Who’s Afraid of Qualitative Research?

Forgive the Hallowe’en themed pun, but I was thinking: you often see books and courses aimed at reducing the fear of statistical analysis, e.g. “Statistics for the Terrified,” but are people afraid of qualitative research? A quick search on Google turned up a blog post on managing fear and anxiety in qualitative analysis, but little else. The consensus seems to be that statistics are difficult and scary while qualitative research is woolly and fluffy: not words usually associated with fear (except perhaps for people with lanaphobia or lophobia). Perhaps this is due to the misconception that qualitative research is an ‘easy’ option or just an ‘add-on’ to the main (quantitative) study and the ‘real’ research. What makes me think that? Well, I’ve (often) heard people say things like:

“I’m just going to do a little qualitative study as well”

Just identify some themes”

Just pull out some quotes”

I have yet to hear someone say: “I’m just going to do a little quantitative study”, or “I’m just going to do some latent class analysis”.

What other misconceptions about qualitative research are out there?

“Qualitative research is just doing interviews or focus groups”

“Qualitative data are just stories”

“Qualitative interviews are just like conversations”

“Qualitative interviewing is just listening”

“Qualitative findings write themselves”

I’ll return to what makes these misconceptions at a later date, but in the meantime, what misconceptions have you heard? Is anyone terrified of qualitative research? Do let me know in the comments!

Happy Hallowe’en!

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