What Is the Secret to Creating a Qualitative Research Dissertation?


If you are considering writing a qualitative research dissertation as opposed to a quantitative one because you have an aversion to statistics, then you might want to rethink that. While writing a good quantitative research piece with the requisite statistics may be very challenging, the intellectual rigor and time required of a qualitative research dissertation may be even greater.


To conduct qualitative research the following must be kept in mind:

  • The researcher must get intimately involved with their subject
  • The design emerges from the process; it cannot be effectively designed prior to investigation.
  • It is more suited to fields where people can be interviewed as opposed to fields that rely on numbers and precise data such as mathematics or physics or chemistry.
  • Qualitative research must go deeper into the subject matter, describing it fully and as such is more time-consuming than quantitative research

Researcher Directly Involved

As a qualitative researcher, you will need to observe your subjects personally in their natural environment, at times staying as unobtrusive as possible, and at other times getting in and asking questions during a particular event, process or procedure. You will also have to conduct interviews of people who work or live in the environment you are studying. A qualitative interview begins with a general idea of where the conversation should go, but it is not based on a set of carefully crafted questions that were drafted prior to the interview. You may even decide to immerse fully into the culture you are studying for months or years in order to get more in-depth understanding.


Design Emerges From Process


The qualitative research dissertation begins with questions, not outlines. Based on the questions that you have, you can begin to write some ideas as to how to investigate the answers to your question but the actual structure will emerge as you observe and interview.


Well Suited for Studies of People


The first thing that comes to mind when hearing qualitative research is usually sociology, or perhaps social anthropology; however, there is a lot of very useful qualitative research conducted in the fields of medicine and education as well, not to mention any other field that relates to dealing with people.


Qualitative Research Can Be Time Consuming


Many qualitative studies are longitudinal, assessing changes over time, and as such will necessarily take years to complete in some cases. Even a short-term qualitative research dissertation can take longer because you MUST get out into the field in person.


In the end, it is nearly impossible to set out a defined set of rules for conducting qualitative research because there is little agreement among qualitative researchers regarding the key elements of a good qualitative research dissertation. There are however agreed upon principles that qualitative research should have both transparency and systematicity. What exactly that means will depend upon whom you ask, but it is good to keep those principles in mind in terms of what they mean to you.

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