Types Of Qualitative Research | 6 mins read

7 Types of Qualitative Research to Look Out For

7 types of qualitative research to look out for
Lauren Christiansen

By Lauren Christiansen

7 Types of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research is how businesses collect data as they observe consumers in their day-to-day lives. They use this research method to gain insight into behavior, address a particular business concern, and answer a research question. A qualitative researcher collects non-numerical information to understand human motivation on a more in-depth level.

There are many qualitative research methods available. Businesses pick the one that best addresses their particular needs and the needs of consumers. It's helpful to remember that all non-numerical research types are subjective and based on the human experience. In some cases, the researcher inserts himself into the study.

He/she writes down field notes, observes behavior, and makes inferences that are based on opinion. This is why it's so important for qualitative researchers to perform as much data collection as possible and schedule numerous interviews with different target markets. This ensures businesses use the most accurate, full-scope information to answer the research questions.

Here are the top 5 types of qualitative research-

  • Ethnography- In ethnographic research, the researcher implants himself into the day-to-day life of the participants. He/she acts as an observer or participates in the environment. It helps businesses understand how customers interact with products/services so they can innovate and create new products.
  • Phenomenology- A researcher studies a phenomenon or activity from different perspectives. He/she visits a location, observes the situation, and extracts insights from other participants. For example, journalists employ phenomenology to understand how people react to a natural disaster.
  • Narrative- A researcher performs data collection from 1-2 participants in an interview or survey. He/she uses these insights to answer a specific question and make recommendations. Companies can use narrative research to identify a consumer problem. They can then develop a new product or service that solves that problem.
  • Grounded Theory- Grounded theory begins when a researcher asks a question about the data collected. He/she performs collection analysis and then assigns codes to similar ideas. The researcher places elements with the same codes into categories to identify a new theory about each category. For example, businesses may use grounded theory to see how customers interact with the features of a new product/service.
  • Case Study- Researchers use case studies to collect information about a specific concern or organization-wide issue. Academia or those in social sciences often use case studies to understand behavior and develop different solutions to problems.
Regardless of the type of qualitative research, an organization employs several qualitative methods to carry out a study. These research methods include

  • Develop hypotheses to test a product in the future
  • Understand meaning behind previously collected quantitative data
  • Develop relevant questions and other parameters for a quantitative study
  • Investigate current brand positioning
  • Understand perceptions of a company or competitors

Qualitative Research Method 1 Interviews

Researchers conduct interviews in person, online, or on a phone call. They ask open-ended questions that relate to consumer behavior and purchasing patterns. The purpose is to see why customers purchase a certain product or if they may want to in the future. It helps to prepare questions, but it's also good to ask follow-ups when they naturally occur in conversation. Potential questions to ask consumers include

  • What don't you like about this product/service?
  • If there is one item you could buy, what would it be?
  • What makes you upset or stressed out during the day/night?
  • Do you usually buy a product from us?
  • Why do you like to buy this product?

Qualitative Research Method 2 Focus Groups

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Businesses typically host a focus group in-person to ensure participants are comfortable enough to answer questions honestly. An organization will use a focus group to see how consumers feel about a particular product/service.

A benefit to focus groups is that researchers can identify any body language or other non-verbal cues that may signal a belief. For example, a consumer who smiles and speaks loudly when he/she discusses a product may indicate attachment towards it. Other use cases of focus groups include

  • See how consumers use a product
  • Have consumers test out a product/service
  • See how effective a marketing strategy/imagery is
  • Ask consumer opinions on packaging

Qualitative Research Method 3 Observations

Retailers or other businesses use the observation method to see how consumers shop and react to products. It helps to see how consumers react vs. how they reply in a survey, as the latter may not paint the entire picture.

Researchers should make sure to identify any problems they see in the store such as inventory shortages or clutter. It helps to speak with the buyer to see what the thought process is when he/she sees a product for the first time.

  • Shadow customer for one day
  • Write down any tasks, pains, or gains. Put a time-stamp on each
  • Stay with family if possible to understand entire circumstances of purchase
  • Pre-select the enviornment that is best to observe purchase activities
  • Be a fly on the wall and try to interact as little as possible

Qualitative Research Method 4 In-Home Videos

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Businesses collect in-home videos to see how their customers use a product in a safe environment. Consumers are freer to act in a natural way when they are alone at home as opposed to unfamiliar territory. Data collection analysis is more accurate because researchers acquire more realistic information about how a customer uses a product.

Qualitative Research Method 5 Lifestyle Immersion

Researchers may attend a customer's family gathering or another part of his/her regular day-to-day life. Participant observation and researcher integration help to gain a realistic and undisturbed overview of a customer's motivations and beliefs.

Just like in-home videos, lifestyle immersion is an effective way to observe consumers in a comfortable situation. Any research used should encompass all conversations between friends and family members to understand needs and irritations.

Qualitative Research Method 6 Journal

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Businesses can ask users to keep a journal of any related interactions with a product or service. The customer writes down notes by hand or type them up online. Regardless, it gives the researcher access to the user's authentic voice. This type of qualitative data is very meaningful when it is time to generate a marketing campaign.

Qualitative Research Method 7 Online Focus Groups

While similar to regular in-person focus groups, businesses invest in online focus groups because they are less expensive. They also allow researchers to access more individuals at once to collect data and perform content analysis.

Social media is a fantastic tool for businesses to find consumers and study their behavior. Researchers should start a conversation with social media communities who are part of the target market. They can observe interactions, review post activity, and see which content performs well.

  • Check the lighting to capture high-quality video
  • Look at and speak to the webcam
  • Build a relationship from the beginning
  • Discuss what the conversation will entail
  • Use screen-share
  • Take turns and make sure people raise hands
  • Probe deeper and ask more questions
  • Always ask for additional feedback at the end of the session

Key Takeaways for Quality Research Types and Methods

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In conclusion, here are the 5 types of qualitative research along with various methods used

  • The 5 main types of qualitative research include ethnography, narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, and case studies.
  • Organizations conduct interviews with participants to understand their experiences with a product/service, or to gain insight into behavior. They use focus groups to see how consumers interact with a product and also to collect non-verbal body language data.
  • Businesses observe customers as they shop to see how they react to a product. They can also use in-home videos to see how users react to a product while in a comfortable environment.
  • Lifestyle immersion allows a researcher to participate in a customer's day-to-day life to understand motivations and beliefs. Researchers can also collect customer journals to see how they interact with a product. Online focus groups are less expensive than regular focus groups and provide access to more people through social media.

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