Qualitative research design is a research method used extensively by scientists and researchers studying human behavior and habits.
It is also very useful for product designers who want to make a product that will sell.
For example, a designer generating some ideas for a new product might want to study people’s habits and preferences, to make sure that the product is commercially viable. Quantitative research is then used to assess whether the completed design is popular or not.
Qualitative research is often regarded as a precursor to quantitative research, in that it is often used to generate possible leads and ideas which can be used to formulate a realistic and testable hypothesis. This hypothesis can then be comprehensively tested and mathematically analyzed, with standard quantitative research methods.
For these reasons, these qualitative methods are often closely allied with interviews, survey design techniques and individual case studies, as a way to reinforce and evaluate findings over a broader scale.
A study completed before the experiment was performed would reveal which of the multitude of brands were the most popular. The quantitative experiment could then be constructed around only these brands, saving a lot of time, money and resources.
Qualitative methods are probably the oldest of all scientific techniques, with Ancient Greek philosophers qualitatively observing the world around them and trying to come up with answers which explained what they saw.
The design of qualitative research is probably the most flexible of the various experimental techniques, encompassing a variety of accepted methods and structures.
From an individual case study to an extensive interview, this type of study still needs to be carefully constructed and designed, but there is no standardized structure.
Qualitative techniques are extremely useful when a subject is too complex be answered by a simple yes or no hypothesis. These types of designs are much easier to plan and carry out. They are also useful when budgetary decisions have to be taken into account.
The broader scope covered by these designs ensures that some useful data is always generated, whereas an unproved hypothesis in a quantitative experiment can mean that a lot of time has been wasted. Qualitative research methods are not as dependent upon sample sizes as quantitative methods; a case study, for example, can generate meaningful results with a small sample group.
Whilst not as time or resource consuming as quantitative experiments, qualitative methods still require a lot of careful thought and planning, to ensure that the results obtained are as accurate as possible.
Qualitative data cannot be mathematically analyzed in the same comprehensive way as quantitative results, so can only give a guide to general trends. It is a lot more open to personal opinion and judgment, and so can only ever give observations rather than results.
Any qualitative research design is usually unique and cannot be exactly recreated, meaning that they do lack the ability to be replicated.
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