16 Key Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative research is the process of natural inquisitiveness which wants to find an in-depth understanding of specific social phenomena within a regular setting. It is a process that seeks to find out why people act the way that they do in specific situations. By relying on the direct experiences that each person has every day, it becomes possible to define the meaning of a choice – or even a life.

Researchers who use the qualitative process are looking at multiple methods of inquiry to review human-related activities. This process is a way to measure the very existence of humanity. Multiple options are available to complete the work, including discourse analysis, biographies, case studies, and various other theories.

This process results in three primary areas of focus, which are individual actions, overall communication, and cultural influence. Each option must make the common assumption that knowledge is subjective instead of objective, which means the researchers must learn from their participants to understand what is valuable and what is not in their studies.

List of the Pros of Qualitative Research

1. Qualitative research is a very affordable method of research.
Qualitative research is one of the most affordable ways to glean information from individuals who are being studied. Focus groups tend to be the primary method of collecting information using this process because it is fast and effective. Although there are research studies that require an extensive period of observation to produce results, using a group interview session can produce usable information in under an hour. That means you can proceed faster with the ideas you wish to pursue when compared to other research methods.

2. Qualitative research provides a predictive element.
The data which researchers gather when using the qualitative research process provides a predictive element to the project. This advantage occurs even though the experiences or perspectives of the individuals participating in the research can vary substantially from person-to-person. The goal of this work is not to apply the information to the general public, but to understand how specific demographics react in situations where there are challenges to face. It is a process which allows for product development to occur because the pain points of the population have been identified.

3. Qualitative research focuses on the details of personal choice.
The qualitative research process looks at the purpose of the decision that an individual makes as the primary information requiring collection. It does not take a look at the reasons why someone would decide to make the choices that they do in the first place. Other research methods preferred to look at the behavior, but this method wants to know the entire story behind each individual choice so that the entire population or society can benefit from the process.

4. Qualitative research uses fluid operational structures.
The qualitative research process relies on data gathering based on situations that researchers are watching and experiencing personally. Instead of relying on a specific framework to collect and preserve information under rigid guidelines, this process finds value in the human experience. This method makes it possible to include the intricacies of the human experience with the structures required to find conclusions that are useful to the demographics involved – and possible to the rest of society as well.

5. Qualitative research uses individual choices as workable data.
When we have an understanding of why individual choices occurred, then we can benefit from the diversity that the human experience provides. Each unique perspective makes it possible for every other person to gather more knowledge about a situation because there are differences to examine. It is a process which allows us to discover more potential outcomes because there is more information present from a variety of sources. Researchers can then take the perspectives to create guidelines that others can follow if they find themselves stuck in a similar situation.

6. Qualitative research is an open-ended process.
One of the most significant advantages of qualitative research is that it does not rely on specific deadlines, formats, or questions to create a successful outcome. This process allows researchers to ask open-ended questions whenever they feel it is appropriate because there may be more data to collect. There are not the same time elements involved in this process either, as qualitative research can continue indefinitely until those working on the project feel like there is nothing more to glean from the individuals participating.

Because of this unique structure, researchers can look for data points that other methods might overlook because a greater emphasis is often placed on the interview or observational process with firm deadlines.

7. Qualitative research works to remove bias from its collected information.
Unconscious bias is a significant factor in every research project because it relies on the ability of the individuals involved to control their thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Everyone has preconceived notions and stereotypes about specific demographics and nationalities which can influence the data collected. No one is 100% immune to this process. The format of qualitative research allows for these judgments to be set aside because it prefers to look at the specific structures behind each choice of person makes.

This research method also collects information about the events which lead up to a specific decision instead of trying to examine what happens after the fact. That’s why this advantage allows the data to be more accurate compared to the other research methods which are in use.

8. Qualitative research provides specific insight development.
The average person tends to make a choice based on comfort, convenience, or both. We also tend to move forward in our circumstances based on what we feel is comfortable to our spiritual, moral, or ethical stances. Every form of communication that we use becomes a potential foundation for researchers to understand the demographics of humanity in better ways. By looking at the problems we face in everyday situations, it becomes possible to discover new insights that can help us to solve do you need problems which can come up. It is a way for researchers to understand the context of what happens in society instead of only looking at the outcomes.

9. Qualitative research requires a smaller sample size.
Qualitative research studies wrap up faster that other methods because a smaller sample size is possible for data collection with this method. Participants can answer questions immediately, creating usable and actionable information that can lead to new ideas. This advantage makes it possible to move forward with confidence in future choices because there is added predictability to the results which are possible.

10. Qualitative research provides more useful content.
Authenticity is highly demanded in today’s world because there is no better way to understand who we are as an individual, a community, or a society. Qualitative research works hard to understand the core concepts of how each participant defines themselves without the influence of outside perspectives. It wants to see how people structure their lives, and then take that data to help solve whatever problems they might have. Although no research method can provide guaranteed results, there is always some type of actionable information present with this approach.

List of the Cons of Qualitative Research

1. Qualitative research creates subjective information points.
The quality of the information collected using the qualitative research process can sometimes be questionable. This approach requires the researchers to connect all of the data points which they gather to find the answers to their questions. That means the results are dependent upon the skills of those involved to read the non-verbal cues of each participate, understand when and where follow-up questions are necessary, and remember to document each response. Because individuals can interpret this data in many different ways, there can sometimes be differences in the conclusion because each researcher has a different take on what they receive.

2. Qualitative research can involve significant levels of repetition.
Although the smaller sample sizes found in qualitative research can be an advantage, this structure can also be a problem when researchers are trying to collect a complete data profile for a specific demographic. Multiple interviews and discovery sessions become necessary to discover what the potential consequences of a future choice will be. When you only bring in a handful of people to discuss a situation, then these individuals may not offer a complete representation of the group being studied. Without multiple follow-up sessions with other participants, there is no way to prove the authenticity of the information collected.

3. Qualitative research is difficult to replicate.
The only way that research can turn into fact is through a process of replication. Other researchers must be able to come to the similar conclusions after the initial project publishers the results. Because the nature of this work is subjective, finding opportunities to duplicate the results are quite rare. The scope of information which a project collects is often limited, which means there is always some doubt found in the data. That is why you will often see a margin of error percentage associated with research that uses this method. Because it never involves every potential member of a demographic, it will always be incomplete.

4. Qualitative research relies on the knowledge of the researchers.
The only reason why opportunities are available in the first place when using qualitative research is because there are researchers involved which have expertise that relates to the subject matter being studied. When interviewers are unfamiliar with industry concepts, then it is much more challenging to identify follow-up opportunities that would be if the individual conducting the session was familiar with the ideas under discussion. There is no way to correctly interpret the data if the perspective of the researcher is skewed by a lack of knowledge.

5. Qualitative research does not offer statistics.
The goal of qualitative research is to seek out moments of commonality. That means you will not find statistical data within the results. It looks to find specific areas of concern or pain points that are usable to the organization funding to research in the first place. The amount of data collected using this process can be extreme, but there is no guarantee that it will ever be usable. You do not have the same opportunities to compare information as you would with other research methods.

6. Qualitative research still requires a significant time investment.
It is true that there are times when the qualitative research process is significantly faster than other methods. There is also the disadvantage in the fact that the amount of time necessary to collect accurate data can be unpredictable using this option. It may take months, years, or even decades to complete a research project if there is a massive amount of data to review. That means the researchers involve must make a long-term commitment to the process to ensure the results can be as accurate as possible.

These qualitative research pros and cons review how all of us come to the choices that we make each day. When researchers understand why we come to specific conclusions, then it becomes possible to create new goods and services that can make our lives easier. This process then concludes with solutions which can benefit a significant majority of the people, leading to better best practices in the future.

Author Bio
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.