Data collection in qualitative research helps to answer the “why, how, and what” of the phenomenon under investigation. This is unlike in quantitative research in which the data collection is used to address the “how many” or “how much” of the phenomenon under investigation. This means that in qualitative research the type of data collected includes the opinions, ideas, and experiences of the participants rather than their number. Data collection in qualitative research is done to seek an in-depth understanding of the phenomenon under investigation. The researcher always wants to know exactly how the research problem affects the participants. This is achieved through personal and detailed discussions with the participants with the help of focus group discussions or in-depth face-to-face interviews. Such data collection methods enable the researcher to empathize with the participants by learning about their experiences and culture and understanding why and how the research problem impacts them (Ulin, Robinson & Tolley, 2005).
Data collection in qualitative research uses interpretive and open-ended methods. In qualitative research, open-ended questions are the norm. These are used by the researcher to enable him to gain more understanding of the participants’ opinions and experiences. Researchers using qualitative methods are also fond of enquiring more from the participants about their responses. This helps the researcher to understand the response from the participants’ point of view and to interpret it according to the participants’ worldview rather than according to what the researcher thinks or believes (Ulin, Robinson & Tolley, 2005).
Data analysis in qualitative research does not use statistical tests. Instead, it entails the coding of the collected data. Coding of qualitative data entails the classification of the raw data into categories in an attempt to find existing relations among the categories. The analysis of qualitative data is also normally seen as strenuous by most researchers. This is because it is a continuous process that begins from the minute the data is collected and continues throughout the research. It is therefore not a distinct procedure that can be separated from the rest of the research process. This is different from the analysis of quantitative data which is normally carried out as a separate procedure. In addition, the analysis of qualitative data cannot be left in the hands of expert analysts who had no part in the data collection process. Researchers interested in qualitative research have to collect data and analyze it by themselves. This is because one of the main objectives of qualitative research is to provide the researchers with a deeper understanding of the participants of their study and how these subjects view the world and the problem under investigation. As a result, researchers have to make use of their personal experiences with the participants of the study (Gough & Scott, 2000).
Characteristics of Causal-Comparative, Experimental, and Action Research
In this research design, the researcher attempts to establish the cause or effect of one variable on another or more variables. Causal-comparative research is descriptive in nature in that it attempts to describe the relationship between two or more variables. Causal-comparative research attempts to make out cause-and-effect relationships. Another characteristic of causal-comparative research is that the independent variable cannot be manipulated because it has already taken place. Unlike experimental research, causal-comparative research lacks randomization, manipulation, and control of variables (Cottrell & McKenzie, 2005).
In experimental research, the researcher uses random sampling to select the participants of the study. Random sampling is again used to divide the participants into two or more groups including a control group. One or more treatments are randomly assigned to each of the groups. The study is then carried out by controlling as many threats to the internal and external validity as possible. Comparison is then made between the groups once the study is complete. Experimental research studies are therefore characterized by three main factors: randomization, control, and manipulation of the variables (Cottrell & McKenzie, 2005).
Action research is “the most demanding and far-reaching method of doing case study research” (Coghlan & Brannick, 2009, p. 39). It is characterized by various factors. Action research has two main goals, namely: to create a solution to a problem and to make contributions towards Science. Action research is interactive in that it necessitates cooperative relations between the researcher and the participants (who become co-researchers). One objective of action research is to develop a holistic understanding of the phenomenon under investigation.
The preferred method of data collection is the in-depth interview. The in-depth interview will be conducted with the use of a semi-structured questionnaire. The questionnaire will contain both closed-ended and open-ended questions to allow the researcher to gain more information necessary for the study from the informants. The interview will not be conducted in any organized manner. Instead, the researcher will ask questions in an order that he seems suitable to the informant depending on the direction the interview will take and on the responses given by the informants (Cottrell & McKenzie, 2005). The in-depth interview will also allow the researcher to clarify any vague responses given by the informants. It will also enable him to dig deeper and probe further when he feels that the responses given are short or incomplete and that the informant is holding back useful information. The informants also have the opportunity to provide additional information that they feel would be appropriate to the study (Cottrell & McKenzie, 2005). This is useful in any qualitative study because its main objective is to understand the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and opinions of the participants.
Qualitative research: An introduction. Purposes, methodology, criteria for judgment, and a rationale for mixed methodology by Wilson (1998)
Parts of the Research Process
The rationale for Conducting the Study
The researcher begins by explaining the reasons for conducting this particular study. In the rationale section, Wilson (1998) explains clearly what qualitative research is; the main purposes of conducting a qualitative study; and when conducting a qualitative study is more appropriate than quantitative studies.
The rationale section is closely integrated with the literature review section. The main purpose of the literature review is to assess what has already been saying and doing about the problem under investigation. Wilson (1998) has reviewed a number of prior studies which have enabled him to put his point across.
In this part, the researcher has addressed: data collection in qualitative research, issues that need to be addressed in qualitative studies (rigor, reliability, and fairness), comparison with quantitative research, and the rationale for using a mixed-method approach.
Strengths of the Study
Wilson (1998) draws heavily from previous studies. The study is not just based on his opinions but also on scientific facts. This enhances the objectivity of the study.
Weaknesses of the Study
The study lacks a conclusion, implications, and recommendations for the future researcher. Therefore the study seems to be incomplete and tends to leave the reader hanging with questions in his/her mind.
Even though the study was conducted in 1998, the sources used for the literature review are relatively old and may affect the validity of the facts presented in the study.
Coghlan, D., & Brannick, T. (2009). Doing action research in your own organization. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Cottrell, R., & McKenzie, J. (2005). Health promotion and education research methods: using the five-chapter thesis/dissertation model. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.
Gough, S. and Scott, W. (2000). Exploring the purposes of qualitative data coding in educational enquiry: insights from recent research. Educational Studies, 26, 339-354.
Ulin, P., Robinson, E., & Tolley, E. (2005). Quantitative methods in public health: a field guide for applied research. New York: John Wiley and Sons.
Wilson, V. (1998). Qualitative research: An introduction. Purposes, methodology, criteria for judgment, and a rationale for mixed methodology. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED423285). Muskingum College. Web.