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Qualitative Research

Compilation of supplementary resources for Research Methods or Social Research Methods Courses

Qualitative Research Methods

Here you can find information about the types of qualitative research methods, and which is best for different areas of study, length of time, and cost.  Applicable courses that utilize this form of research and other educational services offered at Rutgers are included as well.

Courses Taught at Rutgers - New Brunswick

Department of Sociology, SAS

Social Research Methods
Statistical Methods in Sociology I
Statistical Methods in Sociology II
Qualitative Methods (Methods II)

Introduction to Social Research

School of Planning and Public Policy 

  • Survey Research
  • Policy Research Seminar
  • Research Design and Data Analysis for Public Policy
  • Advanced Qualitative Methods
  • Advanced Data Analysis for Public Policy

Digital Humanities

DH Lab - New Brunswick Libraries

Contact: Francesca Giannetti

Geographical Information Systems (GIS) resources

Contact: Sue Oldenberg; Laura Palumbo;


Types - Survey, Questionnaire, etc

4 Types of Qualitative Research Design:

  1. Phenomenology
    • interviews about conscious experiences
  2. Ethnography
    • participant observation
  3. Grounded Theory
    • one-on-one interviews
  4. Case Study
    • longitudinal study

Qualitative Research Methods:

  • Surveys
  • Interviews
  • Field work: journals, logs, observations
  • Documentary analysis
  • Focus Groups

Videos on Types of Analysis:

Selecting a Method

Method Overall Purpose Advantages Challenges
Questionnaires, surveys, checklists

need to quickly and/or easily get lots of information from people in a non-threatening way

- can complete anonymously

- inexpensive

- easy to compare and analyze

- reach a lot of people

- many sample questionnaires already exist

- might not get careful feedback

- wording can create biased responses

- are impersonal

- doesn't get full story


want to fully understand someone's impressions or experiences, or learn more about their answers to questionnaires

- get full range and depth of information

- develops relationship with client

- can be flexible with client

- lengthy

- can be costly

- interviewer can cause biased responses

Documentation Review

want impression of how program operates without interrupting the program; is from review of applications, finances, memos, minutes, etc.

- get comprehensive and historical information

- doesn't interrupt program

- information already exists

- few biases about information

- lengthy process

- info may be incomplete

- not flexible means to get data


to gather accurate information about how a program actually operates, particularly about processes

- view operations of a program as they are actually occurring

- can adapt to events as they occur

- can be difficult to interpret seen behaviors

- can be complex to categorize observations

- can be expensive

Focus Groups

explore a topic in depth through group discussion, e.g., about reactions to an experience or suggestion, understanding common complaints, etc.; useful in evaluation and marketing

- quickly and reliably get common impressions

- efficient way to get information in a short period of time

- can convey key information about programs

- can be hard to analyze responses

- need good facilitator

- difficult to schedule that many people

Case Studies

to fully understand or depict client's experiences in a program, and conduct  comprehensive examination through cross comparison of cases

- fully depicts client's experience 

- powerful means to portray program to outsiders

- time consuming to collect, organize, and describe

Table was adapted from the Basic Guide to Program Evaluation,


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