Using Qualitative Research Methods

Qualitative research methods are characterized by collecting a lot of in-depth or “rich” information about a small number of cases. Such research also involves a subjective approach based on looking at the key issues from the point of view of the people involved in the subject to be studied. To this end, the researcher asks people to describe their experiences or feelings in their own words and to provide their own explanations for how they have behaved, rather than the researcher providing an explanation or framework to guide the research.

The methods used in this approach include in-depth interviews, focus groups, participant observation, analyzing texts, biographical research, and ethnography. The qualitative research approach has a number of merits for particular types of data, such as a small scale study with a limited number of subjects or the study of group dynamics in a small group. One advantages is that the research reflects the nature of the leisure experience, since leisure involves a personal experience based on the meanings which the activity or time spent has to the individual. Another merit is that this research involves a more personal approach to the subject studied, and the results can be better understood by the average person who doesn’t understand statistical methods, which is common for many people involved in managing recreational programs and hiring researchers to conduct studies and advise them. The qualitative approach also is ideal for looking at trends over time and at the influences of past experiences on present behavior. This approach is also well suited to looking at the cultural aspects of interaction, such as the meanings of the symbols and gestures used by people of different backgrounds, because people with different cultures may interpret language, symbols, and gestures differently, such as when one culture considers a certain hand gesture to be a sign of friendship, while another culture considers the gesture a put down or insult.

Qualitative research also has an advantage in being used to develop a hypothesis about the relationship between certain attitudes, values, and behaviors, whereas quantitative research might be used to later test these hypotheses. Qualitative research is also good for doing a pilot or exploratory study to determine what are the major issues, attitudes, values, perceptions, Video company Toronto viewpoints to be examined further in a quantitative study. Qualitative research might also help to indicate the relevant categories or subjects to include in a larger study, as well as the questions to ask. It can additionally help a researcher determine the right words and phrases to use in asking questions in a particular group or culture in order to use words in a questionnaire that are in common use by group members and to show that one understands that culture.

The main disadvantages of the qualitative approach is that it can’t be used to test hypotheses, because it involves a very small number of subjects. It also can’t be subjected to the kind of reliability and validity testing done in quantitative research, such as when subjects are selected randomly for a study or when an experimental design with a control and experimental group is used. The results also can’t be generalized to a larger group, since these subjects are not selected to be representative of a larger group, as is often the case when a randomized sample is used in large scale quantitative studies. Another problem is that since the researcher is studying a small group, such as through participant observation, the researcher’s presence might influence the behavior and attitudes of group members as a result of his or her participation. For instance, in a study of deviant behavior, the group members may avoid participating in certain activities because they don’t want to reveal them to a researcher who is considered an outsider, despite his or her participation.

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