The Issues & Questions Uniquely Suited For Qualitative Research

Unique attributes of qualitative research-Types of issues and questions

There are many instances when a qualitative research design is the only option. This is because qualitative research is uniquely suited to address research issues or questions that might be difficult, if not impossible, to investigate under more structured, less flexible quantitative research designs. Qualitative inquiry effectively tackles sensitive or personal issues such as domestic violence (e.g., Beaulaurier et al., 2005), racism (e.g., Harper et al., 2011), physical disabilities (e.g., Kroll et al., 2007), pregnancy among teenagers (e.g., Luttrell, 2003), drug addiction (e.g., Jodlowski et al., 2007), and infertility (e.g., Culley et al., 2007); multifaceted, intricate topics such as personal life histories (Elliott, 2005) and corporate leadership (e.g., Schilling, 2006); nebulous questions such as those pertaining to “quality of life” (e.g., Ferrell et al., 1997; Wainwright et al., 2018) and “Feelings & Sensations: Where Survey Designs Fair Badly.”; and contextual issues such as in-the-moment decision making, for example, in-store observations of shopping patterns (e.g., West, 2012).

By the same token, qualitative research is often the only option to gaining in-depth, meaningful information from hard-to-reach, underserved, or hidden populations, such as children (e.g., Christensen, et al., 2011), same-sex partners (e.g., Frost, 2013); subcultures such as motorcycle bikers (e.g., Schouten & McAlexander, 1995); psychiatric facilities (e.g., Lyall & Bartlett, 2010); deviant groups such as heavy drug users and convicted murderers (e.g., Small et al., 2006); individuals afflicted with an uncommon physical condition such as acromegaly (e.g., Sibeoni et al., 2019); and minority parents of school-age children (e.g., Auerbach, 2002). Although qualitative inquiry is just as appropriate in the investigation of the “average” consumer, teenager, senior citizen, educator, corporate employee, community volunteer, cancer patient, and the like, it is the ability to obtain insight from the less obvious, smaller niche segments of the population that gives special distinction to the qualitative approach.

All 10 unique attributes of qualitative research are discussed in this RDR article.

Auerbach, S. (2002). “Why do they give the good classes to some and not to others?” Latino parent narratives of struggle in a college access program. Teachers College Record, 104(7), 1369–1392.

Beaulaurier, R. L., Seff, L. R., Newman, F. L., & Dunlop, B. (2005). Internal barriers to help seeking for middle-aged and older women who experience intimate partner violence. Journal of Elder Abuse & Neglect, 17(3), 2005.

Christensen, P., Mikkelsen, M. R., Nielsen, T. A. S., & Harder, H. (2011). Children, mobility, and space: Using GPS and mobile phone technologies in ethnographic research. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 5(3), 227–246.

Culley, L., Hudson, N., & Rapport, F. (2007). Using focus groups with minority ethnic communities: Researching infertility in British South Asian communities. Qualitative Health Research, 17(1), 102–112.

Elliott, J. (2005). Using narrative in social research: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. London: Sage Publications.

Ferrell, B. R., Grant, M. M., Funk, B., Otis-Green, S., & Garcia, N. (1997). Quality of life in breast cancer survivors as identified by focus groups. Psycho-Oncology, 6(1), 13–23.<13::AID-PON231>3.0.CO;2-S

Frost, D. M. (2013). Stigma and intimacy in same-sex relationships: A narrative approach. Qualitative Psychology, 1(S), 49–61.

Harper, S. R., Davis, R. J., Jones, D. E., McGowan, B. L., Ingram, T. N., & Platt, C. S. (2011). Race and racism in the experiences of Black male resident assistants at predominantly White universities. Journal of College Student Development, 52(2), 180–200.

Jodlowski, D., Sharf, B. F., Nguyen, L. C., Haidet, P., & Woodard, L. D. (2007). “Screwed for life”: Examining identification and division in addiction narratives. Communication & Medicine, 4(1), 15–26.

Kroll, T., Barbour, R., & Harris, J. (2007). Using focus groups in disability research. Qualitative Health Research, 17(5), 690–698.

Luttrell, W. (2003). Pregnant bodies, fertile minds: Gender, race and the schooling of pregnant teens. New York: Routledge.

Lyall, M., & Bartlett, A. (2010). Decision making in medium security: Can he have leave? Journal of Forensic Psychiatry & Psychology, 21(6), 887–901.

Schilling, J. (2006). On the pragmatics of qualitative assessment. European Journal of Psychological Assessment, 22(1), 28–37.

Schouten, J. W., & McAlexander, J. H. (1995). Subcultures of consumption: An ethnography of the new bikers. Journal of Consumer Research, 22, 43–61.

Sibeoni, J., Manolios, E., Verneuil, L., Chanson, P., & Revah-Levy, A. (2019). Patients’ perspectives on acromegaly diagnostic delay: a qualitative study.

Small, W., Kerr, T., Charette, J., Schechter, M. T., & Spittal, P. M. (2006). Impacts of intensified police activity on injection drug users: Evidence from an ethnographic investigation. International Journal of Drug Policy, 17(2), 85–95.

Wainwright, B., Waring, M. J., Julich, S., Yeung, P., & Green, J. K. (2018). Quality of life of living with a transplanted liver: The issue of returning to normalcy. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 30(1), 7–19.

West, R. (2012). Lather, rinse, repeat: Getting into the shower & other private places with mobile qualitative. MRMW North America Conference.







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