We explain what the qualitative method is, what aspects it focuses on, its characteristics and examples. In addition, the quantitative method.
What is the qualitative method?
When we talk about qualitative methods, qualitative research or qualitative methodology, we refer to the type of information gathering procedures most used in the social sciences.
These are linguistic-semiotic based methods . They employ techniques other than the survey and the experiment, such as open interviews, discussion groups, or participant observation techniques.
Every qualitative method aims to collect the complete speeches on a specific topic , and then proceed to its interpretation, thus focusing on the cultural and ideological aspects of the result, rather than the numerical or proportional ones.
This implies understanding the natural and everyday context of the phenomenon studied. It also considers the meanings attributed to it and the valuations that people make. In other words, and paraphrasing Taylor and Bogdan (1984), the qualitative method suggests understanding what people think and say.
Characteristics of the qualitative method
Qualitative research tends to be multimethodic in its approach to the object of study, that is, they usually apply different methods of obtaining information at the same time . It throws descriptive data : people’s cultural content, observable data of what they say, etc.
On the other hand, this type of research does not usually raise an a priori hypothesis , but instead aspires to use the logic of induction to answer the questions that motivate the study.
Examples of qualitative method
Possible examples of application of the qualitative method are the following forms of research:
- Ethnographic studies , in which participant observation is used. That is, a scientific description of the experience of the researcher in a different society and culture . There are many examples of this in the studies of certain African tribes during the 19th century, by European scholars.
- Participatory research . Those in which the researcher interrelates his research with the participation of the investigated subjects, to understand the functioning of a community for his benefit. Examples of this are social work that seeks to propose development models for depressed communities, such as urban slums or marginal populations.
- Cultural studies . Using relevant documentation, context and other textual sources, many research aims to understand the cultural logic behind concrete manifestations, applying a transdisciplinary method. For example, a study of the forms of artistic representation of a social conflict in a country that sheds light on what people feel about it, but does not say.
Unlike the qualitative method, focused on interpretation and descriptive results, the quantitative method assigns numerical values to the elements of the phenomenon studied , in order to apply statistical or formal techniques to the result. In this way, it obtains quantifiable conclusions , that is, expressed in mathematical terms.
The opposite type of qualitative research is considered: the quantitative one focuses on the quantities, while the qualitative one focuses on the qualities, so to speak.