Qualitative research methodology and its approaches

Qualitative research methodology and its approaches


As the name suggests, the qualitative research method is used to understand people’s belief, experiences, attitudes, behavior, and interactions. Qualitative research has been used in many aspects of human life such as psychological studies, clinical studies, social studies, etc. The qualitative study helps in enhancing the involvement of everyone related to the study which helps the participants feel empowered.

Qualitative research was first used by sociologists and anthropologists as a method of inquiry in the early twentieth century.  A qualitative approach is a general way of thinking about conducting qualitative research. It describes explicitly or implicitly, the purpose of the qualitative research, the role of researchers, the stage of research, and the method of data analysis.

Uses of Qualitative research in Public health:

  • To study the social, cultural, economic and political factors that influence health and disease
  • To examine interactions between stakeholders
  • To explore how people and communities interpret health and disease
  • To explore unanticipated meaning and connections

There are many uses of qualitative research, above are few to innumerate

Major approaches used in qualitative research are:

    1. Ethnography
    2. Phenomenology
    3. Grounded theory

Ethnography:  The ethnographic approach to qualitative research comes mainly from the field of anthropology. In ethnography, the researcher studies the structure and function of a group of people. The aim of ethnographic studies is to give a holistic picture of the social group studied, attempting to describe aspects of the cultural and social system of that particular group. The ethnographer becomes immersed in the culture as an active participant and records extensive field notes.

Phenomenology: It is sometimes even considered as a philosophical perspective. It has a long history in several social research disciplines including psychology, sociology, and social work. This research deals with exploring how human beings make sense of experience and the meaning they give to these experiences. Phenomenologists are interested in how people put together the phenomena they experience in such a way as to make sense of the world and develop a worldview.  The phenomena under study may be emotions, relationships, a program, an organization or a culture.

Grounded theory: Developed by Glaser and Strauss in the 1960s, grounded theory is to develop a theory about phenomena of interest.  A grounded theory design is a systematic; qualitative procedure used to generate a theory that explains, at a broad conceptual level, a process action, or an interaction about a substantive topic (Creswel, 2008)





  1. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles /PMC3757586/
  2. ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles /PMC3087733/
  3. Slideshare