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Qualitative Study Design

Introduction

The effective evaluation of research involves assessing the way a study has been designed and conducted, and whether the method used was the most appropriate for answering the aims of the study. In contrast to quantitative studies, which are about breadth, qualitative research focuses on depth. 

Whereas quantitative research aims to develop objective theories by generating quantifiable numerical data, qualitative research aims to understand meaning. This might be the meanings that people attribute to their work, their behaviours or beliefs, or their attitudes or perceptions. Qualitative research is often based on methods of observation and enquiry; qualitative research “explores the meaning of human experiences and creates the possibilities of change through raised awareness and purposeful action” (Taylor & Francis, 2013). Qualitative research focuses on life experiences; they are more about the “why” and “how” rather than the “how many”, or “how often”. 

Qualitative study designs might be chosen for any number of reasons. In health, you might be interested in finding out how nurses feel or experience care in the ICU; or you might want to find out how people engaged in heavy substance use found the experience of connecting with a support agency. Qualitative study designs are beneficial for certain types of research questions such as those looking to provide unique insights into specific contexts or social situations. However, they are not as strong when wanting to find direct cause and effect links or where a statistically significant result is required (Taylor et al., 2006).