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Qualitative Research Methods

This Guide will provide information about qualitative research resources at Duquesne University.

The Bigger Picture: Categories of Research

A basic overview of the categories within which qualitative research fall is below.  These six categories were developed by Jacob (1987) and they show the categories of research widely used in education.  

  • Human Ethology: Understand people's behaviors through observation 
  • Ecological Psychology: Understand people's behavior and their environment (and the interaction between the environment and behaviors) 
  • Holistic Ethnography: Understand culture and participants' perspectives through participant observation
  • Cognitive Anthropologists: Understand meaning through in-depth interviewing 
  • Ethnography of Communication: Understand verbal and nonverbal interactions 
  • Symbolic Interactionism: Understand how people make meaning through their interactions

Jacob, E. (1987). Qualitative Research Traditions: A Review. Review of Educational Research, 57(1), 1-50.

Marshall, C., & Rossman, G. B. (1989). Designing qualitative research. Newbury Park, California: Sage publications.

Data Collection Methods

Main Methods of Data Collection: 

  • Participate in the environment/setting (ex: ethnography) 
  • Observe 
  • Analyze text/documents/culture (ex: content analysis) 
  • Interview (ex focus groups, oral history or in-depth interviewing)

Note: There are many methods of data collection and each has strengths and weaknesses.  For example, in-depth interviews are useful for uncovering participants perspectives, but they are time consuming: 

Observation and/or Participation

Find a variety of books by doing a subject search for social sciences - fieldwork in the library catalog.  


Find a variety of books by doing a subject search for interviewing or interviews-methods in the library catalog.