Role of Qualitative Research in the Scope of Big Data

Qualitative research is becoming more complex as big data changes the approach researchers are taking.

big data and qualitative research
Shutterstock Photo License - Yuriy K

Big data has undoubtedly changed the state of academic research. A growing number of universities and for-profit research organizations are finding ways to incorporate data analysis into their approach. Big data has been especially important in both research and teaching academia.

However, most of the discussions center around the role of quantitative data in research. Qualitative research is also very important.

As we stated in the past, quantitative data isn’t enough for businesses to understand customers. Qualitative research focuses on implementing investigation techniques to obtain, scrutinize and process non-numerical data. The purpose of qualitative research is to help the researcher not only establish what people think but also why they think in that manner.

How to Conduct Qualitative Research for a Data-Driven Organization

Qualitative research stems from various social sciences disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, and social work. While some people think that it doesn’t have any role in modern research, it can actually be very important. Taylor and Francis Online posted an article talking about the benefits of qualitative research in the age of big data. It occurs online or in the field using the two key methods of data collection, which involve:

  • acquiring field notes and audio recordings
  • analysis with data management software to produce a report highlighting the critical elements of the research

The researcher should begin by determining the following:

  • The specific behavioral pattern to research
  • The methods for data collection
  • How to capture the data (through notetaking or audio recording)
  • The way to scrutinize and process the data

Once the researchers establish these factors, they can commence with their research. To get a broader understanding of qualitative research, here’s a brief overview of some methods used and how they contribute to the overall process.

Structured Interviews

Structured interviews apply to the researcher having one-on-one discussions with various respondents. To get the most from this method, the researcher has to prepare a questionnaire in advance to present to the respondent during the interview. The duration of the interview relies on the careful and thoughtful preparation of the researcher, as this will elicit the best responses.

Structured interviews that are more conversational result in more opportunities to gather added in-depth data and better observations of the respondent’s facial expressions and body language.

Focus Groups

As the name suggests, instead of an individual, a researcher will use groups made up of a few respondents. Usually, an experienced moderator will lead the research discussion for better observations. The group interviews’ primary focus is to better comprehend the answers to how, what, and why people behave in a certain manner.

Focus groups are a fast and inexpensive method to conduct qualitative research and advanced technology. They can seamlessly happen online by utilizing free conference apps. A focus group is also one of the most used qualitative research methods in data collection. A focus group usually includes a limited number of respondents (6-10) from within your target market.

Ethnographic Research Method

Ethnography is the systematic study of the respondent’s culture. This qualitative research method enables in-depth observation of the respondent in their natural habitat. This method cannot occur online as it requires the researcher to observe and understand the respondent’s various hurdles, cultures, and triggers.

Desktop Research

This method is applicable online and allows the researcher to tap into existing documentation. Desktop research lets the researcher focus on reliable documentation on the internet or elsewhere, such as in journals or books.

Qualitative Observation

Qualitative observation is an extension of the ethnographic research method. This approach might involve a conscious participant or otherwise. Participant observation involves the researcher getting more involved in the process by interacting directly with the culture or environment they’re researching. Alternatively, the researcher observes from outside the research environment, such as online or through other suitable methods.

Qualitative Data Analysis

Once the researcher collects the desired data through the various methods, it has to be transcribed and documented in order to allow for proper data analysis and coding. For example, data collected from structured interviews, focus groups, and observations requires the transcribing of the recorded audio into text.

Full verbatim transcription requires exact word-for-word quotations of what was said and may also involve transcribing the various reactions of the respondents, such as laughter. The transcripts will also include timestamps to ease referencing with recordings. Researchers have access to diverse qualitative data management software that will help the coding process. Once the data analysis is complete, it will produce a graphic theory of the behavioral pattern researched.

Collect Data Properly as a Qualitative Researcher

Qualitative research is a rigorous analysis technique that requires extensive data collection. Conducting research becomes intricate when the data you gather is in audio or video format. In such cases, transcription is especially important, and there should be no errors regarding factual information. This is why online transcription services like GoTranscript are reliable tools for qualitative studies. They’re pricier than automated transcription tools but deliver superior results.

I’m a young freelance writer specializing in psychology, education, technology and business. Currently I offer my help at as a content writer. I have many other interests and enjoy sharing them through my written words. I have a B.A. from New York University. Please follow my twitter @SteinmanAngela to know about my recently published posts.