Qualitative research examines human behaviour and the reasons that govern such behaviour. It is employed in many different academic disciplines, such as social sciences, health sciences and market research. Qualitative research investigates the why and how of decision making, therefore small focused samples are more often used than large samples.
There are several different research designs used by qualitative researchers. These include ethnographic research, grounded theory, phenomenology and historical research. Ethnography is the study of a particular culture. Grounded theory is a type of research based on the observations from which it was developed. Phenomenology describes the subjective reality of an event from the perspective of the study population. Historical research helps answer questions from the past to better understand current issues and problems.
Qualitative research methods include interviews, case studies and focus groups. Interviews may be structured, semi-structured or unstructured. Focus groups involve a moderator facilitating a small group discussion between selected individuals on a specific topic. Researchers may also gather information through observation, field notes, reflexive journals and analysis of documents.