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  • Types of Interviews in Research | Guide & Examples

Types of Interviews in Research | Guide & Examples

Published on March 10, 2022 by Tegan George . Revised on June 22, 2023.

An interview is a qualitative research method that relies on asking questions in order to collect data . Interviews involve two or more people, one of whom is the interviewer asking the questions.

There are several types of interviews, often differentiated by their level of structure.

  • Structured interviews have predetermined questions asked in a predetermined order.
  • Unstructured interviews are more free-flowing.
  • Semi-structured interviews fall in between.

Interviews are commonly used in market research, social science, and ethnographic research .

Table of contents

What is a structured interview, what is a semi-structured interview, what is an unstructured interview, what is a focus group, examples of interview questions, advantages and disadvantages of interviews, other interesting articles, frequently asked questions about types of interviews.

Structured interviews have predetermined questions in a set order. They are often closed-ended, featuring dichotomous (yes/no) or multiple-choice questions. While open-ended structured interviews exist, they are much less common. The types of questions asked make structured interviews a predominantly quantitative tool.

Asking set questions in a set order can help you see patterns among responses, and it allows you to easily compare responses between participants while keeping other factors constant. This can mitigate   research biases and lead to higher reliability and validity. However, structured interviews can be overly formal, as well as limited in scope and flexibility.

  • You feel very comfortable with your topic. This will help you formulate your questions most effectively.
  • You have limited time or resources. Structured interviews are a bit more straightforward to analyze because of their closed-ended nature, and can be a doable undertaking for an individual.
  • Your research question depends on holding environmental conditions between participants constant.

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Semi-structured interviews are a blend of structured and unstructured interviews. While the interviewer has a general plan for what they want to ask, the questions do not have to follow a particular phrasing or order.

Semi-structured interviews are often open-ended, allowing for flexibility, but follow a predetermined thematic framework, giving a sense of order. For this reason, they are often considered “the best of both worlds.”

However, if the questions differ substantially between participants, it can be challenging to look for patterns, lessening the generalizability and validity of your results.

  • You have prior interview experience. It’s easier than you think to accidentally ask a leading question when coming up with questions on the fly. Overall, spontaneous questions are much more difficult than they may seem.
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature. The answers you receive can help guide your future research.

An unstructured interview is the most flexible type of interview. The questions and the order in which they are asked are not set. Instead, the interview can proceed more spontaneously, based on the participant’s previous answers.

Unstructured interviews are by definition open-ended. This flexibility can help you gather detailed information on your topic, while still allowing you to observe patterns between participants.

However, so much flexibility means that they can be very challenging to conduct properly. You must be very careful not to ask leading questions, as biased responses can lead to lower reliability or even invalidate your research.

  • You have a solid background in your research topic and have conducted interviews before.
  • Your research question is exploratory in nature, and you are seeking descriptive data that will deepen and contextualize your initial hypotheses.
  • Your research necessitates forming a deeper connection with your participants, encouraging them to feel comfortable revealing their true opinions and emotions.

A focus group brings together a group of participants to answer questions on a topic of interest in a moderated setting. Focus groups are qualitative in nature and often study the group’s dynamic and body language in addition to their answers. Responses can guide future research on consumer products and services, human behavior, or controversial topics.

Focus groups can provide more nuanced and unfiltered feedback than individual interviews and are easier to organize than experiments or large surveys . However, their small size leads to low external validity and the temptation as a researcher to “cherry-pick” responses that fit your hypotheses.

  • Your research focuses on the dynamics of group discussion or real-time responses to your topic.
  • Your questions are complex and rooted in feelings, opinions, and perceptions that cannot be answered with a “yes” or “no.”
  • Your topic is exploratory in nature, and you are seeking information that will help you uncover new questions or future research ideas.

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advantages and disadvantages of interviews in qualitative research pdf

Depending on the type of interview you are conducting, your questions will differ in style, phrasing, and intention. Structured interview questions are set and precise, while the other types of interviews allow for more open-endedness and flexibility.

Here are some examples.

  • Semi-structured
  • Unstructured
  • Focus group
  • Do you like dogs? Yes/No
  • Do you associate dogs with feeling: happy; somewhat happy; neutral; somewhat unhappy; unhappy
  • If yes, name one attribute of dogs that you like.
  • If no, name one attribute of dogs that you don’t like.
  • What feelings do dogs bring out in you?
  • When you think more deeply about this, what experiences would you say your feelings are rooted in?

Interviews are a great research tool. They allow you to gather rich information and draw more detailed conclusions than other research methods, taking into consideration nonverbal cues, off-the-cuff reactions, and emotional responses.

However, they can also be time-consuming and deceptively challenging to conduct properly. Smaller sample sizes can cause their validity and reliability to suffer, and there is an inherent risk of interviewer effect arising from accidentally leading questions.

Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each type of interview that can help you decide if you’d like to utilize this research method.

If you want to know more about statistics , methodology , or research bias , make sure to check out some of our other articles with explanations and examples.

  • Student’s  t -distribution
  • Normal distribution
  • Null and Alternative Hypotheses
  • Chi square tests
  • Confidence interval
  • Quartiles & Quantiles
  • Cluster sampling
  • Stratified sampling
  • Data cleansing
  • Reproducibility vs Replicability
  • Peer review
  • Prospective cohort study

Research bias

  • Implicit bias
  • Cognitive bias
  • Placebo effect
  • Hawthorne effect
  • Hindsight bias
  • Affect heuristic
  • Social desirability bias

The four most common types of interviews are:

  • Structured interviews : The questions are predetermined in both topic and order. 
  • Semi-structured interviews : A few questions are predetermined, but other questions aren’t planned.
  • Unstructured interviews : None of the questions are predetermined.
  • Focus group interviews : The questions are presented to a group instead of one individual.

The interviewer effect is a type of bias that emerges when a characteristic of an interviewer (race, age, gender identity, etc.) influences the responses given by the interviewee.

There is a risk of an interviewer effect in all types of interviews , but it can be mitigated by writing really high-quality interview questions.

Social desirability bias is the tendency for interview participants to give responses that will be viewed favorably by the interviewer or other participants. It occurs in all types of interviews and surveys , but is most common in semi-structured interviews , unstructured interviews , and focus groups .

Social desirability bias can be mitigated by ensuring participants feel at ease and comfortable sharing their views. Make sure to pay attention to your own body language and any physical or verbal cues, such as nodding or widening your eyes.

This type of bias can also occur in observations if the participants know they’re being observed. They might alter their behavior accordingly.

A focus group is a research method that brings together a small group of people to answer questions in a moderated setting. The group is chosen due to predefined demographic traits, and the questions are designed to shed light on a topic of interest. It is one of 4 types of interviews .

Quantitative research deals with numbers and statistics, while qualitative research deals with words and meanings.

Quantitative methods allow you to systematically measure variables and test hypotheses . Qualitative methods allow you to explore concepts and experiences in more detail.

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  • Published: 05 October 2018

Interviews and focus groups in qualitative research: an update for the digital age

  • P. Gill 1 &
  • J. Baillie 2  

British Dental Journal volume  225 ,  pages 668–672 ( 2018 ) Cite this article

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Highlights that qualitative research is used increasingly in dentistry. Interviews and focus groups remain the most common qualitative methods of data collection.

Suggests the advent of digital technologies has transformed how qualitative research can now be undertaken.

Suggests interviews and focus groups can offer significant, meaningful insight into participants' experiences, beliefs and perspectives, which can help to inform developments in dental practice.

Qualitative research is used increasingly in dentistry, due to its potential to provide meaningful, in-depth insights into participants' experiences, perspectives, beliefs and behaviours. These insights can subsequently help to inform developments in dental practice and further related research. The most common methods of data collection used in qualitative research are interviews and focus groups. While these are primarily conducted face-to-face, the ongoing evolution of digital technologies, such as video chat and online forums, has further transformed these methods of data collection. This paper therefore discusses interviews and focus groups in detail, outlines how they can be used in practice, how digital technologies can further inform the data collection process, and what these methods can offer dentistry.

You have full access to this article via your institution.

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Traditionally, research in dentistry has primarily been quantitative in nature. 1 However, in recent years, there has been a growing interest in qualitative research within the profession, due to its potential to further inform developments in practice, policy, education and training. Consequently, in 2008, the British Dental Journal (BDJ) published a four paper qualitative research series, 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 to help increase awareness and understanding of this particular methodological approach.

Since the papers were originally published, two scoping reviews have demonstrated the ongoing proliferation in the use of qualitative research within the field of oral healthcare. 1 , 6 To date, the original four paper series continue to be well cited and two of the main papers remain widely accessed among the BDJ readership. 2 , 3 The potential value of well-conducted qualitative research to evidence-based practice is now also widely recognised by service providers, policy makers, funding bodies and those who commission, support and use healthcare research.

Besides increasing standalone use, qualitative methods are now also routinely incorporated into larger mixed method study designs, such as clinical trials, as they can offer additional, meaningful insights into complex problems that simply could not be provided by quantitative methods alone. Qualitative methods can also be used to further facilitate in-depth understanding of important aspects of clinical trial processes, such as recruitment. For example, Ellis et al . investigated why edentulous older patients, dissatisfied with conventional dentures, decline implant treatment, despite its established efficacy, and frequently refuse to participate in related randomised clinical trials, even when financial constraints are removed. 7 Through the use of focus groups in Canada and the UK, the authors found that fears of pain and potential complications, along with perceived embarrassment, exacerbated by age, are common reasons why older patients typically refuse dental implants. 7

The last decade has also seen further developments in qualitative research, due to the ongoing evolution of digital technologies. These developments have transformed how researchers can access and share information, communicate and collaborate, recruit and engage participants, collect and analyse data and disseminate and translate research findings. 8 Where appropriate, such technologies are therefore capable of extending and enhancing how qualitative research is undertaken. 9 For example, it is now possible to collect qualitative data via instant messaging, email or online/video chat, using appropriate online platforms.

These innovative approaches to research are therefore cost-effective, convenient, reduce geographical constraints and are often useful for accessing 'hard to reach' participants (for example, those who are immobile or socially isolated). 8 , 9 However, digital technologies are still relatively new and constantly evolving and therefore present a variety of pragmatic and methodological challenges. Furthermore, given their very nature, their use in many qualitative studies and/or with certain participant groups may be inappropriate and should therefore always be carefully considered. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to provide a detailed explication regarding the use of digital technologies in qualitative research, insight is provided into how such technologies can be used to facilitate the data collection process in interviews and focus groups.

In light of such developments, it is perhaps therefore timely to update the main paper 3 of the original BDJ series. As with the previous publications, this paper has been purposely written in an accessible style, to enhance readability, particularly for those who are new to qualitative research. While the focus remains on the most common qualitative methods of data collection – interviews and focus groups – appropriate revisions have been made to provide a novel perspective, and should therefore be helpful to those who would like to know more about qualitative research. This paper specifically focuses on undertaking qualitative research with adult participants only.

Overview of qualitative research

Qualitative research is an approach that focuses on people and their experiences, behaviours and opinions. 10 , 11 The qualitative researcher seeks to answer questions of 'how' and 'why', providing detailed insight and understanding, 11 which quantitative methods cannot reach. 12 Within qualitative research, there are distinct methodologies influencing how the researcher approaches the research question, data collection and data analysis. 13 For example, phenomenological studies focus on the lived experience of individuals, explored through their description of the phenomenon. Ethnographic studies explore the culture of a group and typically involve the use of multiple methods to uncover the issues. 14

While methodology is the 'thinking tool', the methods are the 'doing tools'; 13 the ways in which data are collected and analysed. There are multiple qualitative data collection methods, including interviews, focus groups, observations, documentary analysis, participant diaries, photography and videography. Two of the most commonly used qualitative methods are interviews and focus groups, which are explored in this article. The data generated through these methods can be analysed in one of many ways, according to the methodological approach chosen. A common approach is thematic data analysis, involving the identification of themes and subthemes across the data set. Further information on approaches to qualitative data analysis has been discussed elsewhere. 1

Qualitative research is an evolving and adaptable approach, used by different disciplines for different purposes. Traditionally, qualitative data, specifically interviews, focus groups and observations, have been collected face-to-face with participants. In more recent years, digital technologies have contributed to the ongoing evolution of qualitative research. Digital technologies offer researchers different ways of recruiting participants and collecting data, and offer participants opportunities to be involved in research that is not necessarily face-to-face.

Research interviews are a fundamental qualitative research method 15 and are utilised across methodological approaches. Interviews enable the researcher to learn in depth about the perspectives, experiences, beliefs and motivations of the participant. 3 , 16 Examples include, exploring patients' perspectives of fear/anxiety triggers in dental treatment, 17 patients' experiences of oral health and diabetes, 18 and dental students' motivations for their choice of career. 19

Interviews may be structured, semi-structured or unstructured, 3 according to the purpose of the study, with less structured interviews facilitating a more in depth and flexible interviewing approach. 20 Structured interviews are similar to verbal questionnaires and are used if the researcher requires clarification on a topic; however they produce less in-depth data about a participant's experience. 3 Unstructured interviews may be used when little is known about a topic and involves the researcher asking an opening question; 3 the participant then leads the discussion. 20 Semi-structured interviews are commonly used in healthcare research, enabling the researcher to ask predetermined questions, 20 while ensuring the participant discusses issues they feel are important.

Interviews can be undertaken face-to-face or using digital methods when the researcher and participant are in different locations. Audio-recording the interview, with the consent of the participant, is essential for all interviews regardless of the medium as it enables accurate transcription; the process of turning the audio file into a word-for-word transcript. This transcript is the data, which the researcher then analyses according to the chosen approach.

Types of interview

Qualitative studies often utilise one-to-one, face-to-face interviews with research participants. This involves arranging a mutually convenient time and place to meet the participant, signing a consent form and audio-recording the interview. However, digital technologies have expanded the potential for interviews in research, enabling individuals to participate in qualitative research regardless of location.

Telephone interviews can be a useful alternative to face-to-face interviews and are commonly used in qualitative research. They enable participants from different geographical areas to participate and may be less onerous for participants than meeting a researcher in person. 15 A qualitative study explored patients' perspectives of dental implants and utilised telephone interviews due to the quality of the data that could be yielded. 21 The researcher needs to consider how they will audio record the interview, which can be facilitated by purchasing a recorder that connects directly to the telephone. One potential disadvantage of telephone interviews is the inability of the interviewer and researcher to see each other. This is resolved using software for audio and video calls online – such as Skype – to conduct interviews with participants in qualitative studies. Advantages of this approach include being able to see the participant if video calls are used, enabling observation of non-verbal communication, and the software can be free to use. However, participants are required to have a device and internet connection, as well as being computer literate, potentially limiting who can participate in the study. One qualitative study explored the role of dental hygienists in reducing oral health disparities in Canada. 22 The researcher conducted interviews using Skype, which enabled dental hygienists from across Canada to be interviewed within the research budget, accommodating the participants' schedules. 22

A less commonly used approach to qualitative interviews is the use of social virtual worlds. A qualitative study accessed a social virtual world – Second Life – to explore the health literacy skills of individuals who use social virtual worlds to access health information. 23 The researcher created an avatar and interview room, and undertook interviews with participants using voice and text methods. 23 This approach to recruitment and data collection enables individuals from diverse geographical locations to participate, while remaining anonymous if they wish. Furthermore, for interviews conducted using text methods, transcription of the interview is not required as the researcher can save the written conversation with the participant, with the participant's consent. However, the researcher and participant need to be familiar with how the social virtual world works to engage in an interview this way.

Conducting an interview

Ensuring informed consent before any interview is a fundamental aspect of the research process. Participants in research must be afforded autonomy and respect; consent should be informed and voluntary. 24 Individuals should have the opportunity to read an information sheet about the study, ask questions, understand how their data will be stored and used, and know that they are free to withdraw at any point without reprisal. The qualitative researcher should take written consent before undertaking the interview. In a face-to-face interview, this is straightforward: the researcher and participant both sign copies of the consent form, keeping one each. However, this approach is less straightforward when the researcher and participant do not meet in person. A recent protocol paper outlined an approach for taking consent for telephone interviews, which involved: audio recording the participant agreeing to each point on the consent form; the researcher signing the consent form and keeping a copy; and posting a copy to the participant. 25 This process could be replicated in other interview studies using digital methods.

There are advantages and disadvantages of using face-to-face and digital methods for research interviews. Ultimately, for both approaches, the quality of the interview is determined by the researcher. 16 Appropriate training and preparation are thus required. Healthcare professionals can use their interpersonal communication skills when undertaking a research interview, particularly questioning, listening and conversing. 3 However, the purpose of an interview is to gain information about the study topic, 26 rather than offering help and advice. 3 The researcher therefore needs to listen attentively to participants, enabling them to describe their experience without interruption. 3 The use of active listening skills also help to facilitate the interview. 14 Spradley outlined elements and strategies for research interviews, 27 which are a useful guide for qualitative researchers:

Greeting and explaining the project/interview

Asking descriptive (broad), structural (explore response to descriptive) and contrast (difference between) questions

Asymmetry between the researcher and participant talking

Expressing interest and cultural ignorance

Repeating, restating and incorporating the participant's words when asking questions

Creating hypothetical situations

Asking friendly questions

Knowing when to leave.

For semi-structured interviews, a topic guide (also called an interview schedule) is used to guide the content of the interview – an example of a topic guide is outlined in Box 1 . The topic guide, usually based on the research questions, existing literature and, for healthcare professionals, their clinical experience, is developed by the research team. The topic guide should include open ended questions that elicit in-depth information, and offer participants the opportunity to talk about issues important to them. This is vital in qualitative research where the researcher is interested in exploring the experiences and perspectives of participants. It can be useful for qualitative researchers to pilot the topic guide with the first participants, 10 to ensure the questions are relevant and understandable, and amending the questions if required.

Regardless of the medium of interview, the researcher must consider the setting of the interview. For face-to-face interviews, this could be in the participant's home, in an office or another mutually convenient location. A quiet location is preferable to promote confidentiality, enable the researcher and participant to concentrate on the conversation, and to facilitate accurate audio-recording of the interview. For interviews using digital methods the same principles apply: a quiet, private space where the researcher and participant feel comfortable and confident to participate in an interview.

Box 1: Example of a topic guide

Study focus: Parents' experiences of brushing their child's (aged 0–5) teeth

1. Can you tell me about your experience of cleaning your child's teeth?

How old was your child when you started cleaning their teeth?

Why did you start cleaning their teeth at that point?

How often do you brush their teeth?

What do you use to brush their teeth and why?

2. Could you explain how you find cleaning your child's teeth?

Do you find anything difficult?

What makes cleaning their teeth easier for you?

3. How has your experience of cleaning your child's teeth changed over time?

Has it become easier or harder?

Have you changed how often and how you clean their teeth? If so, why?

4. Could you describe how your child finds having their teeth cleaned?

What do they enjoy about having their teeth cleaned?

Is there anything they find upsetting about having their teeth cleaned?

5. Where do you look for information/advice about cleaning your child's teeth?

What did your health visitor tell you about cleaning your child's teeth? (If anything)

What has the dentist told you about caring for your child's teeth? (If visited)

Have any family members given you advice about how to clean your child's teeth? If so, what did they tell you? Did you follow their advice?

6. Is there anything else you would like to discuss about this?

Focus groups

A focus group is a moderated group discussion on a pre-defined topic, for research purposes. 28 , 29 While not aligned to a particular qualitative methodology (for example, grounded theory or phenomenology) as such, focus groups are used increasingly in healthcare research, as they are useful for exploring collective perspectives, attitudes, behaviours and experiences. Consequently, they can yield rich, in-depth data and illuminate agreement and inconsistencies 28 within and, where appropriate, between groups. Examples include public perceptions of dental implants and subsequent impact on help-seeking and decision making, 30 and general dental practitioners' views on patient safety in dentistry. 31

Focus groups can be used alone or in conjunction with other methods, such as interviews or observations, and can therefore help to confirm, extend or enrich understanding and provide alternative insights. 28 The social interaction between participants often results in lively discussion and can therefore facilitate the collection of rich, meaningful data. However, they are complex to organise and manage, due to the number of participants, and may also be inappropriate for exploring particularly sensitive issues that many participants may feel uncomfortable about discussing in a group environment.

Focus groups are primarily undertaken face-to-face but can now also be undertaken online, using appropriate technologies such as email, bulletin boards, online research communities, chat rooms, discussion forums, social media and video conferencing. 32 Using such technologies, data collection can also be synchronous (for example, online discussions in 'real time') or, unlike traditional face-to-face focus groups, asynchronous (for example, online/email discussions in 'non-real time'). While many of the fundamental principles of focus group research are the same, regardless of how they are conducted, a number of subtle nuances are associated with the online medium. 32 Some of which are discussed further in the following sections.

Focus group considerations

Some key considerations associated with face-to-face focus groups are: how many participants are required; should participants within each group know each other (or not) and how many focus groups are needed within a single study? These issues are much debated and there is no definitive answer. However, the number of focus groups required will largely depend on the topic area, the depth and breadth of data needed, the desired level of participation required 29 and the necessity (or not) for data saturation.

The optimum group size is around six to eight participants (excluding researchers) but can work effectively with between three and 14 participants. 3 If the group is too small, it may limit discussion, but if it is too large, it may become disorganised and difficult to manage. It is, however, prudent to over-recruit for a focus group by approximately two to three participants, to allow for potential non-attenders. For many researchers, particularly novice researchers, group size may also be informed by pragmatic considerations, such as the type of study, resources available and moderator experience. 28 Similar size and mix considerations exist for online focus groups. Typically, synchronous online focus groups will have around three to eight participants but, as the discussion does not happen simultaneously, asynchronous groups may have as many as 10–30 participants. 33

The topic area and potential group interaction should guide group composition considerations. Pre-existing groups, where participants know each other (for example, work colleagues) may be easier to recruit, have shared experiences and may enjoy a familiarity, which facilitates discussion and/or the ability to challenge each other courteously. 3 However, if there is a potential power imbalance within the group or if existing group norms and hierarchies may adversely affect the ability of participants to speak freely, then 'stranger groups' (that is, where participants do not already know each other) may be more appropriate. 34 , 35

Focus group management

Face-to-face focus groups should normally be conducted by two researchers; a moderator and an observer. 28 The moderator facilitates group discussion, while the observer typically monitors group dynamics, behaviours, non-verbal cues, seating arrangements and speaking order, which is essential for transcription and analysis. The same principles of informed consent, as discussed in the interview section, also apply to focus groups, regardless of medium. However, the consent process for online discussions will probably be managed somewhat differently. For example, while an appropriate participant information leaflet (and consent form) would still be required, the process is likely to be managed electronically (for example, via email) and would need to specifically address issues relating to technology (for example, anonymity and use, storage and access to online data). 32

The venue in which a face to face focus group is conducted should be of a suitable size, private, quiet, free from distractions and in a collectively convenient location. It should also be conducted at a time appropriate for participants, 28 as this is likely to promote attendance. As with interviews, the same ethical considerations apply (as discussed earlier). However, online focus groups may present additional ethical challenges associated with issues such as informed consent, appropriate access and secure data storage. Further guidance can be found elsewhere. 8 , 32

Before the focus group commences, the researchers should establish rapport with participants, as this will help to put them at ease and result in a more meaningful discussion. Consequently, researchers should introduce themselves, provide further clarity about the study and how the process will work in practice and outline the 'ground rules'. Ground rules are designed to assist, not hinder, group discussion and typically include: 3 , 28 , 29

Discussions within the group are confidential to the group

Only one person can speak at a time

All participants should have sufficient opportunity to contribute

There should be no unnecessary interruptions while someone is speaking

Everyone can be expected to be listened to and their views respected

Challenging contrary opinions is appropriate, but ridiculing is not.

Moderating a focus group requires considered management and good interpersonal skills to help guide the discussion and, where appropriate, keep it sufficiently focused. Avoid, therefore, participating, leading, expressing personal opinions or correcting participants' knowledge 3 , 28 as this may bias the process. A relaxed, interested demeanour will also help participants to feel comfortable and promote candid discourse. Moderators should also prevent the discussion being dominated by any one person, ensure differences of opinions are discussed fairly and, if required, encourage reticent participants to contribute. 3 Asking open questions, reflecting on significant issues, inviting further debate, probing responses accordingly, and seeking further clarification, as and where appropriate, will help to obtain sufficient depth and insight into the topic area.

Moderating online focus groups requires comparable skills, particularly if the discussion is synchronous, as the discussion may be dominated by those who can type proficiently. 36 It is therefore important that sufficient time and respect is accorded to those who may not be able to type as quickly. Asynchronous discussions are usually less problematic in this respect, as interactions are less instant. However, moderating an asynchronous discussion presents additional challenges, particularly if participants are geographically dispersed, as they may be online at different times. Consequently, the moderator will not always be present and the discussion may therefore need to occur over several days, which can be difficult to manage and facilitate and invariably requires considerable flexibility. 32 It is also worth recognising that establishing rapport with participants via online medium is often more challenging than via face-to-face and may therefore require additional time, skills, effort and consideration.

As with research interviews, focus groups should be guided by an appropriate interview schedule, as discussed earlier in the paper. For example, the schedule will usually be informed by the review of the literature and study aims, and will merely provide a topic guide to help inform subsequent discussions. To provide a verbatim account of the discussion, focus groups must be recorded, using an audio-recorder with a good quality multi-directional microphone. While videotaping is possible, some participants may find it obtrusive, 3 which may adversely affect group dynamics. The use (or not) of a video recorder, should therefore be carefully considered.

At the end of the focus group, a few minutes should be spent rounding up and reflecting on the discussion. 28 Depending on the topic area, it is possible that some participants may have revealed deeply personal issues and may therefore require further help and support, such as a constructive debrief or possibly even referral on to a relevant third party. It is also possible that some participants may feel that the discussion did not adequately reflect their views and, consequently, may no longer wish to be associated with the study. 28 Such occurrences are likely to be uncommon, but should they arise, it is important to further discuss any concerns and, if appropriate, offer them the opportunity to withdraw (including any data relating to them) from the study. Immediately after the discussion, researchers should compile notes regarding thoughts and ideas about the focus group, which can assist with data analysis and, if appropriate, any further data collection.

Qualitative research is increasingly being utilised within dental research to explore the experiences, perspectives, motivations and beliefs of participants. The contributions of qualitative research to evidence-based practice are increasingly being recognised, both as standalone research and as part of larger mixed-method studies, including clinical trials. Interviews and focus groups remain commonly used data collection methods in qualitative research, and with the advent of digital technologies, their utilisation continues to evolve. However, digital methods of qualitative data collection present additional methodological, ethical and practical considerations, but also potentially offer considerable flexibility to participants and researchers. Consequently, regardless of format, qualitative methods have significant potential to inform important areas of dental practice, policy and further related research.

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T1 - Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in qualitative research

AU - Opdenakker, R.J.G.

N2 - Face-to-face interviews have long been the dominant interview technique in the field of qualitative research. In the last two decades, telephone interviewing became more and more common. Due to the explosive growth of new communication forms, such as computer mediated communication (for example e-mail and chat boxes), other interview techniques can be introduced and used within the field of qualitative research. For a study in the domain of virtual teams, I used various communication possibilities to interview informants as well as face-to-face interviews. In this article a comparison will be made concerning the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face, telephone, e-mail and MSN messenger interviews. By including telephone and MSN messenger interviews in the comparison, the scope of this article is broader than the article of BAMPTON and COWTON (2002).

AB - Face-to-face interviews have long been the dominant interview technique in the field of qualitative research. In the last two decades, telephone interviewing became more and more common. Due to the explosive growth of new communication forms, such as computer mediated communication (for example e-mail and chat boxes), other interview techniques can be introduced and used within the field of qualitative research. For a study in the domain of virtual teams, I used various communication possibilities to interview informants as well as face-to-face interviews. In this article a comparison will be made concerning the advantages and disadvantages of face-to-face, telephone, e-mail and MSN messenger interviews. By including telephone and MSN messenger interviews in the comparison, the scope of this article is broader than the article of BAMPTON and COWTON (2002).

M3 - Article

SN - 1438-5627

SP - art.11-

JO - Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung = Forum : Qualitative Social Research

JF - Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung = Forum : Qualitative Social Research

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Qualitative Research in Healthcare: Necessity and Characteristics

1 Department of Preventive Medicine, Ulsan University Hospital, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Ulsan, Korea

2 Ulsan Metropolitan City Public Health Policy’s Institute, Ulsan, Korea

3 Department of Nursing, Chung-Ang University, Seoul, Korea

Eun Young Choi

4 College of Nursing, Sungshin Women’s University, Seoul, Korea

Seung Gyeong Jang

5 Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea

Quantitative and qualitative research explore various social phenomena using different methods. However, there has been a tendency to treat quantitative studies using complicated statistical techniques as more scientific and superior, whereas relatively few qualitative studies have been conducted in the medical and healthcare fields. This review aimed to provide a proper understanding of qualitative research. This review examined the characteristics of quantitative and qualitative research to help researchers select the appropriate qualitative research methodology. Qualitative research is applicable in following cases: (1) when an exploratory approach is required on a topic that is not well known, (2) when something cannot be explained fully with quantitative research, (3) when it is necessary to newly present a specific view on a research topic that is difficult to explain with existing views, (4) when it is inappropriate to present the rationale or theoretical proposition for designing hypotheses, as in quantitative research, and (5) when conducting research that requires detailed descriptive writing with literary expressions. Qualitative research is conducted in the following order: (1) selection of a research topic and question, (2) selection of a theoretical framework and methods, (3) literature analysis, (4) selection of the research participants and data collection methods, (5) data analysis and description of findings, and (6) research validation. This review can contribute to the more active use of qualitative research in healthcare, and the findings are expected to instill a proper understanding of qualitative research in researchers who review qualitative research reports and papers.

Graphical abstract

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The definition of research varies among studies and scholars, and it is difficult to devise a single definition. The Oxford English Dictionary defines research as “a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it” [ 1 ], while Webster’s Dictionary defines research as “studious inquiry or examination - especially: investigation or experimentation aimed at the discovery and interpretation of facts, revision of accepted theories or laws in the light of new facts, or practical application of such new or revised theories or laws” [ 2 ]. Moreover, research is broadly defined as the process of solving unsolved problems to broaden human knowledge [ 3 ]. A more thorough understanding of research can be gained by examining its types and reasons for conducting it.

The reasons for conducting research may include practical goals, such as degree attainment, job promotion, and financial profit. Research may be based on one’s own academic curiosity or aspiration or guided by professors or other supervisors. Academic research aims can be further divided into the following: (1) accurately describing an object or phenomenon, (2) identifying general laws and establishing well-designed theories for understanding and explaining a certain phenomenon, (3) predicting future events based on laws and theories, and (4) manipulating causes and conditions to induce or prevent a phenomenon [ 3 ].

The appropriate type of research must be selected based on the purpose and topic. Basic research has the primary purpose of expanding the existing knowledge base through new discoveries, while applied research aims to solve a real problem. Descriptive research attempts to factually present comparisons and interpretations of findings based on analyses of the characteristics, progression, or relationships of a certain phenomenon by manipulating the variables or controlling the conditions. Experimental or analytical research attempts to identify causal relationships between variables through experiments by arbitrarily manipulating the variables or controlling the conditions [ 3 ]. In addition, research can be quantitative or qualitative, depending on the data collection and analytical methods. Quantitative research relies on statistical analyses of quantitative data obtained primarily through investigation and experiment, while qualitative research uses specific methodologies to analyze qualitative data obtained through participant observations and in-depth interviews. However, as these types of research are not polar opposites and the criteria for classifying research types are unclear, there is some degree of methodological overlap.

What is more important than differentiating types of research is identifying the appropriate type of research to gain a better understanding of specific questions and improve problems encountered by people in life. An appropriate research type or methodology is essential to apply findings reliably. However, quantitative research based on the philosophical ideas of empiricism and positivism has been the mainstay in the field of healthcare, with academic advancement achieved through the application of various statistical techniques to quantitative data [ 4 ]. In particular, there has been a tendency to treat complicated statistical techniques as more scientific and superior, with few qualitative studies in not only clinical medicine, but also primary care and social medicine, which are relatively strongly influenced by the social sciences [ 5 , 6 ].

Quantitative and qualitative research use different ways of exploring various social phenomena. Both research methodologies can be applied individually or in combination based on the research topic, with mixed quantitative and qualitative research methodologies becoming more widespread in recent years [ 7 ]. Applying these 2 methods through a virtuous cycle of integration from a complementary perspective can provide a more accurate understanding of human phenomena and solutions to real-world problems.

This review aimed to provide a proper understanding of qualitative research to assist researchers in selecting the appropriate research methodology. Specifically, this review examined the characteristics of quantitative and qualitative research, the applicability of qualitative research, and the data sources collected and analyzed in qualitative research.


A clearer understanding of qualitative research can be obtained by comparing qualitative and quantitative research, with which people are generally familiar [ 8 , 9 ]. Quantitative research focuses on testing the validity of hypotheses established by the researcher to identify the causal relationships of a specific phenomenon and discovering laws to predict that phenomenon ( Table 1 ). Therefore, it emphasizes controlling the influence of variables that may interfere with the process of identifying causality and laws. In contrast, qualitative research aims to discover and explore new hypotheses or theories based on a deep understanding of the meaning of a specific phenomenon. As such, qualitative research attempts to accept various environmental factors naturally. In quantitative research, importance is placed on the researcher acting as an outsider to take an objective view by keeping a certain distance from the research subject. In contrast, qualitative research encourages looking inside the research subjects to understand them deeply, while also emphasizing the need for researchers to take an intersubjective view that is formed and shared based on a mutual understanding with the research subjects.

Comparison of methodological characteristics between quantitative research and qualitative research

The data used in quantitative research can be expressed as numerical values, and data accumulated through questionnaire surveys and tests are often used in analyses. In contrast, qualitative research uses narrative data with words and images collected through participant observations, in-depth interviews, and focus group discussions used in the analyses. Quantitative research data are measured repeatedly to enhance their reliability, while the analyses of such data focus on superficial aspects of the phenomenon of interest. Qualitative research instead focuses on obtaining deep and rich data and aims to identify the specific contents, dynamics, and processes inherent within the phenomenon and situation.

There are clear distinctions in the advantages, disadvantages, and goals of quantitative and qualitative research. On one hand, quantitative research has the advantages of reliability and generalizability of the findings, and advances in data collection and analysis methods have increased reliability and generalizability. However, quantitative research presents difficulties with an in-depth analysis of dynamic phenomena that cannot be expressed by numbers alone and interpreting the results analyzed in terms numbers. On the other hand, qualitative research has the advantage of validity, which refers to how accurately or appropriately a phenomenon was measured. However, qualitative research also has the disadvantage of weak generalizability, which determines whether an observed phenomenon applies to other cases.


Qualitative research cannot be the solution to all problems. A specific methodology should not be applied to all situations. Therefore, researchers need to have a good understanding of the applicability of qualitative research. Generally, qualitative research is applicable in following cases: (1) when an exploratory approach is required on a topic that is not well known, (2) when something cannot be explained fully with quantitative research, (3) when it is necessary to newly present a specific view on a research topic that is difficult to explain with existing views, (4) when it is inappropriate to present the rationale or theoretical proposition for designing hypotheses, as in quantitative research, and (5) when conducting research that requires detailed descriptive writing with literary expressions [ 7 ]. In particular, qualitative research is useful for opening new fields of research, such as important topics that have not been previously examined or whose significance has not been recognized. Moreover, qualitative research is advantageous for examining known topics from a fresh perspective.

In the healthcare field, qualitative research is conducted on various topics considering its characteristics and strengths. Quantitative research, which focuses on hypothesis validation, such as the superiority of specific treatments or the effectiveness of specific policies, and the generalization of findings, has been the primary research methodology in the field of healthcare. Qualitative research has been mostly applied for studies such as subjective disease experiences and attitudes with respect to health-related patient quality of life [ 10 - 12 ], experiences and perceptions regarding the use of healthcare services [ 13 - 15 ], and assessments of the quality of care [ 16 , 17 ]. Moreover, qualitative research has focused on vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, children, disabled [ 18 - 20 ], minorities, and socially underprivileged with specific experiences [ 21 , 22 ].

For instance, patient safety is considered a pillar of quality of care, which is an aspect of healthcare with increasing international interest. The ultimate goal of patient safety research should be the improvement of patient safety, for which it is necessary to identify the root causes of potential errors and adverse events. In such cases, qualitative rather than quantitative research is often required. It is also important to identify whether there are any barriers when applying measures for enhancing patient safety to clinical practice. To identify such barriers, qualitative research is necessary to observe healthcare workers directly applying the solutions step-by-step during each process, determine whether there are difficulties in applying the solutions to relevant stakeholders, and ask how to improve the process if there are difficulties.

Patient safety is a very broad topic, and patient safety issues could be categorized into preventing, recognizing, and responding to patient safety issues based on related metrics [ 23 ]. Responding to issues that pertain to the handling of patient safety incidents that have already occurred has received relatively less interest than other categories of research on this topic, particularly in Korea. Until 2017, almost no research was conducted on the experiences of and difficulties faced by patients and healthcare workers who have been involved in patient safety incidents. This topic can be investigated using qualitative research.

A study in Korea investigated the physical and mental suffering experienced during the process of accepting disability and medical litigation by a patient who became disabled due to medical malpractice [ 21 ]. Another qualitative case study was conducted with participants who lost a family member due to a medical accident and identified psychological suffering due to the incident, as well as secondary psychological suffering during the medical litigation process, which increased the expandability of qualitative research findings [ 24 ]. A quantitative study based on these findings confirmed that people who experienced patient safety incidents had negative responses after the incidents and a high likelihood of sleep or eating disorders, depending on their responses [ 25 ].

A study that applied the grounded theory to examine the second victim phenomenon, referring to healthcare workers who have experienced patient safety incidents, and presented the response stages experienced by second victims demonstrated the strength of qualitative research [ 26 ]. Subsequently, other studies used questionnaire surveys on physicians and nurses to quantify the physical, mental, and work-related difficulties experienced by second victims [ 27 , 28 ]. As such, qualitative research alone can produce significant findings; however, combining quantitative and qualitative research produces a synergistic effect. In the healthcare field, which remains unfamiliar with qualitative research, combining these 2 methodologies could both enhance the validity of research findings and facilitate open discussions with other researchers [ 29 ].

In addition, qualitative research has been used for diverse sub-topics, including the experiences of patients and guardians with respect to various diseases (such as cancer, myocardial infarction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, depression, falls, and dementia), awareness of treatment for diabetes and hypertension, the experiences of physicians and nurses when they come in contact with medical staff, awareness of community health environments, experiences of medical service utilization by the general public in medically vulnerable areas, the general public’s awareness of vaccination policies, the health issues of people with special types of employment (such as delivery and call center workers), and the unmet healthcare needs of persons with vision or hearing impairment.


Rather than focusing on deriving objective information, qualitative research aims to discern the quality of a specific phenomenon, obtaining answers to “why” and “how” questions. Qualitative research aims to collect data multi-dimensionally and provide in-depth explanations of the phenomenon being researched. Ultimately, the purpose of qualitative research is set to help researchers gain an understanding of the research topic and reveal the implications of the research findings. Therefore, qualitative research is generally conducted in the following order: (1) selection of a research topic and question, (2) selection of a theoretical framework and methods, (3) literature analysis, (4) selection of the research participants (or participation target) and data collection methods, (5) data analysis and description of findings, and (6) research validation ( Figure 1 ) [ 30 ]. However, unlike quantitative research, in which hypothesis setting and testing take place unidirectionally, a major characteristic of qualitative research is that the process is reversible and research methods can be modified. In other words, the research topic and question could change during the literature analysis process, and theoretical and analytical methods could change during the data collection process.

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General workflow of qualitative research.

Selection of a Research Topic and Question

As with any research, the first step in qualitative research is the selection of a research topic and question. Qualitative researchers can select a research topic based on their interests from daily life as a researcher, their interests in issues within the healthcare field, and ideas from the literature, such as academic journals. The research question represents a more specific aspect of the research topic. Before specifically starting to conduct research based on a research topic, the researcher should clarify what is being researched and determine what research would be desirable. When selecting a research topic and question, the research should ask: is the research executable, are the research topic and question worth researching, and is this a research question that a researcher would want to research?

Selection of Theoretical Framework and Methods

A theoretical framework refers to the thoughts or attitudes that a researcher has about the phenomenon being researched. Selecting the theoretical framework first could help qualitative researchers not only in selecting the research purpose and problem, but also in carrying out various processes, including an exploration of the precedent literature and research, selection of the data type to be collected, data analysis, and description of findings. In qualitative research, theoretical frameworks are based on philosophical ideas, which affect the selection of specific qualitative research methods. Representative qualitative research methods include the grounded theory, which is suitable for achieving the goal of developing a theory that can explain the processes involved in the phenomenon being researched; ethnographic study, which is suitable for research topics that attempt to identify and interpret the culture of a specific group; phenomenology, which is suitable for research topics that attempt to identify the nature of research participants’ experiences or the phenomenon being researched; case studies, which aim to gain an in-depth understanding of a case that has unique characteristics and can be differentiated from other cases; action research, which aims to find solutions to problems faced by research participants, with the researchers taking the same position as the participants; and narrative research, which is suitable for research topics that attempt to interpret the entire life or individual experiences contained within the stories of research participants. Other methodologies include photovoice research, consensual qualitative research, and auto-ethnographic research.

Literature Analysis

Literature analysis results can be helpful in specifically selecting the research problem, theoretical framework, and research methods. The literature analysis process compels qualitative researchers to contemplate the new knowledge that their research will add to the academic field. A comprehensive literature analysis is encouraged both in qualitative and quantitative research, and if the prior literature related to the subject to be studied is insufficient, it is sometimes evaluated as having low research potential or research value. Some have claimed that a formal literature review should not be performed before the collection of field data, as it could create bias, thereby interfering with the investigation. However, as the qualitative research process is cyclic rather than unidirectional, the majority believes that a literature review can be performed at any time. Moreover, an ethical review prior to starting the research is a requirement; therefore, the research protocol must be prepared and submitted for review and approval prior to conducting the research. To prepare research protocols, the existing literature must be analyzed at least to a certain degree. Nonetheless, qualitative researchers must keep in mind that their emotions, bias, and expectations may interject themselves during the literature review process and should strive to minimize any bias to ensure the validity of the research.

Selection of the Research Participants and Data Collection Methods

The subjects of qualitative research are not necessarily humans. It is more important to find the research subject(s) from which the most in-depth answers to the research problem can be obtained. However, the subjects in most qualitative studies are humans, as most research question focus on humans. Therefore, it is important to obtain research participants with sufficient knowledge, experience, and attitudes to provide the most appropriate answers to the research question. Quantitative research, which views generalizability as a key research goal, emphasizes the selection of research participants (i.e., the research sample that can represent the study’s population of interest), whereas qualitative research emphasizes finding research participants who can best describe and demonstrate the phenomenon of interest.

In qualitative research, the participant selection method is referred to as purposeful sampling (or purposive sampling), which can be divided into various types. Sampling methods have various advantages, disadvantages, and characteristics. For instance, unique sampling (extreme case sampling) has the advantage of being able to obtain interesting research findings by researching phenomena that have previously received little or no interest, and the disadvantage of deriving research findings that are interesting to only some readers if the research is conducted on an overly unique situation. Maximum variation sampling, also referred to as theoretical sampling, is commonly used in qualitative research based on the grounded theory. Selecting the appropriate participant sampling method that suits the purpose of research is crucial ( Table 2 ).

Sampling methods of selecting research participants in qualitative research

Once the researcher has decided how to select study participants, the data collection methods must be determined. Just as with participant sampling, various data collection methods are available, all of which have various advantages and disadvantages; therefore, the method must be selected based on the research question and circumstances. Unlike quantitative research, which usually uses a single data source and data collection method, the use of multiple data sources and data collection methods is encouraged in qualitative research [ 30 ]. Using a single data source and data collection method could cause data collection to be skewed by researcher bias; therefore, using multiple data sources and data collection methods is ideal. In qualitative research, the following data types are commonly used: (1) interview data obtained through one-on-one in-depth interviews and focus group discussions, (2) observational data from various observation levels, (3) documented data collected from personal or public documents, and (4) image data, such as photographs and videos.

Interview data are the most commonly used data source in qualitative research [ 31 ]. In qualitative research, an interview refers to communication that takes place based on a clear sense of purpose of acquiring certain information, unlike conversations that typically take place in daily life. The level of data acquired through interviews varies significantly depending on the researcher’s personal qualifications and abilities, as well as his or her level of interest and knowledge regarding the research topic. Therefore, interviewers must be trained to go beyond simply identifying the clearly expressed experiences of research participants to exploring their inner experiences and emotions [ 32 ]. Interview data can be classified based on the level of structuralization of the data collection method, sample size, and interview method. The characteristics of each type of interview are given in Table 3 .

Detailed types of interview methods according to the characteristics of in-depth interviews and focus group discussion

Observations, which represent a key data collection method in anthropology, refer to a series of actions taken by the researcher in search of a deep understanding by systematically examining the appearances of research participants that take place in natural situations [ 33 ]. Observations can be categorized as participant and non-participant, insider and outsider, disguised and undisguised, short- and long-term, and structured and unstructured. However, a line cannot be drawn clearly to differentiate these categories, and the degree of each varies along a single spectrum. Therefore, it is necessary for a qualitative researcher to select the appropriate data collection method based on the circumstances and characteristics of the research topic.

Various types of document data can be used in qualitative research. Personal documents include diaries, letters, and autobiographies, while public documents include legal documents, public announcements, and civil documents. Online documents include emails and blog or bulletin board postings, while other documents include graffiti. All these document types may be used as data sources in qualitative research. In addition, image data acquired by the research participant or researcher, such as photographs and videos, serve as useful data sources in qualitative research. Such data sources are relatively objective and easily accessible, while they contain a significant amount of qualitative meaning despite the low acquisition cost. While some data may have been collected for research purposes, other data may not have been originally produced for research. Therefore, the researcher must not distort the original information contained in the data source and must verify the accuracy and authenticity of the data source in advance [ 30 ].

This review examined the characteristics of qualitative research to help researchers select the appropriate qualitative research methodology and identify situations suitable for qualitative research in the healthcare field. In addition, this paper analyzed the selection of the research topic and problem, selection of the theoretical framework and methods, literature analysis, and selection of the research participants and data collection methods. A forthcoming paper will discuss more specific details regarding other qualitative research methodologies, such as data analysis, description of findings, and research validation. This review can contribute to the more active use of qualitative research in the healthcare field, and the findings are expected to instill a proper understanding of qualitative research in researchers who review and judge qualitative research reports and papers.

Ethics Statement

Since this study used secondary data source, we did not seek approval from the institutional review board. We also did not have to ask for the consent of the participants.



The authors have no conflicts of interest associated with the material presented in this paper.


Conceptualization: Pyo J, Lee W, Choi EY, Jang SG, Ock M. Data curation: Pyo J, Ock M. Formal analysis: Pyo J, Ock M. Funding acquisition: None. Validation: Lee W, Choi EY, Jang SG. Writing - original draft: Pyo J, Ock M. Writing - review & editing: Pyo J, Lee W, Choi EY, Jang SG, Ock M.


23 Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research

Investigating methodologies. Taking a closer look at ethnographic, anthropological, or naturalistic techniques. Data mining through observer recordings. This is what the world of qualitative research is all about. It is the comprehensive and complete data that is collected by having the courage to ask an open-ended question.

Print media has used the principles of qualitative research for generations. Now more industries are seeing the advantages that come from the extra data that is received by asking more than a “yes” or “no” question.

The advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research are quite unique. On one hand, you have the perspective of the data that is being collected. On the other hand, you have the techniques of the data collector and their own unique observations that can alter the information in subtle ways.

That’s why these key points are so important to consider.

What Are the Advantages of Qualitative Research?

1. Subject materials can be evaluated with greater detail. There are many time restrictions that are placed on research methods. The goal of a time restriction is to create a measurable outcome so that metrics can be in place. Qualitative research focuses less on the metrics of the data that is being collected and more on the subtleties of what can be found in that information. This allows for the data to have an enhanced level of detail to it, which can provide more opportunities to glean insights from it during examination.

2. Research frameworks can be fluid and based on incoming or available data. Many research opportunities must follow a specific pattern of questioning, data collection, and information reporting. Qualitative research offers a different approach. It can adapt to the quality of information that is being gathered. If the available data does not seem to be providing any results, the research can immediately shift gears and seek to gather data in a new direction. This offers more opportunities to gather important clues about any subject instead of being confined to a limited and often self-fulfilling perspective.

3. Qualitative research data is based on human experiences and observations. Humans have two very different operating systems. One is a subconscious method of operation, which is the fast and instinctual observations that are made when data is present. The other operating system is slower and more methodical, wanting to evaluate all sources of data before deciding. Many forms of research rely on the second operating system while ignoring the instinctual nature of the human mind. Qualitative research doesn’t ignore the gut instinct. It embraces it and the data that can be collected is often better for it.

4. Gathered data has a predictive quality to it. One of the common mistakes that occurs with qualitative research is an assumption that a personal perspective can be extrapolated into a group perspective. This is only possible when individuals grow up in similar circumstances, have similar perspectives about the world, and operate with similar goals. When these groups can be identified, however, the gathered individualistic data can have a predictive quality for those who are in a like-minded group. At the very least, the data has a predictive quality for the individual from whom it was gathered.

5. Qualitative research operates within structures that are fluid. Because the data being gathered through this type of research is based on observations and experiences, an experienced researcher can follow-up interesting answers with additional questions. Unlike other forms of research that require a specific framework with zero deviation, researchers can follow any data tangent which makes itself known and enhance the overall database of information that is being collected.

6. Data complexities can be incorporated into generated conclusions. Although our modern world tends to prefer statistics and verifiable facts, we cannot simply remove the human experience from the equation. Different people will have remarkably different perceptions about any statistic, fact, or event. This is because our unique experiences generate a different perspective of the data that we see. These complexities, when gathered into a singular database, can generate conclusions with more depth and accuracy, which benefits everyone.

7. Qualitative research is an open-ended process. When a researcher is properly prepared, the open-ended structures of qualitative research make it possible to get underneath superficial responses and rational thoughts to gather information from an individual’s emotional response. This is critically important to this form of researcher because it is an emotional response which often drives a person’s decisions or influences their behavior.

8. Creativity becomes a desirable quality within qualitative research. It can be difficult to analyze data that is obtained from individual sources because many people subconsciously answer in a way that they think someone wants. This desire to “please” another reduces the accuracy of the data and suppresses individual creativity. By embracing the qualitative research method, it becomes possible to encourage respondent creativity, allowing people to express themselves with authenticity. In return, the data collected becomes more accurate and can lead to predictable outcomes.

9. Qualitative research can create industry-specific insights. Brands and businesses today need to build relationships with their core demographics to survive. The terminology, vocabulary, and jargon that consumers use when looking at products or services is just as important as the reputation of the brand that is offering them. If consumers are receiving one context, but the intention of the brand is a different context, then the miscommunication can artificially restrict sales opportunities. Qualitative research gives brands access to these insights so they can accurately communicate their value propositions.

10. Smaller sample sizes are used in qualitative research, which can save on costs. Many qualitative research projects can be completed quickly and on a limited budget because they typically use smaller sample sizes that other research methods. This allows for faster results to be obtained so that projects can move forward with confidence that only good data is able to provide.

11. Qualitative research provides more content for creatives and marketing teams. When your job involves marketing, or creating new campaigns that target a specific demographic, then knowing what makes those people can be quite challenging. By going through the qualitative research approach, it becomes possible to congregate authentic ideas that can be used for marketing and other creative purposes. This makes communication between the two parties to be handled with more accuracy, leading to greater level of happiness for all parties involved.

12. Attitude explanations become possible with qualitative research. Consumer patterns can change on a dime sometimes, leaving a brand out in the cold as to what just happened. Qualitative research allows for a greater understanding of consumer attitudes, providing an explanation for events that occur outside of the predictive matrix that was developed through previous research. This allows the optimal brand/consumer relationship to be maintained.

What Are the Disadvantages of Qualitative Research?

1. The quality of the data gathered in qualitative research is highly subjective. This is where the personal nature of data gathering in qualitative research can also be a negative component of the process. What one researcher might feel is important and necessary to gather can be data that another researcher feels is pointless and won’t spend time pursuing it. Having individual perspectives and including instinctual decisions can lead to incredibly detailed data. It can also lead to data that is generalized or even inaccurate because of its reliance on researcher subjectivisms.

2. Data rigidity is more difficult to assess and demonstrate. Because individual perspectives are often the foundation of the data that is gathered in qualitative research, it is more difficult to prove that there is rigidity in the information that is collective. The human mind tends to remember things in the way it wants to remember them. That is why memories are often looked at fondly, even if the actual events that occurred may have been somewhat disturbing at the time. This innate desire to look at the good in things makes it difficult for researchers to demonstrate data validity.

3. Mining data gathered by qualitative research can be time consuming. The number of details that are often collected while performing qualitative research are often overwhelming. Sorting through that data to pull out the key points can be a time-consuming effort. It is also a subjective effort because what one researcher feels is important may not be pulled out by another researcher. Unless there are some standards in place that cannot be overridden, data mining through a massive number of details can almost be more trouble than it is worth in some instances.

4. Qualitative research creates findings that are valuable, but difficult to present. Presenting the findings which come out of qualitative research is a bit like listening to an interview on CNN. The interviewer will ask a question to the interviewee, but the goal is to receive an answer that will help present a database which presents a specific outcome to the viewer. The goal might be to have a viewer watch an interview and think, “That’s terrible. We need to pass a law to change that.” The subjective nature of the information, however, can cause the viewer to think, “That’s wonderful. Let’s keep things the way they are right now.” That is why findings from qualitative research are difficult to present. What a research gleans from the data can be very different from what an outside observer gleans from the data.

5. Data created through qualitative research is not always accepted. Because of the subjective nature of the data that is collected in qualitative research, findings are not always accepted by the scientific community. A second independent qualitative research effort which can produce similar findings is often necessary to begin the process of community acceptance.

6. Researcher influence can have a negative effect on the collected data. The quality of the data that is collected through qualitative research is highly dependent on the skills and observation of the researcher. If a researcher has a biased point of view, then their perspective will be included with the data collected and influence the outcome. There must be controls in place to help remove the potential for bias so the data collected can be reviewed with integrity. Otherwise, it would be possible for a researcher to make any claim and then use their bias through qualitative research to prove their point.

7. Replicating results can be very difficult with qualitative research. The scientific community wants to see results that can be verified and duplicated to accept research as factual. In the world of qualitative research, this can be very difficult to accomplish. Not only do you have the variability of researcher bias for which to account within the data, but there is also the informational bias that is built into the data itself from the provider. This means the scope of data gathering can be extremely limited, even if the structure of gathering information is fluid, because of each unique perspective.

8. Difficult decisions may require repetitive qualitative research periods. The smaller sample sizes of qualitative research may be an advantage, but they can also be a disadvantage for brands and businesses which are facing a difficult or potentially controversial decision. A small sample is not always representative of a larger population demographic, even if there are deep similarities with the individuals involve. This means a follow-up with a larger quantitative sample may be necessary so that data points can be tracked with more accuracy, allowing for a better overall decision to be made.

9. Unseen data can disappear during the qualitative research process. The amount of trust that is placed on the researcher to gather, and then draw together, the unseen data that is offered by a provider is enormous. The research is dependent upon the skill of the researcher being able to connect all the dots. If the researcher can do this, then the data can be meaningful and help brands and progress forward with their mission. If not, there is no way to alter course until after the first results are received. Then a new qualitative process must begin.

10. Researchers must have industry-related expertise. You can have an excellent researcher on-board for a project, but if they are not familiar with the subject matter, they will have a difficult time gathering accurate data. For qualitative research to be accurate, the interviewer involved must have specific skills, experiences, and expertise in the subject matter being studied. They must also be familiar with the material being evaluated and have the knowledge to interpret responses that are received. If any piece of this skill set is missing, the quality of the data being gathered can be open to interpretation.

11. Qualitative research is not statistically representative. The one disadvantage of qualitative research which is always present is its lack of statistical representation. It is a perspective-based method of research only, which means the responses given are not measured. Comparisons can be made and this can lead toward the duplication which may be required, but for the most part, quantitative data is required for circumstances which need statistical representation and that is not part of the qualitative research process.

The advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research make it possible to gather and analyze individualistic data on deeper levels. This makes it possible to gain new insights into consumer thoughts, demographic behavioral patterns, and emotional reasoning processes. When a research can connect the dots of each information point that is gathered, the information can lead to personalized experiences, better value in products and services, and ongoing brand development.


  1. Advantages & Disadvantages of Qualitative Research

    advantages and disadvantages of interviews in qualitative research pdf

  2. [PDF] Preparing and conducting interviews to collect data.

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    advantages and disadvantages of interviews in qualitative research pdf

  4. Research Qualitative Methods: Definition and Examples

    advantages and disadvantages of interviews in qualitative research pdf

  5. Study Blog: Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods

    advantages and disadvantages of interviews in qualitative research pdf

  6. Qualitative Research: Definition, Types, Methods and Examples (2023)

    advantages and disadvantages of interviews in qualitative research pdf


  1. Advantages Disadvantages Open-Ended Questions


  1. Advantages and Disadvantages of Four Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research [Electronic Journal]

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Four Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research "in permitting a lengthy delay between communications, an e-intervi ew gives the interviewee time to construct a ...

  2. PDF Conducting an Interview in Qualitative Research

    2 [email protected], 0000-0002-8957-6000, Correspondent. 3 [email protected], 0000-0002-2962-3864. the ice and touch upon the topic briefly to prepare the interviewee for more challenging questions. Additionally, the interviewer develops follow up questions based on the answers or the conversation with the interviewee(s).

  3. PDF Interviewing in Qualitative Research

    Qualitative interview is a broad term uniting semi-structured and unstructured interviews. Quali-tative interviewing is less structured and more likely to evolve as a natural conversation; it is of-ten conducted in the form of respondents narrating their personal experiences or life histories. Qualitative interviews can be part of ethnography ...

  4. PDF Effectiveness of Qualitative Research Methods: Interviews and ...

    Some researchers combine interviews with another research method to test and verify the truthfulness of the collected data. 1.3 Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Tools As a qualitative tool, interviews have obvious advantages and disadvantages, in which the main advantage is related to the issue of flexibility.

  5. Conducting a Research Interview

    Conducting a Research Interview. Amanda Bolderston, BSc, MSc, MRT(T), FCAMRTa*. aBritish Columbia Cancer Agency, Surrey, British Columbia. LEARNING OBJECTIVES. By the end of this directed reading the learner will be able to: Describe the advantages and disadvantages of interviews as a qualitative research tool.

  6. [PDF] Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in

    Face-to-face interviews have long been the dominant interview technique in the field of qualitative research. In the last two decades, telephone interviewing became more and more common. Due to the explosive growth of new communication forms, such as computer mediated communication (for example e-mail and chat boxes), other interview techniques can be introduced and used within the field of ...

  7. PDF Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in

    Advantages and Disadvantages of Four Interview Techniques in Qualitative Research interview is important for the interviewer, even if the interview is tape recorded: (1) to check if all the questions have been answered, (2) in case of malfunctioning of the tape recorder, and (3) in case of "malfunctioning of the interviewer".

  8. Interviews in the social sciences

    In-depth interviews are a versatile form of qualitative data collection used by researchers across the social sciences. In this Primer, Knott et al. describe the stages and challenges involved in ...

  9. Qualitative Interview Pros and Cons

    Like surveys today, interviews can launch in real time, and it is easy to share top-line reports in a day for time-sensitive projects. Weaknesses of Interviews . Of course, interviews also have inherent weaknesses. These are a few of their limitations: Missing objectivity. There is a potential for observer bias in just about all qualitative ...

  10. Types of Interviews in Research

    Advantages and disadvantages of interviews. Interviews are a great research tool. They allow you to gather rich information and draw more detailed conclusions than other research methods, taking into consideration nonverbal cues, off-the-cuff reactions, and emotional responses.. However, they can also be time-consuming and deceptively challenging to conduct properly.

  11. PDF Structured Methods: Interviews, Questionnaires and Observation

    instruments is an important skill for research-ers. Such survey instruments can be used in many types of research, from case study, to ... each with advantages or disadvantages. Thus, interviews can be done face to face or by tele- ... important. Generally, such interviews gather qualitative data, although this can be coded into categories to ...

  12. A methodological guide to using and reporting on interviews in

    Interviewing relies on an interactive method in which mutual learning occurs between those involved in the interview process. In this respect, interviewing is an active research process by which an interview or a "contextually bound and mutually created story" is produced by interviewer and interviewee(s) (Fontana & Frey, 2005, 696). They ...

  13. Advantages and Disadvantages of Four Interview

    Beside face-to-face interview and telephone interview the use of new communication forms such as e-mail and MSN messenger opens new ways for qualitative research workers for data collection. The type of interview technique chosen by the researcher can depend upon the advantages and disadvantages, which are linked to every interview technique.

  14. Interviews and focus groups in qualitative research: an update for the

    The most common methods of data collection used in qualitative research are interviews and focus groups. ... Download PDF. General; Published: 05 ... There are advantages and disadvantages of ...

  15. PDF The Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Qualitative and Quantitative

    3.1 Advantages There are some benefits of using qualitative research approaches and methods. Firstly, qualitative research approach produces the thick (detailed) description of participants' feelings, opinions, and experiences; and interprets the meanings of their actions (Denzin, 1989).


    Workbook E -4- Conducting In-depth Interviews Advantages and Disadvantages of In-depth Interviews Advantages Disadvantages Depth: In-depth interviews can uncover valuable insights, and enable you to find out "the real story" from the people in the know. Disclosure: Respondents are most likely to open up on a one-on-one basis.

  17. Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in

    T1 - Advantages and disadvantages of four interview techniques in qualitative research. AU - Opdenakker, R.J.G. PY - 2006. Y1 - 2006. N2 - Face-to-face interviews have long been the dominant interview technique in the field of qualitative research. In the last two decades, telephone interviewing became more and more common.

  18. Qualitative Research in Healthcare: Necessity and Characteristics

    Qualitative research instead focuses on obtaining deep and rich data and aims to identify the specific contents, dynamics, and processes inherent within the phenomenon and situation. There are clear distinctions in the advantages, disadvantages, and goals of quantitative and qualitative research.

  19. A Systematic Comparison of In-Person and Video-Based Online Interviewing

    Due to the increasing popularity of online qualitative interviewing methods, we provide a systematically organized evaluation of their advantages and disadvantages in comparison ... Tuttas C. A. (2015). Lessons learned using web conference technology for online focus group interviews. Qualitative Health Research, 25(1), 122-133. https://doi ...

  20. 23 Advantages and Disadvantages of Qualitative Research

    9. Unseen data can disappear during the qualitative research process. The amount of trust that is placed on the researcher to gather, and then draw together, the unseen data that is offered by a provider is enormous. The research is dependent upon the skill of the researcher being able to connect all the dots.

  21. (PDF) Questionnaires in Research: Their Role, Advantages, and Main Aspects

    Abstract. The questionnaire method stands as a versatile and potent tool for data collection across diverse research domains. Its structured format facilitates standardized data collection ...