What is Qualitative Research? - Definition, Sources & Examples

What is Qualitative Research? - Definition, Sources & Examples
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  • 0:07 Qualitative Research
  • 1:29 Artifacts
  • 2:56 Observations
  • 5:18 Interviews
  • 6:09 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Sometimes research does not involve simple numbers that you can analyze. When that happens, where do researchers get their data? In this lesson, we'll look at qualitative data and the major sources of it.

Qualitative Research

Imagine that your town has implemented a gun buyback program. The city offers to buy used guns from people, even if those guns are illegal. There are no questions asked. The city hopes that this program will reduce the number of guns on the street and the amount of gun violence. You're skeptical that the program will work. How could you figure out whether it does or not?

There are two types of research that you could do to figure out whether the gun buyback program actually works to reduce violence. Qualitative research involves looking in-depth at non-numerical data. Think of the word 'quality' when you think of qualitative data - you are taking a deep, quality look at a phenomenon.

Compare qualitative research to quantitative research, which looks at patterns in numeric data. For example, if you want to study whether a gun buyback program helps reduce gun violence, you could look at crime rates before and after the program was implemented. That would be quantitative research.

But, you could also talk to people who had been convicted of a violent crime involving gun violence and ask them questions about why the program didn't work for them and what conditions they think it could work for. This is qualitative research. Let's look closer at where researchers get their data for qualitative research.


One way that psychologists get qualitative data is through examining artifacts and pre-existing data, like archival records. Archival records are historical records. A quantitative example of archival records is the crime rates that we looked at when we were taking a quantitative approach to whether the gun buyback program works or not.

Archival records can be qualitative, too. For example, what if you had access to court documents, including transcripts of court cases in which the defendant is accused of gun violence? You could read through those transcripts and look for clues as to why they chose guns and what methods would work and would not work to prevent them from participating in gun violence.

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