To put it bluntly, qualitative research is research that yields data not based on numbers. Qualitative research values rich descriptions and inputs from both researcher and participant alike. It’s used to uncover a wide range of behaviors, thoughts, opinions, trends, etc. The research types tend to be unstructured (or partly so) so that participants can demonstrate their points freely.
But all qualitative research isn’t alike. A traditional ethnographic study in an airport may involve observing how people make purchases in a gift shop, or say goodbye to loved ones – all without actually speaking to anyone to do so – by just writing observations.
For the same purpose, one may conduct brief interviews with a selection of those same people who have the time to answer open-ended questions. Still, another may be selecting a few to return for a focus group later to talk with a moderator and several others. Often qualitative research is mixed with quantitative research, insofar as surveys may contain both closed numerically expressible questions as well as open-ended ones.
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