer review or triangulation to check the results and increase validity.