• Category:
  • Document type:
  • Level:
  • Page:
  • Words:




Qualitative research methodology


Qualitative research methodology revolves around the process of collecting information while concentrating on describing and explaining the research phenomenon in a very comprehensive manner (Smith, 2015 34). In most cases, this type of research work is conducted using open-ended questions, research interviews or focus groups. Focus groups and interview are basically the most famous and common data collection methods that are employed in qualitative research works in social and political sciences. Additionally, interviews are fundamentally employed in exploring and examining opinions, views, beliefs, experiences and motivations of individuals who are participating in the research as research respondents (Taylor Bogdan and DeVault 2015 87). On the other hand, focus groups are those group dynamics that are used to generate qualitative data. Moreover, conducting a qualitative research work requires the use of a very limited number of research respondents owing to the fact that it requires employment of a very large number of resources and it is time consuming as well (Corbin and Strauss 2014 66). Therefore, this research paper explores focus groups and research interviews as the most preferred methods of qualitative research .In this case, each qualitative research methods will be explained and described in detail concentrating on how they are used in political and social sciences with the help of some empirical research examples.

Qualitative research interviews

In qualitative research, it is universally accepted that there are three basic types of research interviews that are employed regularly. These types of research interviews include: unstructured, semi structured and structured research interviews. In this case, structured interviews are otherwise known as verbally administered questionnaires where a structured list of predetermined research questions is asked (Ritchie et al. 2013 873). In this case, the research questions are followed strictly with no need for follow up questions that warrant further research examination. Nevertheless, this type of interview is very cheap and easy to administer and may be employed for a specific use if clarifications and elaborations to some of the structured questions can be needed (Silverman 2016 78). In simple terms, structured research interviews are of benefit where significant depth and explanation is needed or in cases where virtually nothing is known on the topic under research.

Semi-structured research interviews revolves around several primary questions that assist in defining the research areas that need clarifications and examination but at the same time allows the research respondents or interviewer to diverge a little to explore an idea or a research response extensively (Brinkmann 2014 89). Additionally, this type of research interview format is basically employed most frequently in social sciences, political sciences and health care science owing to the fact that it offers those research respondents with some guidelines on the research topic which is basically helpful in realizing the research objectives (Marshall and Rossman 2014 90). Moreover, due to its flexibility as compared to other forms of research interviews, it gives room for further elaboration of data and information that is vital to research participants that may not have been embedded in the original research as pertinent by the research crew.

Unstructured interviews on the other hand do not revolve around any preconceived theories or opinions since they are conducted haphazardly with very little organization. For instance, such interviews may basically commence with an opening interview question like “Can you clarify on your experience on the current social advocacy bill?” and its next question will depend on the response (Silverman 2013 13). Additionally, this type of research interviews are known to be very time-consuming and are very challenging when it comes to managing them and at the same time participate in, since they do not offer any guidelines on what the research respondents should talk about. They are only employed in political science, social science and health science research works where nothing is known about the topic under research or in-depth analysis is required.

Advantages of research interviews

Qualitative research interviews assist the researchers to record and observe research participants’ unique experience or perspective based on a particular research issue (Lewis 2015 78). Additionally, its open-ended questions assist the research discussion to be conversational in nature. Moreover, the research approach assists the research respondent in offering their first-hand experience or opinion about a particular issue (Bryman and Bell 2015 8). In so doing, it offers the researcher an insight into where the opinion of the respondent is coming from rather than YES or NO answers that offers no complete research feedback. Face to face interview is universally known as a technique of research that helps in offering a more accurate screening of research. In other words, some interview questions such as gender, race or age of the respondents in a face to face interview are less likely to have a wrong answer as compared to other techniques of research (Bryman and Bell 2015 8). Furthermore, there is no better research technique that is able to capture non-verbal and verbal ques than research interviews. In this case, this helps in evaluating the body language of the research participants that might help in stating some discomfort with the research questions. Besides, the person who is in control is the interviewer hence they can be able to keep the research respondents on track hence meeting the research objectives (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2015).

Disadvantages of research interviews

Cost is a primary demerit of most research interviews since they need a number of people to conduct the interviews hence resulting into personnel costs (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2015 78). .Additionally, The quality of information that a researcher receives depends on the researchers ability since some individuals are gifted with the capability of collecting data in an interview session better than others (Brinkmann 2014 89). Moreover, most research interviews possess a limited sample size owing to the fact that they depend on the number of the research interview staff, as well as, the interview area. In this case, therefore, some researchers are forced to carry out interview sessions in several research areas which in the process are very expensive (Lewis 2015 101).

Focus groups

It is universally accepted that focus groups share similar characteristics with interviews that are less structured but they entail a lot rather than just gathering data and information from many research respondents at once. In other words, a focus group is basically a discussion group that revolves around a particular topic in order to fulfill a research topic. However, this research discussion is guided, monitored and recorded by a researcher who is at times referred to as a research facilitator or a moderator (Lewis 2015 78)

Focus groups as qualitative research type were first introduced as a technique of research in Market Research back in the year 1940s in the University of Columbia in the Bureau of Applied Research work. The success of this technique was eventually realized in the private sector which later made so many individuals in the public sector to adapt its use. For instance, focus groups were employed in the evaluation of public campaigns like the impact of social policy campaigns (Bryman and Bell 2015 7). Nevertheless, focus groups as a research methodology in private and public sector has diverged as time moves by. It is therefore important to describe focus groups as they are currently applied in academic research.

Advantages of focus groups

The face to face interaction of the research manager or rather a qualified moderator ensures that the focus group conversation is well within the research topic and in the process, it encourages the participants to engage freely without focusing on one particular opinionated individual (Holloway and Wheeler 2013 45). Additionally, when the participants are stimulated to voice their opinion, it is accepted that the group dynamics that are evident in many focus groups can generate new thinking about the research issue which in the process may help in offering g an in-depth analysis or discussion of the topic. Moreover, because of the dynamic nature of the environment, the research facilitator can modify the research topic to make the research topic discussion more suitable for the purpose (Bryman and Bell 2015 23). Finally, the ability to include client-personnel in the course of research behind a one-way mirror is also an important aspect of focus groups. In this case, the client personnel are in a position to offer their opinion to the moderator which is very crucial in enhancing the direction of research and better research output.

Disadvantages of focus groups

Focus groups have been suggested by some scholars such as Morgan that their usage should be avoided especially when it comes to the following research criteria: First, it should not be used if listening to the views of the respondents generates other expectations for the research outcome that cannot be met (Holloway and Wheeler 2013 45). Second, focus groups should also be avoided in situations where the respondents do not feel free with each other and in the process, they might not discuss their opinions, views and feelings openly. Third, they should not also be employed if the research topic is not an issue that is appealing to the respondents or rather it is an issue that they do not wish to openly discuss (Brinkmann 2014 90). Finally, focus groups are not a very good research technique if statistical data is needed in the research. In other words, focus group discussions offers insight and depth but they are not in a position to produce useful numerical results. Some focus groups are dominated by those individuals who are very opinionated hence making the group discussion output not projectable.

Application of these methods in social or political phenomenon

Reasons behind the employment of research interviews

Research interviews are basically used to examine the experiences, views and beliefs of individuals who are participating in the research on issues about the topic under research .Additionally, Qualitative research interviews offers a very comprehensive understanding on the issues revolving around social and political phenomenon that would otherwise be obtained from other quantitative research interviews (Brinkmann 2014 90). In other words, qualitative research most especially interviews are used in cases where very little is known on the topic under consideration or where in-depth understanding is required from the participants regarding a social or political phenomenon one such as political crisis, social advocacy or community patterns and trends (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2015 4). Moreover, researches interviews are very effective in cases where the individual’s participating in the research are afraid to talk about sensitive issues in a group scenario like their political party affiliations in the next elections.

One clear aspect when it comes to research interviews is the fact that most research interviews irrespective of the discipline of application employ very similar interpersonal skills like conversing and listening as well as questioning(Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2015 6). However, in some instances, there are minor differences between research interviews employed in social sciences and health sciences when it comes to encounter purpose, roles of the participating individuals, and reasons for engaging in the research and how the interview is recorded and conducted (Marshall and Rossman 2014 89). For instance, the primary purpose of qualitative research in political sciences revolve around asking the research respondents some questions so as to make an informed decision on the next political strategy that may be able to win them votes whereas research interviews in social sciences are conducted in order to tackle a social or an issue that is affecting humans behavior (Holloway and Wheeler 2013 78). In contrast, in other research interviews, the main purpose is to basically listen to other research respondents attentively so as to acquire the opinion of the participants on what they have to say on the political or social phenomenon.

How social groups can help in dealing with social or political phenomenon

In qualitative research, focus groups are employed in generating data on group opinions or rather collective views coupled with their symbolic meanings that are attached behind the opinions (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2015 7). Additionally, this type of research methodology is also important in generating a comprehensive opinion on the research respondent’s experiences, opinions and beliefs. Previous research works have suggested some measures or criteria’s that can be employed in conducting qualitative research focus groups. Some of these criteria revolve around: first, focus groups should be employed as a standalone criteria fort research works that entail group processes, norms and meanings (Marshall and Rossman 2014 89). Second, focus groups should obey is employed in a multi-technique design to examine a research topic or gather narratives or languages that will be employed during a later research process. Third, focus groups should be employed in qualitative research works to clarify social or political phenomenon, qualify, challenge or extend the validity of the data collected through other research techniques (Holloway and Wheeler 2013 45). Finally, focus group discussions should be employed in research works that need to give the feedback of the research findings back to the research respondents hence making this type of research technique a very useful methodology in obtaining political feedback on an ongoing political campaign.


Qualitative research interviews such as interviews, focus groups discussions and open-ended questions are very important in social and political research since they assist the researcher in recording and observing a unique experience, belief, opinion and perspective as it relates to the topic under study. Additionally, since most of the questions that are employed in qualitative research are open-ended, they help in ensuring that the research discussion is very conversational hence assisting the researcher to identify any verbal and non-verbal ques that might suggest that the research respondents are uncomfortable with the topic under study.

Reference list

Brinkmann, S., 2014. Interview (pp. 1008-1010). Springer New York.

Bryman, A. and Bell, E., 2015. Business research methods. Oxford University Press, USA.

Corbin, J. and Strauss, A., 2014. Basics of qualitative research: Techniques and procedures for developing grounded theory. Sage publications.

Eriksson, P. and Kovalainen, A., 2015. Qualitative Methods in Business Research: A Practical Guide to Social Research. Sage.

Holloway, I. and Wheeler, S., 2013. Qualitative research in nursing and healthcare. John Wiley & Sons.

Lewis, S., 2015. Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Health promotion practice, p.1524839915580941.

Marshall, C. and Rossman, G.B., 2014. Designing qualitative research. Sage publications.

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C.M. and Ormston, R. eds., 2013. Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Sage.

Silverman, D. ed., 2016. Qualitative research. Sage.

Silverman, D., 2013. Doing qualitative research: A practical handbook. SAGE Publications Limited.

Smith, J.A. ed., 2015. Qualitative psychology: A practical guide to research methods. Sage.

Taylor, S.J., Bogdan, R. and DeVault, M., 2015. Introduction to qualitative research methods: A guidebook and resource. John Wiley & Sons.