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Research Design | Step-by-Step Guide with Examples

Published on 5 May 2022 by Shona McCombes . Revised on 20 March 2023.

A research design is a strategy for answering your research question  using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about:

  • Your overall aims and approach
  • The type of research design you’ll use
  • Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects
  • Your data collection methods
  • The procedures you’ll follow to collect data
  • Your data analysis methods

A well-planned research design helps ensure that your methods match your research aims and that you use the right kind of analysis for your data.

Table of contents

Step 1: consider your aims and approach, step 2: choose a type of research design, step 3: identify your population and sampling method, step 4: choose your data collection methods, step 5: plan your data collection procedures, step 6: decide on your data analysis strategies, frequently asked questions.

  • Introduction

Before you can start designing your research, you should already have a clear idea of the research question you want to investigate.

There are many different ways you could go about answering this question. Your research design choices should be driven by your aims and priorities – start by thinking carefully about what you want to achieve.

The first choice you need to make is whether you’ll take a qualitative or quantitative approach.

Qualitative research designs tend to be more flexible and inductive , allowing you to adjust your approach based on what you find throughout the research process.

Quantitative research designs tend to be more fixed and deductive , with variables and hypotheses clearly defined in advance of data collection.

It’s also possible to use a mixed methods design that integrates aspects of both approaches. By combining qualitative and quantitative insights, you can gain a more complete picture of the problem you’re studying and strengthen the credibility of your conclusions.

Practical and ethical considerations when designing research

As well as scientific considerations, you need to think practically when designing your research. If your research involves people or animals, you also need to consider research ethics .

  • How much time do you have to collect data and write up the research?
  • Will you be able to gain access to the data you need (e.g., by travelling to a specific location or contacting specific people)?
  • Do you have the necessary research skills (e.g., statistical analysis or interview techniques)?
  • Will you need ethical approval ?

At each stage of the research design process, make sure that your choices are practically feasible.

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Within both qualitative and quantitative approaches, there are several types of research design to choose from. Each type provides a framework for the overall shape of your research.

Types of quantitative research designs

Quantitative designs can be split into four main types. Experimental and   quasi-experimental designs allow you to test cause-and-effect relationships, while descriptive and correlational designs allow you to measure variables and describe relationships between them.

With descriptive and correlational designs, you can get a clear picture of characteristics, trends, and relationships as they exist in the real world. However, you can’t draw conclusions about cause and effect (because correlation doesn’t imply causation ).

Experiments are the strongest way to test cause-and-effect relationships without the risk of other variables influencing the results. However, their controlled conditions may not always reflect how things work in the real world. They’re often also more difficult and expensive to implement.

Types of qualitative research designs

Qualitative designs are less strictly defined. This approach is about gaining a rich, detailed understanding of a specific context or phenomenon, and you can often be more creative and flexible in designing your research.

The table below shows some common types of qualitative design. They often have similar approaches in terms of data collection, but focus on different aspects when analysing the data.

Your research design should clearly define who or what your research will focus on, and how you’ll go about choosing your participants or subjects.

In research, a population is the entire group that you want to draw conclusions about, while a sample is the smaller group of individuals you’ll actually collect data from.

Defining the population

A population can be made up of anything you want to study – plants, animals, organisations, texts, countries, etc. In the social sciences, it most often refers to a group of people.

For example, will you focus on people from a specific demographic, region, or background? Are you interested in people with a certain job or medical condition, or users of a particular product?

The more precisely you define your population, the easier it will be to gather a representative sample.

Sampling methods

Even with a narrowly defined population, it’s rarely possible to collect data from every individual. Instead, you’ll collect data from a sample.

To select a sample, there are two main approaches: probability sampling and non-probability sampling . The sampling method you use affects how confidently you can generalise your results to the population as a whole.

Probability sampling is the most statistically valid option, but it’s often difficult to achieve unless you’re dealing with a very small and accessible population.

For practical reasons, many studies use non-probability sampling, but it’s important to be aware of the limitations and carefully consider potential biases. You should always make an effort to gather a sample that’s as representative as possible of the population.

Case selection in qualitative research

In some types of qualitative designs, sampling may not be relevant.

For example, in an ethnography or a case study, your aim is to deeply understand a specific context, not to generalise to a population. Instead of sampling, you may simply aim to collect as much data as possible about the context you are studying.

In these types of design, you still have to carefully consider your choice of case or community. You should have a clear rationale for why this particular case is suitable for answering your research question.

For example, you might choose a case study that reveals an unusual or neglected aspect of your research problem, or you might choose several very similar or very different cases in order to compare them.

Data collection methods are ways of directly measuring variables and gathering information. They allow you to gain first-hand knowledge and original insights into your research problem.

You can choose just one data collection method, or use several methods in the same study.

Survey methods

Surveys allow you to collect data about opinions, behaviours, experiences, and characteristics by asking people directly. There are two main survey methods to choose from: questionnaires and interviews.

Observation methods

Observations allow you to collect data unobtrusively, observing characteristics, behaviours, or social interactions without relying on self-reporting.

Observations may be conducted in real time, taking notes as you observe, or you might make audiovisual recordings for later analysis. They can be qualitative or quantitative.

Other methods of data collection

There are many other ways you might collect data depending on your field and topic.

If you’re not sure which methods will work best for your research design, try reading some papers in your field to see what data collection methods they used.

Secondary data

If you don’t have the time or resources to collect data from the population you’re interested in, you can also choose to use secondary data that other researchers already collected – for example, datasets from government surveys or previous studies on your topic.

With this raw data, you can do your own analysis to answer new research questions that weren’t addressed by the original study.

Using secondary data can expand the scope of your research, as you may be able to access much larger and more varied samples than you could collect yourself.

However, it also means you don’t have any control over which variables to measure or how to measure them, so the conclusions you can draw may be limited.

As well as deciding on your methods, you need to plan exactly how you’ll use these methods to collect data that’s consistent, accurate, and unbiased.

Planning systematic procedures is especially important in quantitative research, where you need to precisely define your variables and ensure your measurements are reliable and valid.


Some variables, like height or age, are easily measured. But often you’ll be dealing with more abstract concepts, like satisfaction, anxiety, or competence. Operationalisation means turning these fuzzy ideas into measurable indicators.

If you’re using observations , which events or actions will you count?

If you’re using surveys , which questions will you ask and what range of responses will be offered?

You may also choose to use or adapt existing materials designed to measure the concept you’re interested in – for example, questionnaires or inventories whose reliability and validity has already been established.

Reliability and validity

Reliability means your results can be consistently reproduced , while validity means that you’re actually measuring the concept you’re interested in.

For valid and reliable results, your measurement materials should be thoroughly researched and carefully designed. Plan your procedures to make sure you carry out the same steps in the same way for each participant.

If you’re developing a new questionnaire or other instrument to measure a specific concept, running a pilot study allows you to check its validity and reliability in advance.

Sampling procedures

As well as choosing an appropriate sampling method, you need a concrete plan for how you’ll actually contact and recruit your selected sample.

That means making decisions about things like:

  • How many participants do you need for an adequate sample size?
  • What inclusion and exclusion criteria will you use to identify eligible participants?
  • How will you contact your sample – by mail, online, by phone, or in person?

If you’re using a probability sampling method, it’s important that everyone who is randomly selected actually participates in the study. How will you ensure a high response rate?

If you’re using a non-probability method, how will you avoid bias and ensure a representative sample?

Data management

It’s also important to create a data management plan for organising and storing your data.

Will you need to transcribe interviews or perform data entry for observations? You should anonymise and safeguard any sensitive data, and make sure it’s backed up regularly.

Keeping your data well organised will save time when it comes to analysing them. It can also help other researchers validate and add to your findings.

On their own, raw data can’t answer your research question. The last step of designing your research is planning how you’ll analyse the data.

Quantitative data analysis

In quantitative research, you’ll most likely use some form of statistical analysis . With statistics, you can summarise your sample data, make estimates, and test hypotheses.

Using descriptive statistics , you can summarise your sample data in terms of:

  • The distribution of the data (e.g., the frequency of each score on a test)
  • The central tendency of the data (e.g., the mean to describe the average score)
  • The variability of the data (e.g., the standard deviation to describe how spread out the scores are)

The specific calculations you can do depend on the level of measurement of your variables.

Using inferential statistics , you can:

  • Make estimates about the population based on your sample data.
  • Test hypotheses about a relationship between variables.

Regression and correlation tests look for associations between two or more variables, while comparison tests (such as t tests and ANOVAs ) look for differences in the outcomes of different groups.

Your choice of statistical test depends on various aspects of your research design, including the types of variables you’re dealing with and the distribution of your data.

Qualitative data analysis

In qualitative research, your data will usually be very dense with information and ideas. Instead of summing it up in numbers, you’ll need to comb through the data in detail, interpret its meanings, identify patterns, and extract the parts that are most relevant to your research question.

Two of the most common approaches to doing this are thematic analysis and discourse analysis .

There are many other ways of analysing qualitative data depending on the aims of your research. To get a sense of potential approaches, try reading some qualitative research papers in your field.

A sample is a subset of individuals from a larger population. Sampling means selecting the group that you will actually collect data from in your research.

For example, if you are researching the opinions of students in your university, you could survey a sample of 100 students.

Statistical sampling allows you to test a hypothesis about the characteristics of a population. There are various sampling methods you can use to ensure that your sample is representative of the population as a whole.

Operationalisation means turning abstract conceptual ideas into measurable observations.

For example, the concept of social anxiety isn’t directly observable, but it can be operationally defined in terms of self-rating scores, behavioural avoidance of crowded places, or physical anxiety symptoms in social situations.

Before collecting data , it’s important to consider how you will operationalise the variables that you want to measure.

The research methods you use depend on the type of data you need to answer your research question .

  • If you want to measure something or test a hypothesis , use quantitative methods . If you want to explore ideas, thoughts, and meanings, use qualitative methods .
  • If you want to analyse a large amount of readily available data, use secondary data. If you want data specific to your purposes with control over how they are generated, collect primary data.
  • If you want to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables , use experimental methods. If you want to understand the characteristics of a research subject, use descriptive methods.

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Shona McCombes

Shona McCombes

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Chapter 2. Research Design

Getting started.

When I teach undergraduates qualitative research methods, the final product of the course is a “research proposal” that incorporates all they have learned and enlists the knowledge they have learned about qualitative research methods in an original design that addresses a particular research question. I highly recommend you think about designing your own research study as you progress through this textbook. Even if you don’t have a study in mind yet, it can be a helpful exercise as you progress through the course. But how to start? How can one design a research study before they even know what research looks like? This chapter will serve as a brief overview of the research design process to orient you to what will be coming in later chapters. Think of it as a “skeleton” of what you will read in more detail in later chapters. Ideally, you will read this chapter both now (in sequence) and later during your reading of the remainder of the text. Do not worry if you have questions the first time you read this chapter. Many things will become clearer as the text advances and as you gain a deeper understanding of all the components of good qualitative research. This is just a preliminary map to get you on the right road.


Research Design Steps

Before you even get started, you will need to have a broad topic of interest in mind. [1] . In my experience, students can confuse this broad topic with the actual research question, so it is important to clearly distinguish the two. And the place to start is the broad topic. It might be, as was the case with me, working-class college students. But what about working-class college students? What’s it like to be one? Why are there so few compared to others? How do colleges assist (or fail to assist) them? What interested me was something I could barely articulate at first and went something like this: “Why was it so difficult and lonely to be me?” And by extension, “Did others share this experience?”

Once you have a general topic, reflect on why this is important to you. Sometimes we connect with a topic and we don’t really know why. Even if you are not willing to share the real underlying reason you are interested in a topic, it is important that you know the deeper reasons that motivate you. Otherwise, it is quite possible that at some point during the research, you will find yourself turned around facing the wrong direction. I have seen it happen many times. The reason is that the research question is not the same thing as the general topic of interest, and if you don’t know the reasons for your interest, you are likely to design a study answering a research question that is beside the point—to you, at least. And this means you will be much less motivated to carry your research to completion.

Researcher Note

Why do you employ qualitative research methods in your area of study? What are the advantages of qualitative research methods for studying mentorship?

Qualitative research methods are a huge opportunity to increase access, equity, inclusion, and social justice. Qualitative research allows us to engage and examine the uniquenesses/nuances within minoritized and dominant identities and our experiences with these identities. Qualitative research allows us to explore a specific topic, and through that exploration, we can link history to experiences and look for patterns or offer up a unique phenomenon. There’s such beauty in being able to tell a particular story, and qualitative research is a great mode for that! For our work, we examined the relationships we typically use the term mentorship for but didn’t feel that was quite the right word. Qualitative research allowed us to pick apart what we did and how we engaged in our relationships, which then allowed us to more accurately describe what was unique about our mentorship relationships, which we ultimately named liberationships ( McAloney and Long 2021) . Qualitative research gave us the means to explore, process, and name our experiences; what a powerful tool!

How do you come up with ideas for what to study (and how to study it)? Where did you get the idea for studying mentorship?

Coming up with ideas for research, for me, is kind of like Googling a question I have, not finding enough information, and then deciding to dig a little deeper to get the answer. The idea to study mentorship actually came up in conversation with my mentorship triad. We were talking in one of our meetings about our relationship—kind of meta, huh? We discussed how we felt that mentorship was not quite the right term for the relationships we had built. One of us asked what was different about our relationships and mentorship. This all happened when I was taking an ethnography course. During the next session of class, we were discussing auto- and duoethnography, and it hit me—let’s explore our version of mentorship, which we later went on to name liberationships ( McAloney and Long 2021 ). The idea and questions came out of being curious and wanting to find an answer. As I continue to research, I see opportunities in questions I have about my work or during conversations that, in our search for answers, end up exposing gaps in the literature. If I can’t find the answer already out there, I can study it.

—Kim McAloney, PhD, College Student Services Administration Ecampus coordinator and instructor

When you have a better idea of why you are interested in what it is that interests you, you may be surprised to learn that the obvious approaches to the topic are not the only ones. For example, let’s say you think you are interested in preserving coastal wildlife. And as a social scientist, you are interested in policies and practices that affect the long-term viability of coastal wildlife, especially around fishing communities. It would be natural then to consider designing a research study around fishing communities and how they manage their ecosystems. But when you really think about it, you realize that what interests you the most is how people whose livelihoods depend on a particular resource act in ways that deplete that resource. Or, even deeper, you contemplate the puzzle, “How do people justify actions that damage their surroundings?” Now, there are many ways to design a study that gets at that broader question, and not all of them are about fishing communities, although that is certainly one way to go. Maybe you could design an interview-based study that includes and compares loggers, fishers, and desert golfers (those who golf in arid lands that require a great deal of wasteful irrigation). Or design a case study around one particular example where resources were completely used up by a community. Without knowing what it is you are really interested in, what motivates your interest in a surface phenomenon, you are unlikely to come up with the appropriate research design.

These first stages of research design are often the most difficult, but have patience . Taking the time to consider why you are going to go through a lot of trouble to get answers will prevent a lot of wasted energy in the future.

There are distinct reasons for pursuing particular research questions, and it is helpful to distinguish between them.  First, you may be personally motivated.  This is probably the most important and the most often overlooked.   What is it about the social world that sparks your curiosity? What bothers you? What answers do you need in order to keep living? For me, I knew I needed to get a handle on what higher education was for before I kept going at it. I needed to understand why I felt so different from my peers and whether this whole “higher education” thing was “for the likes of me” before I could complete my degree. That is the personal motivation question. Your personal motivation might also be political in nature, in that you want to change the world in a particular way. It’s all right to acknowledge this. In fact, it is better to acknowledge it than to hide it.

There are also academic and professional motivations for a particular study.  If you are an absolute beginner, these may be difficult to find. We’ll talk more about this when we discuss reviewing the literature. Simply put, you are probably not the only person in the world to have thought about this question or issue and those related to it. So how does your interest area fit into what others have studied? Perhaps there is a good study out there of fishing communities, but no one has quite asked the “justification” question. You are motivated to address this to “fill the gap” in our collective knowledge. And maybe you are really not at all sure of what interests you, but you do know that [insert your topic] interests a lot of people, so you would like to work in this area too. You want to be involved in the academic conversation. That is a professional motivation and a very important one to articulate.

Practical and strategic motivations are a third kind. Perhaps you want to encourage people to take better care of the natural resources around them. If this is also part of your motivation, you will want to design your research project in a way that might have an impact on how people behave in the future. There are many ways to do this, one of which is using qualitative research methods rather than quantitative research methods, as the findings of qualitative research are often easier to communicate to a broader audience than the results of quantitative research. You might even be able to engage the community you are studying in the collecting and analyzing of data, something taboo in quantitative research but actively embraced and encouraged by qualitative researchers. But there are other practical reasons, such as getting “done” with your research in a certain amount of time or having access (or no access) to certain information. There is nothing wrong with considering constraints and opportunities when designing your study. Or maybe one of the practical or strategic goals is about learning competence in this area so that you can demonstrate the ability to conduct interviews and focus groups with future employers. Keeping that in mind will help shape your study and prevent you from getting sidetracked using a technique that you are less invested in learning about.

STOP HERE for a moment

I recommend you write a paragraph (at least) explaining your aims and goals. Include a sentence about each of the following: personal/political goals, practical or professional/academic goals, and practical/strategic goals. Think through how all of the goals are related and can be achieved by this particular research study . If they can’t, have a rethink. Perhaps this is not the best way to go about it.

You will also want to be clear about the purpose of your study. “Wait, didn’t we just do this?” you might ask. No! Your goals are not the same as the purpose of the study, although they are related. You can think about purpose lying on a continuum from “ theory ” to “action” (figure 2.1). Sometimes you are doing research to discover new knowledge about the world, while other times you are doing a study because you want to measure an impact or make a difference in the world.

Purpose types: Basic Research, Applied Research, Summative Evaluation, Formative Evaluation, Action Research

Basic research involves research that is done for the sake of “pure” knowledge—that is, knowledge that, at least at this moment in time, may not have any apparent use or application. Often, and this is very important, knowledge of this kind is later found to be extremely helpful in solving problems. So one way of thinking about basic research is that it is knowledge for which no use is yet known but will probably one day prove to be extremely useful. If you are doing basic research, you do not need to argue its usefulness, as the whole point is that we just don’t know yet what this might be.

Researchers engaged in basic research want to understand how the world operates. They are interested in investigating a phenomenon to get at the nature of reality with regard to that phenomenon. The basic researcher’s purpose is to understand and explain ( Patton 2002:215 ).

Basic research is interested in generating and testing hypotheses about how the world works. Grounded Theory is one approach to qualitative research methods that exemplifies basic research (see chapter 4). Most academic journal articles publish basic research findings. If you are working in academia (e.g., writing your dissertation), the default expectation is that you are conducting basic research.

Applied research in the social sciences is research that addresses human and social problems. Unlike basic research, the researcher has expectations that the research will help contribute to resolving a problem, if only by identifying its contours, history, or context. From my experience, most students have this as their baseline assumption about research. Why do a study if not to make things better? But this is a common mistake. Students and their committee members are often working with default assumptions here—the former thinking about applied research as their purpose, the latter thinking about basic research: “The purpose of applied research is to contribute knowledge that will help people to understand the nature of a problem in order to intervene, thereby allowing human beings to more effectively control their environment. While in basic research the source of questions is the tradition within a scholarly discipline, in applied research the source of questions is in the problems and concerns experienced by people and by policymakers” ( Patton 2002:217 ).

Applied research is less geared toward theory in two ways. First, its questions do not derive from previous literature. For this reason, applied research studies have much more limited literature reviews than those found in basic research (although they make up for this by having much more “background” about the problem). Second, it does not generate theory in the same way as basic research does. The findings of an applied research project may not be generalizable beyond the boundaries of this particular problem or context. The findings are more limited. They are useful now but may be less useful later. This is why basic research remains the default “gold standard” of academic research.

Evaluation research is research that is designed to evaluate or test the effectiveness of specific solutions and programs addressing specific social problems. We already know the problems, and someone has already come up with solutions. There might be a program, say, for first-generation college students on your campus. Does this program work? Are first-generation students who participate in the program more likely to graduate than those who do not? These are the types of questions addressed by evaluation research. There are two types of research within this broader frame; however, one more action-oriented than the next. In summative evaluation , an overall judgment about the effectiveness of a program or policy is made. Should we continue our first-gen program? Is it a good model for other campuses? Because the purpose of such summative evaluation is to measure success and to determine whether this success is scalable (capable of being generalized beyond the specific case), quantitative data is more often used than qualitative data. In our example, we might have “outcomes” data for thousands of students, and we might run various tests to determine if the better outcomes of those in the program are statistically significant so that we can generalize the findings and recommend similar programs elsewhere. Qualitative data in the form of focus groups or interviews can then be used for illustrative purposes, providing more depth to the quantitative analyses. In contrast, formative evaluation attempts to improve a program or policy (to help “form” or shape its effectiveness). Formative evaluations rely more heavily on qualitative data—case studies, interviews, focus groups. The findings are meant not to generalize beyond the particular but to improve this program. If you are a student seeking to improve your qualitative research skills and you do not care about generating basic research, formative evaluation studies might be an attractive option for you to pursue, as there are always local programs that need evaluation and suggestions for improvement. Again, be very clear about your purpose when talking through your research proposal with your committee.

Action research takes a further step beyond evaluation, even formative evaluation, to being part of the solution itself. This is about as far from basic research as one could get and definitely falls beyond the scope of “science,” as conventionally defined. The distinction between action and research is blurry, the research methods are often in constant flux, and the only “findings” are specific to the problem or case at hand and often are findings about the process of intervention itself. Rather than evaluate a program as a whole, action research often seeks to change and improve some particular aspect that may not be working—maybe there is not enough diversity in an organization or maybe women’s voices are muted during meetings and the organization wonders why and would like to change this. In a further step, participatory action research , those women would become part of the research team, attempting to amplify their voices in the organization through participation in the action research. As action research employs methods that involve people in the process, focus groups are quite common.

If you are working on a thesis or dissertation, chances are your committee will expect you to be contributing to fundamental knowledge and theory ( basic research ). If your interests lie more toward the action end of the continuum, however, it is helpful to talk to your committee about this before you get started. Knowing your purpose in advance will help avoid misunderstandings during the later stages of the research process!

The Research Question

Once you have written your paragraph and clarified your purpose and truly know that this study is the best study for you to be doing right now , you are ready to write and refine your actual research question. Know that research questions are often moving targets in qualitative research, that they can be refined up to the very end of data collection and analysis. But you do have to have a working research question at all stages. This is your “anchor” when you get lost in the data. What are you addressing? What are you looking at and why? Your research question guides you through the thicket. It is common to have a whole host of questions about a phenomenon or case, both at the outset and throughout the study, but you should be able to pare it down to no more than two or three sentences when asked. These sentences should both clarify the intent of the research and explain why this is an important question to answer. More on refining your research question can be found in chapter 4.

Chances are, you will have already done some prior reading before coming up with your interest and your questions, but you may not have conducted a systematic literature review. This is the next crucial stage to be completed before venturing further. You don’t want to start collecting data and then realize that someone has already beaten you to the punch. A review of the literature that is already out there will let you know (1) if others have already done the study you are envisioning; (2) if others have done similar studies, which can help you out; and (3) what ideas or concepts are out there that can help you frame your study and make sense of your findings. More on literature reviews can be found in chapter 9.

In addition to reviewing the literature for similar studies to what you are proposing, it can be extremely helpful to find a study that inspires you. This may have absolutely nothing to do with the topic you are interested in but is written so beautifully or organized so interestingly or otherwise speaks to you in such a way that you want to post it somewhere to remind you of what you want to be doing. You might not understand this in the early stages—why would you find a study that has nothing to do with the one you are doing helpful? But trust me, when you are deep into analysis and writing, having an inspirational model in view can help you push through. If you are motivated to do something that might change the world, you probably have read something somewhere that inspired you. Go back to that original inspiration and read it carefully and see how they managed to convey the passion that you so appreciate.

At this stage, you are still just getting started. There are a lot of things to do before setting forth to collect data! You’ll want to consider and choose a research tradition and a set of data-collection techniques that both help you answer your research question and match all your aims and goals. For example, if you really want to help migrant workers speak for themselves, you might draw on feminist theory and participatory action research models. Chapters 3 and 4 will provide you with more information on epistemologies and approaches.

Next, you have to clarify your “units of analysis.” What is the level at which you are focusing your study? Often, the unit in qualitative research methods is individual people, or “human subjects.” But your units of analysis could just as well be organizations (colleges, hospitals) or programs or even whole nations. Think about what it is you want to be saying at the end of your study—are the insights you are hoping to make about people or about organizations or about something else entirely? A unit of analysis can even be a historical period! Every unit of analysis will call for a different kind of data collection and analysis and will produce different kinds of “findings” at the conclusion of your study. [2]

Regardless of what unit of analysis you select, you will probably have to consider the “human subjects” involved in your research. [3] Who are they? What interactions will you have with them—that is, what kind of data will you be collecting? Before answering these questions, define your population of interest and your research setting. Use your research question to help guide you.

Let’s use an example from a real study. In Geographies of Campus Inequality , Benson and Lee ( 2020 ) list three related research questions: “(1) What are the different ways that first-generation students organize their social, extracurricular, and academic activities at selective and highly selective colleges? (2) how do first-generation students sort themselves and get sorted into these different types of campus lives; and (3) how do these different patterns of campus engagement prepare first-generation students for their post-college lives?” (3).

Note that we are jumping into this a bit late, after Benson and Lee have described previous studies (the literature review) and what is known about first-generation college students and what is not known. They want to know about differences within this group, and they are interested in ones attending certain kinds of colleges because those colleges will be sites where academic and extracurricular pressures compete. That is the context for their three related research questions. What is the population of interest here? First-generation college students . What is the research setting? Selective and highly selective colleges . But a host of questions remain. Which students in the real world, which colleges? What about gender, race, and other identity markers? Will the students be asked questions? Are the students still in college, or will they be asked about what college was like for them? Will they be observed? Will they be shadowed? Will they be surveyed? Will they be asked to keep diaries of their time in college? How many students? How many colleges? For how long will they be observed?


Take a moment and write down suggestions for Benson and Lee before continuing on to what they actually did.

Have you written down your own suggestions? Good. Now let’s compare those with what they actually did. Benson and Lee drew on two sources of data: in-depth interviews with sixty-four first-generation students and survey data from a preexisting national survey of students at twenty-eight selective colleges. Let’s ignore the survey for our purposes here and focus on those interviews. The interviews were conducted between 2014 and 2016 at a single selective college, “Hilltop” (a pseudonym ). They employed a “purposive” sampling strategy to ensure an equal number of male-identifying and female-identifying students as well as equal numbers of White, Black, and Latinx students. Each student was interviewed once. Hilltop is a selective liberal arts college in the northeast that enrolls about three thousand students.

How did your suggestions match up to those actually used by the researchers in this study? It is possible your suggestions were too ambitious? Beginning qualitative researchers can often make that mistake. You want a research design that is both effective (it matches your question and goals) and doable. You will never be able to collect data from your entire population of interest (unless your research question is really so narrow to be relevant to very few people!), so you will need to come up with a good sample. Define the criteria for this sample, as Benson and Lee did when deciding to interview an equal number of students by gender and race categories. Define the criteria for your sample setting too. Hilltop is typical for selective colleges. That was a research choice made by Benson and Lee. For more on sampling and sampling choices, see chapter 5.

Benson and Lee chose to employ interviews. If you also would like to include interviews, you have to think about what will be asked in them. Most interview-based research involves an interview guide, a set of questions or question areas that will be asked of each participant. The research question helps you create a relevant interview guide. You want to ask questions whose answers will provide insight into your research question. Again, your research question is the anchor you will continually come back to as you plan for and conduct your study. It may be that once you begin interviewing, you find that people are telling you something totally unexpected, and this makes you rethink your research question. That is fine. Then you have a new anchor. But you always have an anchor. More on interviewing can be found in chapter 11.

Let’s imagine Benson and Lee also observed college students as they went about doing the things college students do, both in the classroom and in the clubs and social activities in which they participate. They would have needed a plan for this. Would they sit in on classes? Which ones and how many? Would they attend club meetings and sports events? Which ones and how many? Would they participate themselves? How would they record their observations? More on observation techniques can be found in both chapters 13 and 14.

At this point, the design is almost complete. You know why you are doing this study, you have a clear research question to guide you, you have identified your population of interest and research setting, and you have a reasonable sample of each. You also have put together a plan for data collection, which might include drafting an interview guide or making plans for observations. And so you know exactly what you will be doing for the next several months (or years!). To put the project into action, there are a few more things necessary before actually going into the field.

First, you will need to make sure you have any necessary supplies, including recording technology. These days, many researchers use their phones to record interviews. Second, you will need to draft a few documents for your participants. These include informed consent forms and recruiting materials, such as posters or email texts, that explain what this study is in clear language. Third, you will draft a research protocol to submit to your institutional review board (IRB) ; this research protocol will include the interview guide (if you are using one), the consent form template, and all examples of recruiting material. Depending on your institution and the details of your study design, it may take weeks or even, in some unfortunate cases, months before you secure IRB approval. Make sure you plan on this time in your project timeline. While you wait, you can continue to review the literature and possibly begin drafting a section on the literature review for your eventual presentation/publication. More on IRB procedures can be found in chapter 8 and more general ethical considerations in chapter 7.

Once you have approval, you can begin!

Research Design Checklist

Before data collection begins, do the following:

  • Write a paragraph explaining your aims and goals (personal/political, practical/strategic, professional/academic).
  • Define your research question; write two to three sentences that clarify the intent of the research and why this is an important question to answer.
  • Review the literature for similar studies that address your research question or similar research questions; think laterally about some literature that might be helpful or illuminating but is not exactly about the same topic.
  • Find a written study that inspires you—it may or may not be on the research question you have chosen.
  • Consider and choose a research tradition and set of data-collection techniques that (1) help answer your research question and (2) match your aims and goals.
  • Define your population of interest and your research setting.
  • Define the criteria for your sample (How many? Why these? How will you find them, gain access, and acquire consent?).
  • If you are conducting interviews, draft an interview guide.
  •  If you are making observations, create a plan for observations (sites, times, recording, access).
  • Acquire any necessary technology (recording devices/software).
  • Draft consent forms that clearly identify the research focus and selection process.
  • Create recruiting materials (posters, email, texts).
  • Apply for IRB approval (proposal plus consent form plus recruiting materials).
  • Block out time for collecting data.
  • At the end of the chapter, you will find a " Research Design Checklist " that summarizes the main recommendations made here ↵
  • For example, if your focus is society and culture , you might collect data through observation or a case study. If your focus is individual lived experience , you are probably going to be interviewing some people. And if your focus is language and communication , you will probably be analyzing text (written or visual). ( Marshall and Rossman 2016:16 ). ↵
  • You may not have any "live" human subjects. There are qualitative research methods that do not require interactions with live human beings - see chapter 16 , "Archival and Historical Sources." But for the most part, you are probably reading this textbook because you are interested in doing research with people. The rest of the chapter will assume this is the case. ↵

One of the primary methodological traditions of inquiry in qualitative research, ethnography is the study of a group or group culture, largely through observational fieldwork supplemented by interviews. It is a form of fieldwork that may include participant-observation data collection. See chapter 14 for a discussion of deep ethnography. 

A methodological tradition of inquiry and research design that focuses on an individual case (e.g., setting, institution, or sometimes an individual) in order to explore its complexity, history, and interactive parts.  As an approach, it is particularly useful for obtaining a deep appreciation of an issue, event, or phenomenon of interest in its particular context.

The controlling force in research; can be understood as lying on a continuum from basic research (knowledge production) to action research (effecting change).

In its most basic sense, a theory is a story we tell about how the world works that can be tested with empirical evidence.  In qualitative research, we use the term in a variety of ways, many of which are different from how they are used by quantitative researchers.  Although some qualitative research can be described as “testing theory,” it is more common to “build theory” from the data using inductive reasoning , as done in Grounded Theory .  There are so-called “grand theories” that seek to integrate a whole series of findings and stories into an overarching paradigm about how the world works, and much smaller theories or concepts about particular processes and relationships.  Theory can even be used to explain particular methodological perspectives or approaches, as in Institutional Ethnography , which is both a way of doing research and a theory about how the world works.

Research that is interested in generating and testing hypotheses about how the world works.

A methodological tradition of inquiry and approach to analyzing qualitative data in which theories emerge from a rigorous and systematic process of induction.  This approach was pioneered by the sociologists Glaser and Strauss (1967).  The elements of theory generated from comparative analysis of data are, first, conceptual categories and their properties and, second, hypotheses or generalized relations among the categories and their properties – “The constant comparing of many groups draws the [researcher’s] attention to their many similarities and differences.  Considering these leads [the researcher] to generate abstract categories and their properties, which, since they emerge from the data, will clearly be important to a theory explaining the kind of behavior under observation.” (36).

An approach to research that is “multimethod in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter.  This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.  Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives." ( Denzin and Lincoln 2005:2 ). Contrast with quantitative research .

Research that contributes knowledge that will help people to understand the nature of a problem in order to intervene, thereby allowing human beings to more effectively control their environment.

Research that is designed to evaluate or test the effectiveness of specific solutions and programs addressing specific social problems.  There are two kinds: summative and formative .

Research in which an overall judgment about the effectiveness of a program or policy is made, often for the purpose of generalizing to other cases or programs.  Generally uses qualitative research as a supplement to primary quantitative data analyses.  Contrast formative evaluation research .

Research designed to improve a program or policy (to help “form” or shape its effectiveness); relies heavily on qualitative research methods.  Contrast summative evaluation research

Research carried out at a particular organizational or community site with the intention of affecting change; often involves research subjects as participants of the study.  See also participatory action research .

Research in which both researchers and participants work together to understand a problematic situation and change it for the better.

The level of the focus of analysis (e.g., individual people, organizations, programs, neighborhoods).

The large group of interest to the researcher.  Although it will likely be impossible to design a study that incorporates or reaches all members of the population of interest, this should be clearly defined at the outset of a study so that a reasonable sample of the population can be taken.  For example, if one is studying working-class college students, the sample may include twenty such students attending a particular college, while the population is “working-class college students.”  In quantitative research, clearly defining the general population of interest is a necessary step in generalizing results from a sample.  In qualitative research, defining the population is conceptually important for clarity.

A fictional name assigned to give anonymity to a person, group, or place.  Pseudonyms are important ways of protecting the identity of research participants while still providing a “human element” in the presentation of qualitative data.  There are ethical considerations to be made in selecting pseudonyms; some researchers allow research participants to choose their own.

A requirement for research involving human participants; the documentation of informed consent.  In some cases, oral consent or assent may be sufficient, but the default standard is a single-page easy-to-understand form that both the researcher and the participant sign and date.   Under federal guidelines, all researchers "shall seek such consent only under circumstances that provide the prospective subject or the representative sufficient opportunity to consider whether or not to participate and that minimize the possibility of coercion or undue influence. The information that is given to the subject or the representative shall be in language understandable to the subject or the representative.  No informed consent, whether oral or written, may include any exculpatory language through which the subject or the representative is made to waive or appear to waive any of the subject's rights or releases or appears to release the investigator, the sponsor, the institution, or its agents from liability for negligence" (21 CFR 50.20).  Your IRB office will be able to provide a template for use in your study .

An administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated. The IRB is charged with the responsibility of reviewing all research involving human participants. The IRB is concerned with protecting the welfare, rights, and privacy of human subjects. The IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, monitor, and require modifications in all research activities that fall within its jurisdiction as specified by both the federal regulations and institutional policy.

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods Copyright © 2023 by Allison Hurst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

  • Types of qualitative research designs

Last updated

20 February 2023

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

Researchers often conduct these studies to gain a detailed understanding of a particular topic through a small, focused sample. Qualitative research methods delve into understanding why something is happening in a larger quantitative study. 

To determine whether qualitative research is the best choice for your study, let’s look at the different types of qualitative research design.

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  • What are qualitative research designs?

Qualitative research designs are research methods that collect and analyze non-numerical data. The research uncovers why or how a particular behavior or occurrence takes place. The information is usually subjective and in a written format instead of numerical.

Researchers may use interviews, focus groups , case studies , journaling, and open-ended questions to gather in-depth information. Qualitative research designs can determine users' concepts, develop a hypothesis , or add context to data from a quantitative study.

  • Characteristics of qualitative research design

Most often, qualitative data answers how or why something occurs. Certain characteristics are usually present in all qualitative research designs to ensure accurate data. 

The most common characteristics of qualitative research design include the following:

Natural environment

It’s best to collect qualitative research as close to the subject’s original environment as possible to encourage natural behavior and accurate insights.

Empathy is key

Qualitative researchers collect the best data when they’re in sync with their users’ concerns and motivations. They can play into natural human psychology by combining open-ended questioning and subtle cues.

They may mimic body language, adopt the users’ terminology, and use pauses or trailing sentences to encourage their participants to fill in the blanks. The more empathic the interviewer, the purer the data.

Participant selection

Qualitative research depends on the meaning obtained from participants instead of the meaning conveyed in similar research or studies. To increase research accuracy, you choose participants randomly from carefully chosen groups of potential participants.

Different research methods or multiple data sources

To gain in-depth knowledge, qualitative research designs often rely on multiple research methods within the same group. 

Emergent design

Qualitative research constantly evolves, meaning the initial study plan might change after you collect data. This evolution might result in changes in research methods or the introduction of a new research problem.

Inductive reasoning

Since qualitative research seeks in-depth meaning, you need complex reasoning to get the right results. Qualitative researchers build categories, patterns, and themes from separate data sets to form a complete conclusion.

Interpretive data

Once you collect the data, you need to read between the lines rather than just noting what your participant said. Qualitative research is unique as we can attach actions to feedback. 

If a user says they love the look of your design but haven’t completed any tasks, it’s up to you to interpret this as a failed test, even with their positive sentiments.  

Holistic account

To paint a large picture of an issue and potential solutions, a qualitative researcher works to develop a complex description of the research problem. You can avoid a narrow cause-and-effect perspective by describing the problem’s wider perspectives. 

  • When to use qualitative research design

Qualitative research aims to get a detailed understanding of a particular topic. To accomplish this, you’ll typically use small focus groups to gather in-depth data from varied perspectives. 

This approach is only effective for some types of study. For instance, a qualitative approach wouldn’t work for a study that seeks to understand a statistically relevant finding.

When determining if a qualitative research design is appropriate, remember the goal of qualitative research is understanding the “ why .” 

Qualitative research design gathers in-depth information that stands on its own. It can also answer the “why” of a quantitative study or be a precursor to forming a hypothesis. 

You can use qualitative research in these situations:

Developing a hypothesis for testing in a quantitative study

Identifying customer needs

Developing a new feature

Adding context to the results of a quantitative study

Understanding the motivations, values, and pain points that guide behavior

Difference between qualitative and quantitative research design

Qualitative and quantitative research designs gather data, but that's where the similarities end. Consider the difference between quality and quantity. Both are useful in different ways.

Qualitative research gathers in-depth information to answer how or why . It uses subjective data from detailed interviews, observations, and open-ended questions. Most often, qualitative data is thoughts, experiences, and concepts.

In contrast, quantitative research designs gather large amounts of objective data that you can quantify mathematically. You typically express quantitative data in numbers or graphs, and you use it to test or confirm hypotheses.

Qualitative research designs generally have the same goals. However, there are various ways to achieve these goals. Researchers may use one or more of these approaches in qualitative research.

Historical study

This is where you use extensive information about people and events in the past to draw conclusions about the present and future.


Phenomenology investigates a phenomenon, activity, or event using data from participants' perspectives. Often, researchers use a combination of methods.

Grounded theory

Grounded theory uses interviews and existing data to build a theory inductively.


Researchers immerse themselves in the target participant's environments to understand goals, cultures, challenges, and themes with ethnography .

A case study is where you use multiple data sources to examine a person, group, community, or institution. Participants must share a connection to the research question you’re studying.

  • Advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research

All qualitative research design types share the common goal of obtaining in-depth information. Achieving this goal generally requires extensive data collection methods that can be time-consuming. As such, qualitative research has advantages and disadvantages. 

Natural settings

Since you can collect data closer to an authentic environment, it offers more accurate results.  

The ability to paint a picture with data

Quantitative studies don't always reveal the full picture. With multiple data collection methods, you can expose the motivations and reasons behind data.


Analysis processes aren't set in stone, so you can adapt the process as ideas or patterns emerge.

Generation of new ideas

Using open-ended responses can uncover new opportunities or solutions that weren't part of your original research plan.

Small sample sizes

You can generate meaningful results with small groups.


Potentially unreliable.

A natural setting can be a double-edged sword. The inability to attach findings to anything statistically relevant can make data more difficult to quantify. 


Since the researcher plays a vital role in collecting and interpreting data, qualitative research is subject to the researcher's skills. For example, they may miss a cue that changes some of the context of the quotes they collected.


You generally collect qualitative data through manual processes like extensive interviews, open-ended questions, and case studies.

Qualitative research designs allow researchers to provide an in-depth analysis of why specific behavior or events occur. It can offer fresh insights, generate new ideas, or add context to statistics from quantitative studies. Depending on your needs, qualitative data might be a great way to gain the information your organization needs to move forward.

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What’s Included: Methodology Template

This template covers all the core components required in the research methodology chapter or section of a typical dissertation or thesis, including:

  • The opening section
  • Research philosophy
  • Research type
  • Research strategy
  • Time horizon
  • Sampling strategy
  • Data collection methods
  • Data analysis methods
  • Conclusion & summary

The purpose of each section is explained in plain language, followed by an overview of the key elements that you need to cover. The template also includes practical examples to help you understand exactly what’s required, along with links to additional free resources (articles, videos, etc.) to help you along your research journey.

The cleanly-formatted Google Doc can be downloaded as a fully editable MS Word Document (DOCX format), so you can use it as-is or convert it to LaTeX.

PS – if you’d like a high-level template for the entire thesis, you can we’ve got that too .

What format is the template (DOC, PDF, PPT, etc.)?

The methodology chapter template is provided as a Google Doc. You can download it in MS Word format or make a copy to your Google Drive. You’re also welcome to convert it to whatever format works best for you, such as LaTeX or PDF.

What types of dissertations/theses can this template be used for?

The methodology template follows the standard format for academic research projects, which means it will be suitable for the vast majority of dissertations and theses (especially those within the sciences), whether they adopt a qualitative, quantitative, or mixed-methods approach. The template is loosely based on Saunders’ research onion , which is recommended as a methodological framework by many universities.

Keep in mind that the exact requirements for the methodology chapter/section will vary between universities and degree programs. These are typically minor, but it’s always a good idea to double-check your university’s requirements before you finalize your structure.

Is this template for an undergrad, Master or PhD-level thesis?

This template can be used for a dissertation, thesis or research project at any level of study. Doctoral-level projects typically require the methodology chapter to be more extensive/comprehensive, but the structure will typically remain the same.

How long should the methodology chapter be?

This can vary a fair deal, depending on the level of study (undergrad, Master or Doctoral), the field of research, as well as your university’s specific requirements. Therefore, it’s best to check with your university or review past dissertations from your program to get an accurate estimate. 

How detailed should my methodology be?

As a rule of thumb, you should provide enough detail for another researcher to replicate your study. This includes clear descriptions of procedures, tools, and techniques you used to collect and analyse your data, as well as your sampling approach.

How technical should my language be in this chapter?

In the methodology chapter, your language should be technical enough to accurately convey your research methods and processes, but also clear and precise to ensure it’s accessible to readers within your field.

Aim for a balance where the technical aspects of your methods are thoroughly explained without overusing jargon or overly complex language.

Should I include a pilot study in my methodology?

If you conducted a pilot study, you can include it in the methodology to demonstrate the feasibility and refinement of your methods. Be sure to obtain the necessary permissions from your research advisor before conducting any pilot studies, though. 

Can I share this template with my friends/colleagues?

Yes, you’re welcome to share this template in its original format (no editing allowed). If you want to post about it on your blog or social media, we kindly request that you reference this page as your source.

Do you have templates for the other chapters?

Yes, we do. We are constantly developing our collection of free resources to help students complete their dissertations and theses. You can view all of our template resources here .

Can Grad Coach help me with my methodology?

Yes, we can assist with your methodology chapter (or any other chapter) on a coaching basis. If you’re interested, feel free to get in touch to discuss our private coaching services .

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Top 10 Qualitative Research Report Templates with Samples and Examples

Top 10 Qualitative Research Report Templates with Samples and Examples

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought, ” said Hungarian biochemist and Nobel laureate Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who discovered Vitamin C. This fabulous statement on research as a human endeavor reminds us that execution matters, of course, but the solid pillar of research that backs it is invaluable as well.

Here’s an example to illustrate this in action.

Have you ever wondered what makes Oprah Winfrey a successful businesswoman? It's her research abilities. Oprah might not have been as successful as a news anchor and television show host if she hadn't done her exploratory research on key topics and public figures. Additionally, without the research and development that went into the internet, there was no way that you could be reading this post right now. Research is an essential tool for understanding the intricacies of many topics and advancing knowledge.

Businesses in the modern world are, increasingly, based on research. Within research too, the qualitative world of non-numerical observations, data, and impactful insights is what business owners are most interested in. This is not to say that numbers or empirical research is not important. It is, of course, one of the founding blocks of business.

In this blog, however, we focus on qualitative research PPT Templates that help you move forward and get on the profitable highway and take the best decisions for your business.

These presentation templates are 100% customizable, and editable. Use these to leave a lasting impact on your audience and get recall for your business value offering.

Top 10 Qualitative Research Report Templates

The goal of qualitative research methods is to monitor market trends and attitudes through surveys, analyses, historical research, and open-ended interviews. It helps interpret and comprehend human behavior using data. With the use of qualitative market research services, you may get access to the appropriate data that could help you make decisions.

After finishing the research portion of your assignment effectively, you'll need a captivating way to present your findings to your audience. Here, SlideTeam's qualitative research report templates come in handy. Our top ten qualitative research templates will help you effectively communicate your message. Let’s start a tour of this universe.

Template 1 : Qualitative Research Proposal Template PowerPoint Presentation Slides

For the reader to understand your research proposal, you must have well-structured PPT slides. Don't worry, SlideTeam has you covered. Our pre-made research proposal template presentation slides have no learning curve. This implies that any user may rapidly create a powerful professional research proposal presentation using our PPT slides. Download these PowerPoint slides in a way that will convince your reviewers to accept your strategy.

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Template 2 : Qualitative Research Powerpoint PPT Template Bundles

You may have observed that some brands have taken the place of generic words for comparable products in our language.  Even though we are aware that Band-Aid is a brand, we always ask for Band-Aid whenever we require a plastic bandage. The power of branding is quite astounding. This is the benefit that our next PPT template bundles will provide for your business. Potential customers will find it simpler to recognize your brand and correctly associate it with a certain good or service because of our platform-independent PowerPoint Slides. Download now!

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Template 3 : Qualitative Research Interviewing Presentation Deck

Do you find it hard to handle challenging conversations at work? Then, you may conduct effective interviews employing this PowerPoint presentation. Our presentation on qualitative research interviews aimed to "give voice" to the subjects. It provides details on interviews, information, research, participant, and study methodologies. Download this PowerPoint Presentation if you need to introduce yourself effectively during a quick visual communication.

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Template 4 : Thematic Analysis Qualitative Research PPT PowerPoint Presentation Outline Rules CPB

Thematic analysis is a technique used in qualitative research to arrive at  hidden patterns and other inferences based on a theme. Any research can employ our Thematic analysis qualitative research PPT. By using all the features of this adaptable PPT, you may convey information well. By including the proper icons and symbols, this presentation can be improved as an instructional tool and opened on any platform. Download now!

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Template 5 : Comparative Analysis of Qualitative Research Methods

Conducting a successful comparison analysis is essential if you or your company wants to make sure that your decision-making process is efficient. With the help of our comparative analysis of qualitative research techniques, you can make choices that work for both your company and your clients. Focus Group Interviews, Cognitive Mapping, Critical Incident Technique, Verbal Protocol, Data Collection, Data Analysis, Research Scope, and Objective are covered in this extensive series of slides. Download today to carry out efficient business operations.

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Template 6 : Five-Type of Qualitative Research Designs

Your business can achieve significant results with the help of our five  qualitative research design types. Given that it incorporates layers of case studies, phenomenology, historical studies, and action research, it qualifies as a full-fledged presentation. Download this presentation template to perform an objective, open-ended technique and to carefully consider probable sources of errors.

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Template 7 : Key Phases for the Qualitative Research Process

Any attempt at qualitative research, no matter how small, must follow the prescribed procedures. The key stages of the qualitative research method are combined in this pre-made PPT template. This set of slides covers data analysis, research approach, research design, research aim, issue description, research questions, philosophical assumptions, data collecting, and result interpretation. Get it now.

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Template 8 : Thematic Analysis of Qualitative Research Data

Thematic analysis is performed on the raw data that is acquired through focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc. We go over each and every critical step in our slides on thematic analysis of qualitative research data, including how to uncover codes, identify themes in the data, finalize topics, explore each theme, and analyze documents. This completely editable PowerPoint presentation is available for instant download.

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Template 9 : Swot Analysis of Qualitative Research Approach

Use this PowerPoint set to determine the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats facing your company. Each slide comes with a unique tool that may be utilized to strengthen your areas of weakness, grasp opportunities, and lessen risks. This template can be used to collect statistics, add your own information, and then begin considering how you might get better.

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Template 10 : Qualitative Research through Graph Showing Revenue Growth

A picture truly is worth a thousand words even when it comes to summarizing your research's findings. Researchers encounter an unavoidable issue when presenting qualitative study data; to address this challenge, Slide Team has created a user-responsive Graph Showing Revenue Growth template. This slideshow graph could help you make informed decisions and encourage your company's growth.

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Template 11 : Qualitative Research Data Collection Approaches and Implications

Like blood moving through the circulatory system, data moves through an organization. Businesses cannot run without data. The first step in making better decisions is gathering data. This presentation template includes all the elements necessary to create a successful business plan, from data collection to analysis of the best method to comprehend concepts, opinions, or experiences. Get it now.

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Template 12 : Qualitative Research Analysis of Comments with Magnify Glass

The first step in performing a qualitative analysis of your data is gathering all the comments and feedback you want to look at. Our templates help you document those comments. These slides are fully editable and contain a visual accessibility function. The organization and formatting of the sections are excellent. Download it now.

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PS For more information on qualitative and quantitative data analysis, as well as to determine which type of market research is best for your company, check out this blog.

FAQs on Qualitative Research 

Writing a qualitative research report.

A qualitative report is a summary of an experience, activity, event, or observation. The format of a qualitative report includes an abstract, introduction, background information on the issue, the researcher's role, theoretical viewpoint, methodology, ethical considerations, results, data analysis, limitations, discussion, conclusions, implications, references, and an appendix. A qualitative research report requires extensive detail and is typically divided into several sections. These start with the title, a table of contents, and an abstract; these form the beginning. Then, the meat of a qualitative report comprises an introduction, the literature review, an account of investigation, findings, discussion, and conclusions. The final section is references.

How do you Report Data in Qualitative Research?

A qualitative research report is frequently built around themes. You should be aware that it can be difficult to express qualitative findings as thoroughly as they deserve. It is customary to use direct quotes from sources like interviews to support the viewpoint. To develop a precise description or explanation of the primary theme being studied, it is also crucial to clarify concepts and connect them. There is the need to state about design, which is how were the subject choices made, leading through other steps to documenting that how the researcher verified the research’s findings/results.

What is an Example of a Report of Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data are categorical by nature. Reports that use qualitative data make it easier to present complex information. The semi-structured interview is one of the best illustrations of a qualitative data collection technique that provides open-ended responses from informants while allowing researchers to ask questions based on a set of predetermined themes. Since they enable both inductive and deductive evaluative reasoning, these are crucial tools for qualitative research.

How do you write an Introduction for a Qualitative Report?

A qualitative report must have a strong introduction. In this section, the researcher emphasizes the aims and objectives of the methodical study. It also addresses the problem that the systematic study aims to solve. In this section, it's imperative to state whether the research's goals were met. The researcher goes into further depth about the research problem in the introduction part and discusses the need for a methodical enquiry. The researcher must define any technical words or phrases used.

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  • Section 2: Home
  • Developing the Quantitative Research Design
  • Qualitative Descriptive Design

Overview of Descriptive Design

Sources of data.

  • Design and Development Research (DDR) For Instructional Design
  • Qualitative Narrative Inquiry Research
  • Action Research Resource
  • Case Study Design in an Applied Doctorate
  • SAGE Research Methods
  • Research Examples (SAGE) This link opens in a new window
  • Dataset Examples (SAGE) This link opens in a new window
  • IRB Resource Center This link opens in a new window

A descriptive design is a flexible, exploratory approach to qualitative research. Descriptive design is referred to in the literature by other labels including generic, general, basic, traditional, interpretive, and pragmatic. Descriptive design as an acceptable research design for dissertation and other robust scholarly research has received varying degrees of acceptance within the academic community. However, descriptive design has been gaining momentum since the early 2000’s as a suitable design for studies that do not fall into the more mainstream genres of qualitative research (ie. Case study, phenomenology, ethnography, narrative inquiry and grounded theory). In contrast to other qualitative designs, descriptive design is not aligned to specific methods (for example, bracketing in phenomenology, bounded systems in case study, or constant comparative analysis in grounded theory). Rather, descriptive design “borrows” methods appropriate to the proposed study from other designs. 

Arguments supporting the flexible nature of descriptive designs describe it as being preferable to forcing a research approach into a design that is not quite appropriate for the nature of the intended study. However, descriptive design has also been criticized for this mixing of methods as well as for the limited literature describing it. The descriptive design can be the foundation for a rigorous study within the ADE program. Because of the flexibility of the methods used, a descriptive design provides the researcher with the opportunity to choose methods best suited to a practice-based research purpose.   

  • Example Descriptive Design in an Applied Doctorate

Sources of Data in Descriptive Design

Because of the exploratory nature of descriptive design, the triangulation of multiple sources of data are often used for additional insight into the phenomenon. Sources of data that can be used in descriptive studies are similar to those that may be used in other qualitative designs and include interviews, focus groups, documents, artifacts, and observations.

The following video provides additional considerations for triangulation in qualitative designs including descriptive design: Triangulation: Pairing Thematic and Content Analysis

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  • Last Updated: Jul 28, 2023 8:05 AM
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8+ Qualitative Research Proposal Templates – PDF | Word | Excel

Qualitative research is a way of exploring ideas for developing new products, it is also used to evaluate ideas without the use of statistical and numerical measurements and analyzes in the form of Research Plan Templates. Writing a qualitative research proposal samples follows the same guidelines as every Research Proposal .

qualitative research design template

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Qualitative Research Proposal Gantt Chart Template

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Free Sample Qualitative Dissertation Proposal

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Free Intellectual Disability Research Proposal Template

intellectual disability research proposal

How to write Qualitative Research Proposals and Research studies in qualitative

  • Choose a subject that will keep your interest from start to finish of the research.
  • Keep detailed notes of the literature review to help you write your proposal and make sure you create a sturdy research outline .
  • Make sure your terminology is correct in order to show that you have good knowledge of the subject.
  • State in your proposal how you will ensure that your research will be of high quality.
  • Use a formal writing style for a professional look.

Process of the qualitative proposal

  • Choosing a research problem. The problem has to be interesting for the researcher since they are going to spend a lot of time working on it.
  • Reviewing the existing literature regarding the research problem.
  • Selection of a sample that will be used for the research.
  • Selection of the method of data collection.
  • Selection of data analysis medium.
  • Creation of the outline research.
  • Writing and review of the proposal.

Free Individual Qualitative Research Proposal

individual qualitative research proposal

Free Qualitative Research Proposal Simple Template

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Free Education Qualitative Research Proposal

education qualitative research proposal

Free Qualitative Research Developing Proposal

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Free General Client Qualitative Research Proposal

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Structure of the qualitative proposal and research studies in qualitative

  • Cover page. The information regarding the cover page are often provided by the institutes, however, make sure to include the title, the name and profession of the researcher, some space for signatures for the researcher(s) and the institute committee, and lastly contact information for the author.
  • It is a brief synopsis of the proposal layout that is supposed to prepare the reader for what the proposal contains and what the subject of the research is. Its length should be between 250 – 300 words long and at its end it is advised to provide a number of key words.
  • It is the section that informs the reader about what the research problem and the question the researcher chose to work on. In the introduction, the researcher has to state the significance of the research and to explain why and how it can add to the existing literature similar to the Action  Research Proposal .
  • Literature Review. This section must be presented the previous studies that have been conducted and addresses specific gaps the researcher has found in them and how they can add more to that.
  • Research method. It’s the section that presents the methodology the researcher is going to follow in order to collect the data for the research as well as how they will analyze them.
  • Timeline in order to state the time frame of the research.
  • Budget in order to state the estimated costs to conduct the research.
  • References of all the studies and previous research that are mentioned in the Simple Proposal template.

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  1. Types Of Qualitative Research Design With Examples

    qualitative research design template

  2. 8+ Qualitative Research Proposal Templates

    qualitative research design template

  3. FREE 10+ Qualitative Data Analysis Samples in PDF

    qualitative research design template

  4. FREE 6+ Qualitative Research Templates in PDF

    qualitative research design template

  5. FREE 5+ Qualitative Research Plan Templates in PDF

    qualitative research design template

  6. Qualitative Research Proposal

    qualitative research design template



  2. Qualitative Research Designs

  3. Research Designs: Part 2 of 3: Qualitative Research Designs (ሪሰርች ዲዛይን

  4. what is the difference between qualitative and quantitative research

  5. Fundamentals of Qualitative Research Design

  6. Quantitative & Qualitative Research Design and Citation, Impact Factor


  1. Research Design

    Step 1: Consider your aims and approach. Step 2: Choose a type of research design. Step 3: Identify your population and sampling method. Step 4: Choose your data collection methods. Step 5: Plan your data collection procedures. Step 6: Decide on your data analysis strategies. Frequently asked questions.

  2. Planning Qualitative Research: Design and Decision Making for New

    While many books and articles guide various qualitative research methods and analyses, there is currently no concise resource that explains and differentiates among the most common qualitative approaches. We believe novice qualitative researchers, students planning the design of a qualitative study or taking an introductory qualitative research course, and faculty teaching such courses can ...

  3. What Is a Research Design

    A research design is a strategy for answering your research question using empirical data. Creating a research design means making decisions about: Your overall research objectives and approach. Whether you'll rely on primary research or secondary research. Your sampling methods or criteria for selecting subjects. Your data collection methods.

  4. Chapter 2. Research Design

    Chapter 2. Research Design Getting Started. When I teach undergraduates qualitative research methods, the final product of the course is a "research proposal" that incorporates all they have learned and enlists the knowledge they have learned about qualitative research methods in an original design that addresses a particular research question.

  5. PDF A Guide to Using Qualitative Research Methodology

    A Guide to using Qualitative Research Methodology Contents 1. What is qualitative research? Aims, uses and ethical issues a) What is qualitative research? 2 b) When to use qualitative methods 3 c) Ethical issues 5 2. How to develop qualitative research designs a) The research question 7 b) The research protocol 8 c) A word on sampling 9 3.

  6. Qualitative research design (JARS-Qual)

    JARS-Qual, developed in 2018, mark the first time APA Style has included qualitative standards. They outline what should be reported in qualitative research manuscripts to make the review process easier. The seventh edition of the Publication Manual also includes content on qualitative studies, including standards for journal article ...

  7. PDF Qualitative Research Design

    Thus research design is both challenging and essential, yet it is the least discussed and least adequately critiqued component of many qualitative projects. Freedom from a preemptive research design should never be seen as release from a requirement to have a research design. In Chapter 2, we established how a research purpose points to a ...

  8. How to Write a Research Proposal

    Research proposal examples. Writing a research proposal can be quite challenging, but a good starting point could be to look at some examples. We've included a few for you below. Example research proposal #1: "A Conceptual Framework for Scheduling Constraint Management".

  9. Guide to Qualitative Research Designs

    Qualitative research designs are research methods that collect and analyze non-numerical data. The research uncovers why or how a particular behavior or occurrence takes place. The information is usually subjective and in a written format instead of numerical. Researchers may use interviews, focus groups, case studies, journaling, and open ...

  10. Templates in Qualitative Research Methods: Origins, Limitations, and

    In this feature topic, we explore the burgeoning trend to employ templates in qualitative research. To understand authors' motivations to use templates and perceptions regarding template use in the scholarly community, we conducted an interview study with 21 interviewees who had published qualitative research in one of nine premier management journals between 2014 and 2018.

  11. What Is Qualitative Research?

    Qualitative research involves collecting and analyzing non-numerical data (e.g., text, video, or audio) to understand concepts, opinions, or experiences. It can be used to gather in-depth insights into a problem or generate new ideas for research. Qualitative research is the opposite of quantitative research, which involves collecting and ...

  12. PDF A Sample Qualitative Dissertation Proposal

    Microsoft Word - Proposal-QUAL-Morales.doc. A Sample Qualitative Dissertation Proposal. Prepared by. Alejandro Morales. NOTE: This proposal is included in the ancillary materials of Research Design with permission of the author. LANGUAGE BROKERING IN MEXICAN IMMIGRANT FAMILIES LIVING IN.

  13. What Is Research Design? 8 Types + Examples

    Research design refers to the overall plan, structure or strategy that guides a research project, from its conception to the final analysis of data. Research designs for quantitative studies include descriptive, correlational, experimental and quasi-experimenta l designs. Research designs for qualitative studies include phenomenological ...

  14. (PDF) Qualitative research design: An interactive approach

    Qualitative research design: An interactive approach. January 2012. Publisher: Sage publications. Authors: Joseph Alex Maxwell. George Mason University. Citations (8,274) References (81) Content ...

  15. (PDF) Designing.a.PhD.Proposal.in.Qualitative.Research

    This template includes all major aspects of a proposal in qualitative research. First, the topic provides the definitions of the main concepts such as qualitative research, research designing, and ...

  16. Free Thesis Methodology Template (+ Examples)

    What's Included: Methodology Template. This template covers all the core components required in the research methodology chapter or section of a typical dissertation or thesis, including: The opening section. The research design, including: Research philosophy. Research type. Research strategy. Time horizon. Sampling strategy.

  17. PDF Asking the Right Question: Qualitative Research Design and Analysis

    Limitations of Qualitative Research. Lengthy and complicated designs, which do not draw large samples. Validity of reliability of subjective data. Difficult to replicate study because of central role of the researcher and context. Data analysis and interpretation is time consuming. Subjective - open to misinterpretation.

  18. (PDF) Templates in Qualitative Research Methods: How Have We Got Here

    demonstrate ' rigor'. Such templates have become central to both quantitative and qualitative. research approaches - with the latter being the key focus in this paper (Gioia, Corley ...

  19. Top 10 Qualitative Research Report Templates with Samples ...

    Template 6 : Five-Type of Qualitative Research Designs . Your business can achieve significant results with the help of our five qualitative research design types. Given that it incorporates layers of case studies, phenomenology, historical studies, and action research, it qualifies as a full-fledged presentation.

  20. Qualitative Descriptive Design

    Overview of Descriptive Design. A descriptive design is a flexible, exploratory approach to qualitative research. Descriptive design is referred to in the literature by other labels including generic, general, basic, traditional, interpretive, and pragmatic. Descriptive design as an acceptable research design for dissertation and other robust ...

  21. PDF Sample of the Qualitative Research Paper

    QUALITATIVE RESEARCH PAPER 1 Sample of the Qualitative Research Paper In the following pages you will find a sample of the full BGS research qualitative paper with each section or chapter as it might look in a completed research paper beginning with the title page and working through each chapter and section of the research paper.

  22. 8+ Qualitative Research Proposal Templates

    Selection of a sample that will be used for the research. Selection of the method of data collection. Selection of data analysis medium. Creation of the outline research. Writing and review of the proposal. You can also take a look at the market research proposal for a detailed article about how to write a proposal.

  23. Free Research Google Slides and PowerPoint templates

    Elegant Black & White Thesis Defense. Present your research findings with grace and assertiveness through this template. Available for Google Slides and PowerPoint, this design set offers minimalistic charm with its simple, gray scale elegance. The template not only provides a polished platform to showcase your thesis but also ensures seamless ...

  24. Qualitative Research Journal

    Read the latest articles of Qualitative Research Journal at ScienceDirect.com, Elsevier's leading platform of peer-reviewed scholarly literature. Skip to main content ... Towards a more balanced treatment of culture in international business using an ethnographic design: a multinational family business case study. Viktoriya Zipper-Weber ...