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qualitative research

Definition of Qualitative Research

(noun) Non-numeric exploratory research that seeks to understand the experiences of individuals or groups from their perspective.

Examples of Qualitative Research

Qualitative Research Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: qual·i·ta·tive re·search

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈkwɑləˌteɪtɪv riˈsɜrʧ/
  • British English – /ˈkwɒlɪtətɪv rɪˈsɜːʧ/

Usage Notes

  • Plural: qualitative researches
  • Qualitative research is compared and contrasted with quantitative research.
  • Qualitative research is viewed as holistic whereas quantitative research is viewed as reductionistic. However, qualitative and quantitative research are complementary, not contradictory.
  • Qualitative research typically has smaller sample sizes that quantitative research.
  • Reductively, qualitative research seeks to explain the “how” and “why” and quantitative research seeks to identify “how much” and “how often”.
  • Also called:
    • qualitative data analysis
    • qualitative method
    • qualitative research method
    • qualitative sociology

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Additional Information

Related Terms


Works Consulted

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Carrabine, Eamonn, Pam Cox, Maggy Lee, Ken Plummer, and Nigel South. 2009. Criminology: A Sociological Introduction. 2nd ed. London: Routledge.

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Qualitative Research

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “qualitative research.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved December 7, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/qualitative-research/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

qualitative research. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/qualitative-research/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “qualitative research.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 7, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/qualitative-research/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“qualitative research.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 7 Dec. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/qualitative-research/>.