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500+ Qualitative Research Titles and Topics

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Qualitative Research Topics

Qualitative research is a methodological approach that involves gathering and analyzing non-numerical data to understand and interpret social phenomena. Unlike quantitative research , which emphasizes the collection of numerical data through surveys and experiments, qualitative research is concerned with exploring the subjective experiences, perspectives, and meanings of individuals and groups. As such, qualitative research topics can be diverse and encompass a wide range of social issues and phenomena. From exploring the impact of culture on identity formation to examining the experiences of marginalized communities, qualitative research offers a rich and nuanced perspective on complex social issues. In this post, we will explore some of the most compelling qualitative research topics and provide some tips on how to conduct effective qualitative research.

Qualitative Research Titles

Qualitative research titles often reflect the study’s focus on understanding the depth and complexity of human behavior, experiences, or social phenomena. Here are some examples across various fields:

  • “Understanding the Impact of Project-Based Learning on Student Engagement in High School Classrooms: A Qualitative Study”
  • “Navigating the Transition: Experiences of International Students in American Universities”
  • “The Role of Parental Involvement in Early Childhood Education: Perspectives from Teachers and Parents”
  • “Exploring the Effects of Teacher Feedback on Student Motivation and Self-Efficacy in Middle Schools”
  • “Digital Literacy in the Classroom: Teacher Strategies for Integrating Technology in Elementary Education”
  • “Culturally Responsive Teaching Practices: A Case Study in Diverse Urban Schools”
  • “The Influence of Extracurricular Activities on Academic Achievement: Student Perspectives”
  • “Barriers to Implementing Inclusive Education in Public Schools: A Qualitative Inquiry”
  • “Teacher Professional Development and Its Impact on Classroom Practice: A Qualitative Exploration”
  • “Student-Centered Learning Environments: A Qualitative Study of Classroom Dynamics and Outcomes”
  • “The Experience of First-Year Teachers: Challenges, Support Systems, and Professional Growth”
  • “Exploring the Role of School Leadership in Fostering a Positive School Culture”
  • “Peer Relationships and Learning Outcomes in Cooperative Learning Settings: A Qualitative Analysis”
  • “The Impact of Social Media on Student Learning and Engagement: Teacher and Student Perspectives”
  • “Understanding Special Education Needs: Parent and Teacher Perceptions of Support Services in Schools

Health Science

  • “Living with Chronic Pain: Patient Narratives and Coping Strategies in Managing Daily Life”
  • “Healthcare Professionals’ Perspectives on the Challenges of Rural Healthcare Delivery”
  • “Exploring the Mental Health Impacts of COVID-19 on Frontline Healthcare Workers: A Qualitative Study”
  • “Patient and Family Experiences of Palliative Care: Understanding Needs and Preferences”
  • “The Role of Community Health Workers in Improving Access to Maternal Healthcare in Rural Areas”
  • “Barriers to Mental Health Services Among Ethnic Minorities: A Qualitative Exploration”
  • “Understanding Patient Satisfaction in Telemedicine Services: A Qualitative Study of User Experiences”
  • “The Impact of Cultural Competence Training on Healthcare Provider-Patient Communication”
  • “Navigating the Transition to Adult Healthcare Services: Experiences of Adolescents with Chronic Conditions”
  • “Exploring the Use of Alternative Medicine Among Patients with Chronic Diseases: A Qualitative Inquiry”
  • “The Role of Social Support in the Rehabilitation Process of Stroke Survivors”
  • “Healthcare Decision-Making Among Elderly Patients: A Qualitative Study of Preferences and Influences”
  • “Nurse Perceptions of Patient Safety Culture in Hospital Settings: A Qualitative Analysis”
  • “Experiences of Women with Postpartum Depression: Barriers to Seeking Help”
  • “The Impact of Nutrition Education on Eating Behaviors Among College Students: A Qualitative Approach”
  • “Understanding Resilience in Survivors of Childhood Trauma: A Narrative Inquiry”
  • “The Role of Mindfulness in Managing Work-Related Stress Among Corporate Employees: A Qualitative Study”
  • “Coping Mechanisms Among Parents of Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder”
  • “Exploring the Psychological Impact of Social Isolation in the Elderly: A Phenomenological Study”
  • “Identity Formation in Adolescence: The Influence of Social Media and Peer Groups”
  • “The Experience of Forgiveness in Interpersonal Relationships: A Qualitative Exploration”
  • “Perceptions of Happiness and Well-Being Among University Students: A Cultural Perspective”
  • “The Impact of Art Therapy on Anxiety and Depression in Adult Cancer Patients”
  • “Narratives of Recovery: A Qualitative Study on the Journey Through Addiction Rehabilitation”
  • “Exploring the Psychological Effects of Long-Term Unemployment: A Grounded Theory Approach”
  • “Attachment Styles and Their Influence on Adult Romantic Relationships: A Qualitative Analysis”
  • “The Role of Personal Values in Career Decision-Making Among Young Adults”
  • “Understanding the Stigma of Mental Illness in Rural Communities: A Qualitative Inquiry”
  • “Exploring the Use of Digital Mental Health Interventions Among Adolescents: A Qualitative Study”
  • “The Psychological Impact of Climate Change on Young Adults: An Exploration of Anxiety and Action”
  • “Navigating Identity: The Role of Social Media in Shaping Youth Culture and Self-Perception”
  • “Community Resilience in the Face of Urban Gentrification: A Case Study of Neighborhood Change”
  • “The Dynamics of Intergenerational Relationships in Immigrant Families: A Qualitative Analysis”
  • “Social Capital and Economic Mobility in Low-Income Neighborhoods: An Ethnographic Approach”
  • “Gender Roles and Career Aspirations Among Young Adults in Conservative Societies”
  • “The Stigma of Mental Health in the Workplace: Employee Narratives and Organizational Culture”
  • “Exploring the Intersection of Race, Class, and Education in Urban School Systems”
  • “The Impact of Digital Divide on Access to Healthcare Information in Rural Communities”
  • “Social Movements and Political Engagement Among Millennials: A Qualitative Study”
  • “Cultural Adaptation and Identity Among Second-Generation Immigrants: A Phenomenological Inquiry”
  • “The Role of Religious Institutions in Providing Community Support and Social Services”
  • “Negotiating Public Space: Experiences of LGBTQ+ Individuals in Urban Environments”
  • “The Sociology of Food: Exploring Eating Habits and Food Practices Across Cultures”
  • “Work-Life Balance Challenges Among Dual-Career Couples: A Qualitative Exploration”
  • “The Influence of Peer Networks on Substance Use Among Adolescents: A Community Study”

Business and Management

  • “Navigating Organizational Change: Employee Perceptions and Adaptation Strategies in Mergers and Acquisitions”
  • “Corporate Social Responsibility: Consumer Perceptions and Brand Loyalty in the Retail Sector”
  • “Leadership Styles and Organizational Culture: A Comparative Study of Tech Startups”
  • “Workplace Diversity and Inclusion: Best Practices and Challenges in Multinational Corporations”
  • “Consumer Trust in E-commerce: A Qualitative Study of Online Shopping Behaviors”
  • “The Gig Economy and Worker Satisfaction: Exploring the Experiences of Freelance Professionals”
  • “Entrepreneurial Resilience: Success Stories and Lessons Learned from Failed Startups”
  • “Employee Engagement and Productivity in Remote Work Settings: A Post-Pandemic Analysis”
  • “Brand Storytelling: How Narrative Strategies Influence Consumer Engagement”
  • “Sustainable Business Practices: Stakeholder Perspectives in the Fashion Industry”
  • “Cross-Cultural Communication Challenges in Global Teams: Strategies for Effective Collaboration”
  • “Innovative Workspaces: The Impact of Office Design on Creativity and Collaboration”
  • “Consumer Perceptions of Artificial Intelligence in Customer Service: A Qualitative Exploration”
  • “The Role of Mentoring in Career Development: Insights from Women in Leadership Positions”
  • “Agile Management Practices: Adoption and Impact in Traditional Industries”

Environmental Studies

  • “Community-Based Conservation Efforts in Tropical Rainforests: A Qualitative Study of Local Perspectives and Practices”
  • “Urban Sustainability Initiatives: Exploring Resident Participation and Impact in Green City Projects”
  • “Perceptions of Climate Change Among Indigenous Populations: Insights from Traditional Ecological Knowledge”
  • “Environmental Justice and Industrial Pollution: A Case Study of Community Advocacy and Response”
  • “The Role of Eco-Tourism in Promoting Conservation Awareness: Perspectives from Tour Operators and Visitors”
  • “Sustainable Agriculture Practices Among Smallholder Farmers: Challenges and Opportunities”
  • “Youth Engagement in Climate Action Movements: Motivations, Perceptions, and Outcomes”
  • “Corporate Environmental Responsibility: A Qualitative Analysis of Stakeholder Expectations and Company Practices”
  • “The Impact of Plastic Pollution on Marine Ecosystems: Community Awareness and Behavioral Change”
  • “Renewable Energy Adoption in Rural Communities: Barriers, Facilitators, and Social Implications”
  • “Water Scarcity and Community Adaptation Strategies in Arid Regions: A Grounded Theory Approach”
  • “Urban Green Spaces: Public Perceptions and Use Patterns in Megacities”
  • “Environmental Education in Schools: Teachers’ Perspectives on Integrating Sustainability into Curricula”
  • “The Influence of Environmental Activism on Policy Change: Case Studies of Grassroots Campaigns”
  • “Cultural Practices and Natural Resource Management: A Qualitative Study of Indigenous Stewardship Models”


  • “Kinship and Social Organization in Matrilineal Societies: An Ethnographic Study”
  • “Rituals and Beliefs Surrounding Death and Mourning in Diverse Cultures: A Comparative Analysis”
  • “The Impact of Globalization on Indigenous Languages and Cultural Identity”
  • “Food Sovereignty and Traditional Agricultural Practices Among Indigenous Communities”
  • “Navigating Modernity: The Integration of Traditional Healing Practices in Contemporary Healthcare Systems”
  • “Gender Roles and Equality in Hunter-Gatherer Societies: An Anthropological Perspective”
  • “Sacred Spaces and Religious Practices: An Ethnographic Study of Pilgrimage Sites”
  • “Youth Subcultures and Resistance: An Exploration of Identity and Expression in Urban Environments”
  • “Cultural Constructions of Disability and Inclusion: A Cross-Cultural Analysis”
  • “Interethnic Marriages and Cultural Syncretism: Case Studies from Multicultural Societies”
  • “The Role of Folklore and Storytelling in Preserving Cultural Heritage”
  • “Economic Anthropology of Gift-Giving and Reciprocity in Tribal Communities”
  • “Digital Anthropology: The Role of Social Media in Shaping Political Movements”
  • “Migration and Diaspora: Maintaining Cultural Identity in Transnational Communities”
  • “Cultural Adaptations to Climate Change Among Coastal Fishing Communities”

Communication Studies

  • “The Dynamics of Family Communication in the Digital Age: A Qualitative Inquiry”
  • “Narratives of Identity and Belonging in Diaspora Communities Through Social Media”
  • “Organizational Communication and Employee Engagement: A Case Study in the Non-Profit Sector”
  • “Cultural Influences on Communication Styles in Multinational Teams: An Ethnographic Approach”
  • “Media Representation of Women in Politics: A Content Analysis and Audience Perception Study”
  • “The Role of Communication in Building Sustainable Community Development Projects”
  • “Interpersonal Communication in Online Dating: Strategies, Challenges, and Outcomes”
  • “Public Health Messaging During Pandemics: A Qualitative Study of Community Responses”
  • “The Impact of Mobile Technology on Parent-Child Communication in the Digital Era”
  • “Crisis Communication Strategies in the Hospitality Industry: A Case Study of Reputation Management”
  • “Narrative Analysis of Personal Stories Shared on Mental Health Blogs”
  • “The Influence of Podcasts on Political Engagement Among Young Adults”
  • “Visual Communication and Brand Identity: A Qualitative Study of Consumer Interpretations”
  • “Communication Barriers in Cross-Cultural Healthcare Settings: Patient and Provider Perspectives”
  • “The Role of Internal Communication in Managing Organizational Change: Employee Experiences”

Information Technology

  • “User Experience Design in Augmented Reality Applications: A Qualitative Study of Best Practices”
  • “The Human Factor in Cybersecurity: Understanding Employee Behaviors and Attitudes Towards Phishing”
  • “Adoption of Cloud Computing in Small and Medium Enterprises: Challenges and Success Factors”
  • “Blockchain Technology in Supply Chain Management: A Qualitative Exploration of Potential Impacts”
  • “The Role of Artificial Intelligence in Personalizing User Experiences on E-commerce Platforms”
  • “Digital Transformation in Traditional Industries: A Case Study of Technology Adoption Challenges”
  • “Ethical Considerations in the Development of Smart Home Technologies: A Stakeholder Analysis”
  • “The Impact of Social Media Algorithms on News Consumption and Public Opinion”
  • “Collaborative Software Development: Practices and Challenges in Open Source Projects”
  • “Understanding the Digital Divide: Access to Information Technology in Rural Communities”
  • “Data Privacy Concerns and User Trust in Internet of Things (IoT) Devices”
  • “The Effectiveness of Gamification in Educational Software: A Qualitative Study of Engagement and Motivation”
  • “Virtual Teams and Remote Work: Communication Strategies and Tools for Effectiveness”
  • “User-Centered Design in Mobile Health Applications: Evaluating Usability and Accessibility”
  • “The Influence of Technology on Work-Life Balance: Perspectives from IT Professionals”

Tourism and Hospitality

  • “Exploring the Authenticity of Cultural Heritage Tourism in Indigenous Communities”
  • “Sustainable Tourism Practices: Perceptions and Implementations in Small Island Destinations”
  • “The Impact of Social Media Influencers on Destination Choice Among Millennials”
  • “Gastronomy Tourism: Exploring the Culinary Experiences of International Visitors in Rural Regions”
  • “Eco-Tourism and Conservation: Stakeholder Perspectives on Balancing Tourism and Environmental Protection”
  • “The Role of Hospitality in Enhancing the Cultural Exchange Experience of Exchange Students”
  • “Dark Tourism: Visitor Motivations and Experiences at Historical Conflict Sites”
  • “Customer Satisfaction in Luxury Hotels: A Qualitative Study of Service Excellence and Personalization”
  • “Adventure Tourism: Understanding the Risk Perception and Safety Measures Among Thrill-Seekers”
  • “The Influence of Local Communities on Tourist Experiences in Ecotourism Sites”
  • “Event Tourism: Economic Impacts and Community Perspectives on Large-Scale Music Festivals”
  • “Heritage Tourism and Identity: Exploring the Connections Between Historic Sites and National Identity”
  • “Tourist Perceptions of Sustainable Accommodation Practices: A Study of Green Hotels”
  • “The Role of Language in Shaping the Tourist Experience in Multilingual Destinations”
  • “Health and Wellness Tourism: Motivations and Experiences of Visitors to Spa and Retreat Centers”

Qualitative Research Topics

Qualitative Research Topics are as follows:

  • Understanding the lived experiences of first-generation college students
  • Exploring the impact of social media on self-esteem among adolescents
  • Investigating the effects of mindfulness meditation on stress reduction
  • Analyzing the perceptions of employees regarding organizational culture
  • Examining the impact of parental involvement on academic achievement of elementary school students
  • Investigating the role of music therapy in managing symptoms of depression
  • Understanding the experience of women in male-dominated industries
  • Exploring the factors that contribute to successful leadership in non-profit organizations
  • Analyzing the effects of peer pressure on substance abuse among adolescents
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with disabilities in the workplace
  • Understanding the factors that contribute to burnout among healthcare professionals
  • Examining the impact of social support on mental health outcomes
  • Analyzing the perceptions of parents regarding sex education in schools
  • Investigating the experiences of immigrant families in the education system
  • Understanding the impact of trauma on mental health outcomes
  • Exploring the effectiveness of animal-assisted therapy for individuals with anxiety
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful intergenerational relationships
  • Investigating the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals in the workplace
  • Understanding the impact of online gaming on social skills development among adolescents
  • Examining the perceptions of teachers regarding technology integration in the classroom
  • Analyzing the experiences of women in leadership positions
  • Investigating the factors that contribute to successful marriage and long-term relationships
  • Understanding the impact of social media on political participation
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with mental health disorders in the criminal justice system
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful community-based programs for youth development
  • Investigating the experiences of veterans in accessing mental health services
  • Understanding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental health outcomes
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood obesity prevention
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful multicultural education programs
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in the workplace
  • Understanding the impact of poverty on academic achievement
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in the workplace
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful employee retention strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Understanding the impact of parent-child communication on adolescent sexual behavior
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding mental health services on campus
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful team building in the workplace
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with eating disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of mentorship on career success
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with physical disabilities in the workplace
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful community-based programs for mental health
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with substance use disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of social media on romantic relationships
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding child discipline strategies
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful cross-cultural communication in the workplace
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with anxiety disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural differences on healthcare delivery
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with hearing loss in the workplace
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful parent-teacher communication
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with depression in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of childhood trauma on adult mental health outcomes
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding alcohol and drug use on campus
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful mentor-mentee relationships
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the workplace
  • Understanding the impact of work-family balance on employee satisfaction and well-being
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in vocational rehabilitation programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful project management in the construction industry
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with substance use disorders in peer support groups
  • Understanding the impact of mindfulness meditation on stress reduction and mental health
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood nutrition
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful environmental sustainability initiatives in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with bipolar disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of job stress on employee burnout and turnover
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with physical disabilities in recreational activities
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful strategic planning in nonprofit organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with hoarding disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of culture on leadership styles and effectiveness
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding sexual health education on campus
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain management in the retail industry
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with personality disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of multiculturalism on group dynamics in the workplace
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic pain in mindfulness-based pain management programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful employee engagement strategies in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with internet addiction disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of social comparison on body dissatisfaction and self-esteem
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood sleep habits
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful diversity and inclusion initiatives in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with schizophrenia in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of job crafting on employee motivation and job satisfaction
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with vision impairments in navigating public spaces
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful customer relationship management strategies in the service industry
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with dissociative amnesia in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural intelligence on intercultural communication and collaboration
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding campus diversity and inclusion efforts
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain sustainability initiatives in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of transformational leadership on organizational performance and employee well-being
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with mobility impairments in public transportation
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful talent management strategies in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with substance use disorders in harm reduction programs
  • Understanding the impact of gratitude practices on well-being and resilience
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood mental health and well-being
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful corporate social responsibility initiatives in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with borderline personality disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of emotional labor on job stress and burnout
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with hearing impairments in healthcare settings
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful customer experience strategies in the hospitality industry
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with gender dysphoria in gender-affirming healthcare
  • Understanding the impact of cultural differences on cross-cultural negotiation in the global marketplace
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding academic stress and mental health
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain agility in organizations
  • Understanding the impact of music therapy on mental health and well-being
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with dyslexia in educational settings
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful leadership in nonprofit organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in online support groups
  • Understanding the impact of exercise on mental health and well-being
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood screen time
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful change management strategies in organizations
  • Understanding the impact of cultural differences on international business negotiations
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with hearing impairments in the workplace
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful team building in corporate settings
  • Understanding the impact of technology on communication in romantic relationships
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful community engagement strategies for local governments
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of financial stress on mental health and well-being
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful mentorship programs in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with gambling addictions in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of social media on body image and self-esteem
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood education
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful virtual team management strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with dissociative identity disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural differences on cross-cultural communication in healthcare settings
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic pain in cognitive-behavioral therapy programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful community-building strategies in urban neighborhoods
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with alcohol use disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of personality traits on romantic relationships
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding mental health stigma on campus
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful fundraising strategies for political campaigns
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with traumatic brain injuries in rehabilitation programs
  • Understanding the impact of social support on mental health and well-being among the elderly
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in medical treatment decision-making processes
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful innovation strategies in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with dissociative disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural differences on cross-cultural communication in education settings
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood physical activity
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful conflict resolution in family relationships
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with opioid use disorders in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of emotional intelligence on leadership effectiveness
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with learning disabilities in the workplace
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful change management in educational institutions
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with eating disorders in recovery support groups
  • Understanding the impact of self-compassion on mental health and well-being
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding campus safety and security measures
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful marketing strategies for nonprofit organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with postpartum depression in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of ageism in the workplace
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with dyslexia in the education system
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with anxiety disorders in cognitive-behavioral therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of socioeconomic status on access to healthcare
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood screen time usage
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain management strategies
  • Understanding the impact of parenting styles on child development
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with addiction in harm reduction programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful crisis management strategies in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with trauma in trauma-focused therapy programs
  • Examining the perceptions of healthcare providers regarding patient-centered care
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful product development strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in employment programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural competence on healthcare outcomes
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in healthcare navigation
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful community engagement strategies for non-profit organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with physical disabilities in the workplace
  • Understanding the impact of childhood trauma on adult mental health
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain sustainability strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with personality disorders in dialectical behavior therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of gender identity on mental health treatment seeking behaviors
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with schizophrenia in community-based treatment programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful project team management strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder in exposure and response prevention therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural competence on academic achievement and success
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding academic integrity
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful social media marketing strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with bipolar disorder in community-based treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of mindfulness on academic achievement and success
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with substance use disorders in medication-assisted treatment programs
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with anxiety disorders in exposure therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of healthcare disparities on health outcomes
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain optimization strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with borderline personality disorder in schema therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of culture on perceptions of mental health stigma
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with trauma in art therapy programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful digital marketing strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with eating disorders in online support groups
  • Understanding the impact of workplace bullying on job satisfaction and performance
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding mental health resources on campus
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful supply chain risk management strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic pain in mindfulness-based pain management programs
  • Understanding the impact of cognitive-behavioral therapy on social anxiety disorder
  • Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on mental health and well-being
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with eating disorders in treatment programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful leadership in business organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic pain in cognitive-behavioral therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of cultural differences on intercultural communication
  • Examining the perceptions of teachers regarding inclusive education for students with disabilities
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with depression in therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of workplace culture on employee retention and turnover
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with traumatic brain injuries in rehabilitation programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful crisis communication strategies in organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with anxiety disorders in mindfulness-based interventions
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in healthcare settings
  • Understanding the impact of technology on work-life balance
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with learning disabilities in academic settings
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful entrepreneurship in small businesses
  • Understanding the impact of gender identity on mental health and well-being
  • Examining the perceptions of individuals with disabilities regarding accessibility in public spaces
  • Understanding the impact of religion on coping strategies for stress and anxiety
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in complementary and alternative medicine treatments
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful customer retention strategies in business organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with postpartum depression in therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of ageism on older adults in healthcare settings
  • Examining the perceptions of students regarding online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful team building in virtual work environments
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with gambling disorders in treatment programs
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in peer support groups
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful social media marketing strategies for businesses
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with ADHD in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of sleep on cognitive and emotional functioning
  • Examining the perceptions of individuals with chronic illnesses regarding healthcare access and affordability
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with borderline personality disorder in dialectical behavior therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of social support on caregiver well-being
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in disability activism
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful cultural competency training programs in healthcare settings
  • Understanding the impact of personality disorders on interpersonal relationships
  • Examining the perceptions of healthcare providers regarding the use of telehealth services
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with dissociative disorders in therapy programs
  • Understanding the impact of gender bias in hiring practices
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with visual impairments in the workplace
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful diversity and inclusion programs in the workplace
  • Understanding the impact of online dating on romantic relationships
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood vaccination
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful communication in healthcare settings
  • Understanding the impact of cultural stereotypes on academic achievement
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with substance use disorders in sober living programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful classroom management strategies
  • Understanding the impact of social support on addiction recovery
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding mental health stigma
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful conflict resolution in the workplace
  • Understanding the impact of race and ethnicity on healthcare access and outcomes
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder in treatment programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful project management strategies
  • Understanding the impact of teacher-student relationships on academic achievement
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful customer service strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with social anxiety disorder in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of workplace stress on job satisfaction and performance
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with disabilities in sports and recreation
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful marketing strategies for small businesses
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with phobias in treatment programs
  • Understanding the impact of culture on attitudes towards mental health and illness
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding sexual assault prevention
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful time management strategies
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with addiction in recovery support groups
  • Understanding the impact of mindfulness on emotional regulation and well-being
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with chronic pain in treatment programs
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful conflict resolution in romantic relationships
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with autism spectrum disorder in social skills training programs
  • Understanding the impact of parent-child communication on adolescent substance use
  • Examining the perceptions of parents regarding childhood mental health services
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful fundraising strategies for non-profit organizations
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic illnesses in support groups
  • Understanding the impact of personality traits on career success and satisfaction
  • Exploring the experiences of individuals with disabilities in accessing public transportation
  • Analyzing the factors that contribute to successful team building in sports teams
  • Investigating the experiences of individuals with chronic pain in alternative medicine treatments
  • Understanding the impact of stigma on mental health treatment seeking behaviors
  • Examining the perceptions of college students regarding diversity and inclusion on campus.

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Qualitative Research Topics & Ideas For Students

The Best Qualitative Research Topics For Students

Do you have difficulty finding a qualitative research title for your project? If you are, you need not worry because you are not alone. However, there are many unique qualitative titles you can explore for your research. You just need a few qualitative research title examples to get you started. Qualitative research is focused on data obtained through a researcher’s first-hand observations, natural setting recording, artifacts, case studies, documents, questionnaires, and interviews. The findings in qualitative research are usually non-numerical. Also, it is common in humanities and social sciences. This post provides over 100 qualitative research topics you can consider.

  • The Best Qualitative Research Topics That Impress the Teacher

Exceptional Qualitative Research Topics In Social Science

Qualitative research title examples for students, fantastic examples of qualitative research titles, good topics to start for qualitative research, qualitative research topics in education, quick examples of qualitative research topics, qualitative research topics in the philippines, qualitative researches topics about humanity & social science, great choices of qualitative research title examples, qualitative research topics for students to think about, our examples of the best qualitative research topics that impress the teacher.

An excellent research topic will help you earn a good grade. Consider any example of a qualitative research title from the following options:

  • The impacts of social media on physical social engagement in society
  • The benefits of treating mental disorders with medication
  • The effects of Gender-Based Violence on women’s social lives in rural areas
  • The decline of academic pursuit in third-world countries
  • Sexual workers: the stigma they experience
  • How has the promotion of feminist values influenced workplaces?
  • Free education: its impact in third-world countries
  • What is the correlation between education and success?
  • Ableism: its effects on disabled people in society
  • Food insecurity in third-world nations
The topic of your research paper can influence how easily you can conduct your study and draw conclusions.

Here are fantastic examples of qualitative research titles:

  • Female harm: how it is influenced by culture
  • The socioeconomic impacts of free education
  • The link between food insecurity and poor performance in schools
  • Alcoholism among college students: a critical study
  • How to mitigate child labor in our society
  • The root causes of child labor in Latin America
  • The stigma of living with transmissive medical conditions
  • The root cause of the stigma of people living with disabilities
  • How to identify depression in small children
  • Signs of autism in kids below two years old

Choosing a qualitative research topic is not a task you should take lightly because it can influence your performance. Here are some noteworthy qualitative research titles examples:

  • Basic patient care policies in developing nations
  • The impacts of alcoholism on education
  • Adult learning: what does it entail?
  • Homeschooling: Is it the latest trend after the pandemic?
  • Does computer literacy influence the quality of education kids enjoy?
  • How to effectively teach students with learning disabilities
  • The relationship between poor education systems and crime rates in third-world countries
  • Student bullying: the psychological impacts
  • Should high school students go through university preparedness programs?
  • research writing in high schools: its significance

Are you looking for qualitative research topic examples to start your study? Below are some creative examples to consider:

  • Remote tests: are they as effective as in-class tests?
  • The value of social activities in academic institutions
  • Why should healthcare be free in all countries?
  • The implications of racist laws on society
  • The reception of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments
  • What is the difference between foreign policies in first-world and third-world nations?
  • Racism and Colorism: what is the difference?
  • Dissecting the causes of low voter turnouts in the 21 st century
  • The challenges of social media on kid’s brain development
  • The inclusion of black women in American politics and its impacts

When competing with several brilliant minds, a good research topic can do you greatly. The following qualitative research examples titles are a great place to start:

  • Should school uniforms be discarded for high schoolers?
  • The need for equal representation in global politics
  • The implications of police brutality on politics
  • The role of parental care in foster kids
  • The distinction between Islamic values and Christian values
  • The correlation between political instability and migration
  • Sex trafficking and violence against women: what is the link?
  • How can global governments eradicate homelessness?
  • Fraternities and sororities: are they still relevant?
  • The role of literature in promoting societal changes

Qualitative research is popular in the education field and other social sciences. Choose a qualitative research title example on the subject of education from the following list:

  • Effectively introducing foreign languages in the high school curriculum
  • How can teachers help students with disabilities improve their learning?
  • The link between social activities and comprehension among students
  • Research writing in high schools: is it necessary?
  • How has virtual learning influenced teacher-student relationships?
  • The implications of allowing smartphones in classes
  • Should all schools introduce sign language lessons in their curriculum?
  • Student loans: their impacts on black students
  • The impacts of race on college acceptance rates
  • Poverty and education: what is the link?
  • Ethnic and socioeconomic causes of poor school attendance in developing worlds
  • Various teaching methods and their efficiency
  • Efficient teaching methods for children below two years
  • Why do students perform better in humanities than in sciences?
  • The difference between college acceptance and completion in most nations
  • Remote learning in developing countries
  • What are the best ways of approaching bullying in schools?
  • How do teachers promote inequality among students?
  • Does social class influence academic performance negatively or positively?
  • How do teachers shape their students’ personalities?

Coming up with a qualitative research title can be hard because of the numerous subject areas and the issue of uniqueness. Therefore, we have prepared the following qualitative title examples for you:

  • How to promote oral learning in classrooms
  • Political instability in developing countries: its economic impacts
  • The impacts of weather on social activities
  • Boredom and poor-decision making: the connection
  • Exploring the connection between attachment types and love languages
  • Socioeconomic impacts of instability on a country
  • How does social media impact the perception of reality
  • Reality TV shows: are they a true reflection of reality?
  • How culture applies to different age groups
  • Is social media influencing the loss of cultural values?

You can base your research topic on a specific region or nation, like the Philippines. A sample qualitative research title can get you started. You can pick a sample qualitative research title from the ideas below:

  • Why are so many Philippines residents migrating to America?
  • The impact of politics on migration in the Philippines
  • How has violence led to food insecurity in rural areas in the Philippines?
  • The Philippine education system: an overview
  • How cultural norms influence social activities in the Philippines
  • Gender roles in the Philippines society
  • How popular Filipino cultures have served as agents of social change in the nation
  • The link between male dominance and GBV in the Philippines
  • Barriers to clean hygiene in health centers in the Philippines
  • The spread of COVID in rural areas in the Philippines

Most top performers in research subjects attribute their success to choosing the best title for qualitative research. Here are some qualitative research topics about humanities and social science to promote good performance:

  • The impact of poor market rivalry on supply and demand
  • The role of parents in shaping kids’ morals
  • Is social media the root cause of poor societal morals?
  • How does alcohol impact a person’s normal behavior?
  • How often should adults engage in sporting activities?
  • Children’s eating habits and their influences
  • Low socioeconomic backgrounds and their impacts on self-esteem
  • The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on the world’s views on viral diseases
  • How can school-going kids manage depression
  • Causes of mental challenges among school-going kids

Finding a good topic for qualitative research is a critical task that requires a lot of thought and research. However, we have simplified the process with the following qualitative topic ideas:

  • Pop music and erratic youth behavior: is there a link?
  • How do public figures influence cultures?
  • Ideas for improving healthcare in developing nations
  • Possible solutions for alleviating the food crisis in developing nations
  • New ways of mitigating viral diseases
  • Social media trends among the elderly
  • Quarantine as a mitigation approach for infectious diseases
  • Promoting social justice in patriarchal societies
  • Worrying trends among the young population
  • Emerging marketing trends in 2023

Qualitative research for college and high school students helps improve reading, writing, and intellectual skills. Here are some qualitative research examples and topic ideas for students :

  • How to detect and prevent natural disasters beforehand
  • Can the whole world have the same education system?
  • What is the most effective therapy for patients recuperating from brain surgery?
  • Possible solutions for promoting ethical practices in telehealth
  • Can addicts overcome addiction without therapy?
  • The latest technology trends and their impacts?
  • How can global governments promote mental health awareness?
  • Have smartphones caused reduced attention spans among users?
  • Sexual violence in rural areas
  • The introduction of Islam in African nations

We Are Here for You

Qualitative research is an investigative analysis of intangible or inexact data, mostly non-numerical. The title of qualitative research you choose will guide your entire research process and influence its conclusions. Do you need a paper or an example of a research title qualitative topic? Our expert team is ready to write it for you.

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521 Research Questions & Titles about Science

Do you enjoy revealing the mysteries of nature? There are as many secrets in space as there are deep in the ocean. You may be the one who solves the next puzzle!

Natural science focuses on our environment. We try to understand how and why everything around us works. Living organisms, natural phenomena, rocks, and even the stars, are under scientists’ observation. Research in this area is a continuous process. Sometimes when it seems like we found out the answer, it just creates more questions! There are also plenty of weird things that can’t be explained.

Want to learn more about the scientific puzzles to be solved? Take a look at the collection of science research questions that Custom-writing.org experts have prepared. Find your perfect idea in the list below!

🔝 Top 10 Natural Science Topics for Research Papers

  • 💡 Choosing a Research Topic

⭐ Scientific Research Topics List: Top 10

  • 💫 Astronomy Topics
  • 🐈 Biology Topics
  • ⚛️ Chemistry Topics
  • ☁️ Environmental Topics
  • 🔷 Geology Topics
  • 🌈 Physics Topics
  • 🔝 20 Research Questions

🔎 References

  • How to prevent bacterial diseases
  • What is the origin of immunity?
  • Main concepts in biolinguistics
  • How can you improve gut microbiota?
  • Climate change’s effect on bumblebees?
  • How did dry climate affect human evolution?
  • The importance of bacteria in aquatic ecosystems
  • How does the neuron structure change during sleep?
  • What’s the link between stem cell divisions and cancer?
  • Smoking’s contribution to the mosaic loss of Y chromosome

💡 Choosing an Interesting Science Research Topic

There are plenty of scientific research papers topics to choose from. You can pick an area that you prefer: astronomy, biology, chemistry, nature, geology, and physics. And we prepared a list of at least 35 cool research titles about science in each of them!

However, you should put some effort into choosing a good and interesting topic. There are several aspects you need to consider. The first thing to look into is how easy or hard the future research may be. Evaluate the resources and the skills you have. Are they enough to understand if it is enough to resolve a scientific issue you chose?

Next, you should also foresee the benefits of the research. Proper scientific research can increase knowledge in a specific area. Of course, if you are a college student, you shouldn’t feel any obligation to solve unimaginable problems. However, even a small discovery could be a huge step in understanding an issue.

Therefore, the key concept is to find a topic that would be easy and fruitful at the same time. Don’t rush! Usually, picking the first idea that comes to your mind doesn’t end successfully…

Also, don’t forget to listen to your inner voice. If it feels like the topic is not for you, cross it out. You shouldn’t waste your time working on research that doesn’t satisfy you. It also needs to reflect your point of view.

How To Choose A Research Topic?

Last but not least, think about the approach of your research since it can also affect the topic. Decide whether you want to start quantitative or qualitative research . Then you might want to check out our collection of 501 good research topics for science!

  • How hibernation of animals works
  • Virtual reality vs. augmented reality
  • Can false memories be implanted?
  • The role of cryogenics in rocket science
  • How can we reduce the gender gap in STEM?
  • Cloud computing’s impact on data storage
  • Microscopic techniques used in microbiology
  • The importance of stem cells in medical science
  • Types of genetic programming in machine learning
  • The ways industries can conserve energy consumption

🚀 Space Research Topics

Have you ever had a dream of going into outer space as a kid? If yes, then these space research topics are for you!

Space research studies the observable universe that starts just outside the Earth’s surface. You don’t necessarily need to go in outer space to study it, though. Astronomy is where it all begins. Planets, galaxies, and different phenomena can all be studied from the ground. But note that most current projects also require some knowledge in physics, math, and computer science.

If you feel like it’s for you, then check out the list of the trending astronomy research topics below.

💫 58 Astronomy Research Topics

  • Tools used to identify different variable stars: an overview
  • Astrophysics: compact binary star systems & broadband variability
  • Stellar evolution: young stellar objects with circumstellar material
  • Evolved objects: circumstellar material and mass-loss episodes
  • What telescopes are used for studying stellar evolution with a multispectral approach?
  • The theory of the Universe
  • How is interferometry used to observe the circumstellar environment?
  • The approaches to building a cool stellar photosphere model
  • Mars in comparison to Earth
  • How to improve the accuracy of the Infrared Space Observatory?

Spaceport base night with rocket.

  • The theory of infrared spectroscopy and cool standard stars
  • The Milky Way and the expanding universe
  • How are stellar candles helpful in determining the extragalactic distance scale?
  • The evolution of intermediate-mass single stars
  • International Space Station
  • How to understand the physical processes of the low-mass single starts evolution?
  • Infrared spectroscopy to study the final stellar evolution
  • Solar system: geology, climate, and composition
  • The impact of studying post-AGB stars on stellar evolution theory
  • The diversity of the post-AGB stars’ nucleosynthetic yields
  • India space mission
  • Interferometry and the study of the post-AGB stars
  • Solar system: the weather on other planets
  • The connection between the matter and the interstellar medium
  • Why is the interstellar medium important for understanding galaxy evolution?
  • Space Exploration: UAE and INDIA Space Cooperation
  • Supernova explosion: heavy metals and the interstellar medium
  • How to investigate the chemical components of the diffuse interstellar clouds?
  • The interaction between the ambient medium and stellar winds
  • How are stellar wind properties measured?
  • The approaches to learning the physics of exoplanets
  • How are the chemical models of exoplanets built?
  • The development of terrestrial planets’ atmosphere
  • Hot Jupiter: the effect of circulation winds
  • Exoplanets: surface and atmosphere connection
  • Temperature and its effect on the habitability of exoplanets
  • How are carbon-rich planets found?
  • The evolution of binary stars vs. single stars
  • What do binary stars interact with each other?
  • How does the change in tidal forces affect the pulsations?
  • What are the aspects of the seismic analysis of the binary stars?
  • Asteroseismology: the analysis of the stars’ pulsation
  • How are stellar pulsation modes identified in asteroseismology?
  • The efficiency of iron in blocking the photons: the case of the Sun
  • How does echography help understand the age of the young star?
  • Why does the core of old stars spin faster than their surface?
  • Gravitational-wave astronomy: the approaches to discover gravitational radiation
  • The sensitivity of pulsar timing: studying supermassive black holes
  • Radio observing as a way of finding new pulsars
  • Is there a way to find out the cause of the accelerating expansion of the universe?
  • How are planets formed in the accretion disks?
  • The nature of the collimated outflows as the part of accretion disks
  • Periodic pulses: looking for pulsars in binary systems
  • Supermassive black holes: collecting data on gravitational waves
  • Why does the precise distance to a neutron star matter?
  • Analyzing the dusty components of the galaxies to understand their evolution
  • How do telescopes help to study protoplanetary disks?
  • What software is used to study the formation of planetary systems?

🌿 Plants & Animals: Biological Research

Studying living organisms makes it to the top of the most interesting science research topics! No complicated physics, no political debates, just the peaceful science of life. If that is what you were looking for, then this list of biology research topics is for you!

Biology may not be the most popular choice for those writing a paper, but it doesn’t make it less exciting. Just think about the life-changing ideas of Charles Darwin! No need to worry, there are quite enough issues to be solved in animal biology since it is such a wide area.

Look through the whole list of 164 plants and animals research topics to find the best one for you.

🐈 164 Biology Research Topics

  • What are the benefits of using whole-genome sequencing?
  • Whole-genome sequencing for identifying chemotherapy resistance
  • How are molecular and organismal biology related to each other?
  • Pathobiology: the importance of studying the mammalian skull
  • The influence of the circadian rhythm of metabolism
  • The animal kingdom in Antarctica: adapting to subzero temperatures
  • Understanding the migration of cells in tumors to treat cancer

Aristotle quote.

  • Moral grounds of the cloning 
  • What affects the survival rates of tumor cells? 
  • The ways to detect and fight chemoresistant tumor cell 
  • How are cytoskeleton microtubules and brain formation connected? 
  • Studying the cell’s response to infectious agents to understand the diseases 
  • Human development and the regeneration of heart tissues 
  • The approaches to study induced pluripotent stem cells 
  • How does the circadian cycle affect the human body temperature? 
  • Microorganisms in soil and their influence on the plant 
  • Why are some animals so smart? 
  • Geotropism: what is the purpose behind responding to the change of gravity direction? 
  • The relationship between the Earth’s magnetic field and animals 
  • Bonobos and common shimps: compare and contrast 
  • How do migratory birds navigate in the desert? 
  • The connection between the hens’ diet and the size of eggs 
  • How do nutrients circulate through the aquatic ecosystems? 
  • Bacterial pathogenesis  
  • The difference between the energy flow in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems 
  • India’s solar installations 
  • Understanding interactions between species for ecological sustainability 
  • Entomology: the introduction to the mechanism of transmitting diseases 
  • What are the host plant’s defense mechanisms against herbivores? 
  • The most effective approaches to save the endangered insects species 
  • The classification of the disease-transmitting insects 
  • The Chernobyl disaster: causes and effects  
  • Epidemiological modeling: how does knowing the origins of the disease help fighting it? 
  • Population biology: genomic approaches to understand the spread of pathogens 
  • Gas price increasing and alternative energy sources  
  • The science of growing the animal cell in the lab 
  • How can we predict the evolutionary changes in species with the help of evolutionary biology? 
  • The evolution of genomes and its effect on the organismal function 
  • What are the newest technologies used in evolutionary biology? 
  • Genomics: using transcriptome analysis to detect drug-resistant genes 
  • Whole-genome sequencing and natural variation 
  • Infectious diseases: cellular determinants and host response 
  • How do microbes change the immune system after infecting it? 
  • Neuroscience: olfaction and processes on a molecular level 
  • Neurobiology: the newest ways to study the human brain 
  • What is the connection between antibiotics and bacterial enzymes? 
  • The branches of biology that study DNA reparation 
  • Breast cancer after surgeries: the ways to stop metastatic relapse 
  • What are the effects of immune cell variations on malaria ? 
  • Immunology: can an autoimmune disease be a root cause of glaucoma? 
  • Pancreatic cancer: what are the reasons for the drug resistance? 
  • Ketone bodies and their effect on stem cells regeneration in the intestine 
  • Studying planarians to investigate regeneration laws 
  • Can DNA repair enzymes also tie to RNA? 
  • Gene expression regulation and the flow of genetic information 
  • How do RNAs influence the development of the diseases? 
  • The ways to predict the effect of microRNAs on gene expression 
  • The most recent developments in transplantation research 
  • The approaches to fighting the biofouling problem 
  • What are the root causes of algae blooms? 
  • Bioluminescence: how can luciferase be helpful in medical diagnostics? 
  • What causes a decrease in monarch butterfly migration? 
  • Camouflage: how can squid deception skills help develop new materials? 
  • Using 3-D printing to improve the health of coral reef population 
  • Third mass bleaching: the potential of crossbreeding 
  • Will the process of de-extinction be possible in the near future? 
  • What could be the negative effects of the de-extinction? 
  • How to protect the Great Dismal Swamp from climate change? 
  • The physics behind the V-formation of birds flying 
  • What is the humans’ contribution to the spread of invasive species? 
  • The ways to slow down the current sixth mass extinction 
  • How do plants and animals look after their microbiome? 
  • Diet vs. environment: what influences microbiome more? 
  • Evolution: the secret of butterflies from different locations evolving the same pattern 
  • Wallflowers and mutagenesis studying: the next-gen cancer treatment 
  • The influence of oil spills on the food crops 
  • The best natural pesticides for organic farming 
  • The negative effects of organic farming on the environment 
  • How does conservation help save tropical rainforests? 
  • How do red tides algae affect fish and mammals? 
  • The most recent approaches to the wetland restoration 
  • White polar bear : why is the low energy level dangerous for them? 
  • Human biology: how does the effect of afterimage work? 
  • How could food coloring change the taste of the product? 
  • The secrets of human taste buds: why some people can’t taste sour? 
  • The memory of the human immune system fighting common illnesses 
  • The correlation between the age and the lung capacity 
  • Human eye: the evolution of the peripheral vision 
  • Lateralisation of brain function in dogs: tail-wagging 
  • What is the purpose of homosexuality in the animal kingdom? 
  • How does diet affect sex hormones flow in women? 
  • The microbial factories as the pharmaceutical solution 
  • Can the cloning technology that was tested on the sheep be used on humans? 
  • How and why is the human gestation period different from other mammals? 
  • What amount of ultraviolet is deadly for different bacteria? 
  • The connection between the level of dilution of disinfectant and bacterial resistance 
  • The concentration of the preservative in food and microbial growth 
  • Red tides: how does overgrazing become even more harmful? 
  • How fast are bacteria spreading in the thawing meat? 
  • The role of heavy metal resistance in the adaptation of the plants to different environments 
  • Plant growth: nitrogen-fixing bacteria vs. nitrogen fertilizers 
  • The best plants for preventing soil erosion  
  • Using duckweed to test the level of water contamination 
  • The deadly fungi: preventive measures of trees extinction 
  • Can human urine be used as a cheaper alternative for fertilizers? 
  • What affects the number of seeds in different fruits? 
  • What is happening to the honey bees 
  • Hydroponics as the most sustainable farming of the future 
  • How do forests self-regulate the population density? 
  • What is the relation between gravitropism and hydrotropism? 
  • How much can we control our genetics, at what point do we cease to be human?  
  • The impact of studying phototropism on solar energy research 
  • Planaria and its regeneration skills: magnetic field effect 
  • Is cloning “playing God”?  
  • How does caffeine affect plants and animals? 
  • Wild animals of the United States of America  
  • Aquaculture : the most recent trends in aquafarming 

Human evolution from monkey.

  • How does fish egg predation affect the fish population? 
  • The importance of the number of trace metals in marine invertebrates 
  • Marine biology : the importance of CO2 levels and glacial cycles 
  • The connection between GABA receptors and central nervous system 
  • The pathogenic mechanisms of Dengue viruses 
  • Using microwave for components extraction from medical plants 
  • Rhizobacteria as a way to promote the growth of the plants 
  • The most effective methods to prevent pathology in plants 
  • Modern technologies and controlling plant diseases 
  • How does climate change influence the evolution of animals? 
  • Human vs. non-human part in the extinction of species : compare and contrast 
  • The root causes and preventive measures of obesity in pets 
  • The significance of male pregnancy in the animal kingdom 
  • Why shouldn’t we feed cats and hedgehogs with milk? 
  • Similarities and differences between cats and dogs  
  • Marine biology: the negative effects of whale hunting 
  • The reason why wild animals should also be protected 
  • The brain wiring or vocal anatomy: why primates don’t talk? 
  • Are homosexuality psychological phenomena or genetic? 
  • The cloning of a DNA fragment, and a Southern blot 
  • Human body: is there any hormone that we don’t need? 
  • How can adaptogens influence the human endocrine system? 
  • The effects of long-term use of synthetic hormones on the female endocrine system 
  • Stressful and dangerous situation: why cortisol level stays high longer than adrenaline 
  • Compare and contrast the main functions of cortisol and adrenaline 
  • Bipolar disorder: biological point of view 
  • What is the role of oxytocin in treating psychopathic disorders? 
  • Bacteria: the influence of your gut health on anxiety and depression 
  • The genetics behind the development of schizophrenia 
  • Is there a connection between rain forests and fast food? 
  • Biological point of view on the importance of ecotourism  
  • Does climate change slow down the appearance of new species? 
  • The connection between aneuploidy and female fertility 
  • What is the relationship between sickle cell anemia and red cell antigens? 
  • How to prevent the depletion of groundwater resources? 
  • The development of natural selection theory 
  • The causes of feline leukemia virus in wild cats 
  • How do newborn mice regrow heart muscle tissue? 
  • The development of implantable robots for regrowing tissue 
  • Feeding inhibition in tadpoles: the nature of a mechanism 
  • How do macrophages guide branching neurons? 
  • The development of a stem cell and the influence of water level on it 
  • The process of creating an embryo from stem cells 
  • How does sequencing help study the development of the cells? 
  • Right and left hemispheres: are they connected before the birth? 
  • The connection between gut health and asthma in babies 

🔬 Research in Chemistry

You may not realize it, but everything happening around is chemistry. Even such simple actions as breathing and eating are chemical reactions! How cool is that? Chemistry makes it to the top fun science research topics.

The thing is that everything is made of chemicals. Yes, even your body and your food! So claiming that you “don’t want to eat those chemicals in the food” would be fundamentally wrong. However, trying to avoid harmful additives is a healthy practice.

Everything happening around is chemistry.

Are you excited already? Then you might want to look through the list of chemistry research topics we prepared for you. The level of difficulty varies, so there are plenty of chemistry research paper topics for graduates as well as high school students.

⚛️ 72 Chemistry Research Topics

  • The connection between catalytic resonance theory and heterogeneous catalysts
  • How are heterogeneous catalysts used in chemical manufacturing?
  • Nanoparticles: what type of heterogeneous catalysts is used the most?
  • Surface science: where noble metal aerogels are used?
  • Fire in terms of chemistry and thermodynamics
  • What affects electro catalytic phenomena in noble metal aerogels?
  • How is the efficiency of electro catalytic reactions measured?
  • Surface science: the phenomena of catalysis
  • How can analyzing a platinum nanoparticle help understand the phenomena of catalysis?
  • The most popular modern separation techniques
  • The effects of chlorine exposure in the human body
  • Analytical approach: how to understand which separation process you need?
  • What might be the separation techniques of the future?
  • Analytical chemistry: polymer dynamics and its characterization
  • The connection between polymer dynamics and dynamic microstructure studies
  • How is crystal growth studied in supramolecular solids?
  • Designing models of chemical reactions of molecules at equilibrium positions
  • Chemical biology: the synthesis of anti-cancer compounds
  • What are the most recent methods of synthesizing natural products?
  • Chemical biology: the methods of synthesizing small proteins
  • How efficient is copying metalloprotein active sites?
  • What are the significant differences between inorganic and synthetic organic chemistry?
  • An overview of the newest approaches to conduction organelle analysis
  • Studying enzymes : redox features and their applications
  • What are the future bioactive nanomaterials, and do we have enough knowledge to create them?
  • Neurochemistry: discoveries in brains via in situ hybridization
  • How is fluorescence spectroscopy used to analyze membrane-bound proteins?
  • The newest therapeutic agents found via in vitro selection
  • What are the most effective techniques of proteomic analysis?
  • Researching the proteins’ structure with the help of nuclear magnetic resonance
  • How is DNA damaged, and how is it repaired?
  • What is super-resolution microscopy mainly used for?
  • The unsolved issues with electronic structure theory
  • The ways to improve the accuracy of the Monte Carlo methods
  • What are bio molecular modeling and simulations used for?
  • How does temperature affect the chemical reactivity of matter?
  • Electric solid propellants: a thermochemistry point of view
  • The latest trends in the area of aquatic photochemistry
  • Renewable feed stocks as the future of green chemistry
  • Physical chemistry: where is scanning probe microscopy used?
  • Where can biological machinery be applied?
  • Chemical equation: how experiences do you need to be to conduct an experiment?
  • Chemistry in agriculture: how are innovations helping to avoid pesticides?
  • Solar energy and chemistry: how are nanoparticles synthesized and used?
  • Energy and catalysis: organometallic compounds of mixed metals
  • The process of creation of complexes similar to biological enzymes
  • How is the molecular dynamics of carbon capture modeled?
  • The process of the binding of polymer drugs
  • The usage of the soft materials that were nanostructured
  • How do biological systems influence polymers and toxicity?
  • What are the main transport properties of polymer membranes?
  • Polymer membranes: studying structure with the help of scattering
  • Organic chemistry and natural products: is total synthesis better than partial?
  • The latest trends in synthetic methods: an overview
  • Studying the metabolic pathways of biosynthesis
  • Solid-state chemistry: the approaches to analyze organic reactions
  • Physical chemistry: the ions in the gas phase
  • What are the main computer programs used in theoretical organic chemistry?
  • Organic photochemistry and the ways it can be useful in everyday life
  • What is the role of chemistry in the study of molecular electronics?
  • The main differences between homogeneous and heterogeneous catalysis
  • Green chemistry: how can CO2 be recycled into fuel?
  • The art of molecular design in chemical synthesis
  • How is the reactivity of natural nanoparticles studied?
  • What is the reaction between acid and base during the neutralization reaction?
  • What are the main approaches to study molecular polarity?
  • The examples of chemical kinetics in real life
  • How does substance abuse interfere with natural chemical processes in the human body?
  • The importance of amino acids side chain
  • What can change the outcome of the planned chemical reaction?
  • Polypeptide field: the importance of amid bonds
  • The unsolved secrets of the hydrophobic effect

🌎 Ecological Research: Environment & Climate Change

It is a special scientific research topic list. This one is for the lovers of our planet and for those who see their purpose in improving the environment. The carefully selected environmental science research topics can help you do that.

The ecological and environmental science research unites all the studies about the interconnection between living organisms and their environment. You might find many ecology research topics, as well as multiple climate change research topics.

The term ecology.

However, since a lot of processes in the ecosystems can be quite slow, you should choose the field considering the time limits you have. But don’t worry, there are plenty of interesting environmental research paper topics for any kind of research you want to conduct!

☁️ 71 Environmental Science Research Topics

  • How to differentiate arid from semi-arid land? 
  • What are the approaches for converting arid lands into fertile lands? 
  • Is the climate adaptation approach better than fighting climate change? 
  • Renewable energy usage: advantages and disadvantages  
  • How does the growing demand of consumption amongst humans affect the environment? 
  • Climate adaptation: the methods that can be applied by megacities 
  • Environmental pollution: effects on health  
  • Forest management from the environmental sustainability perspective 
  • Shark finning: causes, impact, and solutions  
  • The species that conservation biology managed to save 
  • Managing energy demand in Abu Dhabi: toward sustainable city  
  • Why don’t conservation biology methods work sometimes? 
  • Recycling materials & waste disposal  
  • The application of AI in evaluating the conservation programs outcomes 
  • Causes and effects of water pollution  
  • The biggest struggles in the watershed management area 
  • The environmental impact of bottled water  
  • Eco hydrology and water management : a case study of Mojave Desert 
  • Global climate change: causes and effects 
  • The influence of the environmental changes in a small area on the plant’s ecosystem 
  • The methods of predicting global environmental changes  
  • Environmental studies of global warming: cause and mitigation  
  • How does the human population affect the Canadian ecosystem? 
  • The most recent developments in the area of environmental sustainability  
  • The gifts of the ecosystem services: a case study of West Africa 
  • Global environment communities 
  • Fire ecology: should the wildlife fires be stopped or prevented? 
  • What are the main benefits of wildlife fire for the environment? 
  • Fisheries ecology: how is fish health managed? 
  • Protection of the environment in the U.S. and the state of Hawaii  
  • The best fisheries management ideas for tracking the age of fish 
  • Geospatial science: what software is used for geospatial mapping? 
  • The Amazon rainforest as an integral component of the environment  
  • Geographic information systems and its benefits for geospatial science 
  • What are molecular ecology methods used to study fungal diversity? 
  • Mining as a cause of environmental disaster  
  • Molecular ecology: a case study of multiple mating in ant colonies 
  • Floods: stages, types, effects, and prevention 
  • Global change management from the perspective of Environmental Science 
  • Where do the invasive alien species come from? 
  • Plastics recycling and recovery  
  • Climate change and invasive species: a case study of mussels in Antarctica 
  • Marine pollution in Australia  
  • What are the most effective methods to control invasive species? 
  • Oil drilling in the Arctic National Refuge 
  • The future of the discovery of natural products 
  • Soil ecology: what soil organisms affect plants directly? 
  • Tree planting and climate change  
  • Plant ecology: how do fungi help forests recover from fires? 
  • Alternative energy sources 
  • Population ecology: what is the purpose of insects which die after reproducing?
  • Population ecology: how does the environment affect the type of species distribution? 
  • What are the main approaches in rangeland restoration? 
  • Why is the rangeland restoration so important for the future? 
  • Remote sensing: the usage of data collected via infrared sensors 
  • Geographic information system and remote sensing : compare and contrast 
  • Can restoration ecology help save endangered species of animals? 
  • Restoration ecology: the irreversible cases in the US 
  • Where do natural resource management and social studies interconnect? 
  • Natural resource management: is there a sustainable way to use fossils? 
  • Wildlife ecology: why should the wildlife population be managed? 
  • Wildlife ecology: the species that cause the most damage to humans 
  • Why is the latest Great Barrier Reef bleaching worse than the previous ones? 
  • The effects of stream pollution from mining on the aquatic life 
  • Some species of insects can become extinct: is it a bad thing? 
  • The threat to a local ecosystem that non native bees are carrying 
  • Bacteria and fungi as the main future helpers in agriculture 
  • Conventional vs. hydroponic farming  
  • How does climate change affect the size of the fish? 
  • The progressive spread of the drylands caused by climate change 

⛰️ Research in Geology

Contrary to popular belief, geology can be fun! You might ask yourself how fun an earth science can be… But this area actually includes much more than just studying the rocks.

Geologists are responsible for answering science research questions about mineral sources, earthquakes, volcanos, and even energy and climate change. They basically take care of society’s biggest natural problems.

Facts About The Earth.

In the area of geology, you can usually find quite easy scientific research topics. However, keep in mind that you might have to go out to the field and get muddy while doing most of your research.

We prepared an excellent list of geology research topics that can be useful for students with a major in geology who are working on their thesis.

🔷 45 Geology Research Topics

  • How can analyzing seismic waves help understand the nature of earthquakes? 
  • The main differences in studies in geology and astrogeology 
  • What are the biggest challenges of applying geology principles to astrogeology? 
  • How can the compression of wet sand be helpful in the construction field? 
  • Glaciers melting and geological misconceptions 
  • Environmental geology: the main methods of identifying the location of volcanic hazards 
  • How did people adapt to living in geologically hazardous locations? 
  • Formation and weathering of rocks  
  • Weathering and erosion geology: when rocks turn into dust  
  • What is the relationship between natural hazards and marine geology? 
  • Marine geology: the importance of investigating the seafloor spreading 
  • Coastal geology: hydraulic action and the influence of the types of rock on it 
  • Landscape and the changes that it goes through 
  • The dynamics of the Earth’s surface: the landscape-changing power of glaciers 
  • Woodbury unique geological features  
  • What forces below the surface make the Earth’s crust tilted? 
  • The most stable building designs to survive earthquakes in Japan 
  • Earthquakes: history and studies  
  • The main methods to prevent the soil liquefaction 
  • Avalanches, their nature and safety precautions  
  • Saturated soil: what influences the transfer of force? 
  • What role does the soil type play in conserving cast fossils? 
  • Pros and cons of fluorite as a gemstone  
  • The specifics of the conditions under which fossils are created 
  • The correlation between the geological features and the location of coal reserves 
  • The methods of mapping Earth’s magnetic fields patterns 
  • How does water flow affect the environment? 
  • Floods: stages, types, effects, and prevention  
  • What is the role of soil in the Earth’s nitrogen biogeochemical cycle? 
  • How does the pH level of water react to alkaline soil? 
  • The latest technologies in measuring the speed of seismic waves 
  • The process of radioisotope dating to find out the age of rocks 
  • The development of the seismograph 
  • The stages of the process of the geodes creation? 
  • What geophysical conditions affect the growth of geodes? 
  • The most effective methods of predicting landslides 
  • What purposes is lichenometry dating used for? 
  • The role of structural geology in gold mines development 
  • Darcy’s Law and its relationship with the underwater flows 
  • The forces that influence sedimentation: electromagnetism 
  • Hematite matter and mineral  
  • The soil structure and type vs. earthquakes: a comparative analysis 
  • What are the main tools used in sedimentology nowadays? 
  • Mountains: what forces can cause a change in the shape? 
  • The methods of sustainable coal mining: geological perception 

🤓 Physics Research

Once again – a scientific subject that studies how our world works. However, just like other branches, it has its own specifics. Even though physics usually seems complicated, we gathered only simple science research topics for you!

Physics research might require a profound knowledge of the four fundamental concepts of physics. However, the good news is that this is the area where it is easy to find many qualitative and quantitative research topics about science.

Richard Dawkins quote.

Also, research is mostly based on conducting experiments, but most physics research topics in our list concern theoretical issues. Any of the ideas here can be used for your paper, so hurry up and look through all of them!

🌈 73 Physics Research Topics

  • The unexpected uses of a magnifying glass in everyday life
  • Why do different colors absorb radiant energy differently?
  • How is balloon buoyancy used to launch satellites?
  • How does the spinning affect the trajectory of the baseball ball?
  • Frequency response : the usage of the 3dB bandwidth
  • How is the frequency response of the speakers measured?
  • The physics behind the retro-reflective strips
  • The most effective material used for the retro-reflective strips
  • Fluorescent yellow clothing vs. retro-reflective strips: what is safer to wear in the night?
  • Magnetic levitation train: advantages and disadvantages
  • The comparative analysis of the safety of the Japanese magnetic levitation train
  • Why can’t the gauss rifle be used as a real firearm?
  • Technologies inspired by the water strider that use surface tension
  • What is the connection between the vacuum and sound intensity?
  • Friction physics: the secret behind the inseparable interleaved books
  • The important role of centripetal force that keeps tornado going
  • The physics of the balance: how to find a balance point?
  • Will it be possible to use a radiometer to produce electricity in the future?
  • Radiometer: the power of light intensity that affects the speed
  • Animals that use the acceleration of gravity for their benefit
  • Falling object acceleration: the correlation between distance and time
  • What is the role of gravity in the speed of the rolling object?
  • How important is the hang time of the ball in soccer?
  • The physics that help forensic science analyze blood patterns
  • Acoustic absorption: what types of foam are the most effective?
  • The acoustic foam and different sound frequency
  • Magnetic induction and the future of wireless charging
  • The physics behind the yo-yo sleep time: string length matters
  • How does the temperature influence a magnet?
  • Projectile motion and basketball: dunk explained
  • Granular materials and why they flow like liquids
  • Why does the conversion between potential energy and kinetic energy work both ways?
  • Augmented reality glasses and refractive index
  • Tumbling: where is it used for separating granular materials?
  • How did we come up with hula-hoop, and how does it work?
  • The conditions that affect the rebound height
  • Why is it not possible to predict radioactive decay?
  • The light effect that helps understand the atomic composition of stars
  • Ice skating : how does temperature affect the friction?
  • Variations in the motor: how to boost the rocket’s performance?
  • What is the interaction between magnetic and ferromagnetic materials?
  • What type of stealth technology is more effective?
  • Stealth technology: the shape that interferes the radar signals
  • Finding the optimal number of magnetic breaks for a magnetic levitation train
  • How can the phenomenon of supercooling be used for storing transplant organs?
  • James Webb Space Telescope: the important role of solar shields
  • How does temperature affect the level of the background radiation?
  • Plasma physics: can controlled fusion be a source of electricity?
  • Quantum theory and atomic clocks: the secret of precision
  • The current trends of engineering physics: photovoltaics
  • Econophysics: where economic problems are solved by physics
  • Where can the nanoscale materials be applied?
  • The properties of condensed-matter: a qualitative analysis
  • Isaac Newton: scientific contributions
  • Optical sensors: the benefits of the superconducting quantum devices
  • Thermoelectric: the future of sustainable sources of energy
  • Teleportation: physics of the impossible
  • What are the best materials for photovoltaics?
  • Biophysics: what tools are used to study macromolecules?
  • The Paradoxical effects of time travel
  • How is the study of microfluidics applied in agriculture?
  • The newest fluid control techniques in micro fluid devices
  • The application of the properties of the particles of light
  • What do we lack to build a space elevator?
  • How effective is laser cleaning from the perspective of archeology?
  • Astrophysics: the biggest issues with moving quasars
  • Can remote sensing be used to warn people with asthmatic problems?
  • Where can electron beam welding be applied?
  • How can physics help develop methods to close the ozone hole ?
  • Solar cells: silicon for the increased efficiency
  • What parts of the universe are not on the electromagnetic spectrum?
  • What are the causes of the heat death of the universe?
  • The connection between elusive particles and antiparticles

🔝 Top 20 Big Science Research Questions

  • What are other possible ways of using our Sun as the source of energy ? It is definitely not an easy one, but among all science research ideas, it is the most promising. For instance, a nuclear fusion machine might be able to produce enough energy for everybody! 
  • Can we get rid of all the carbon dioxide? Since we were releasing it by burning fuels, we need to think about how to hide it back as well. And we have to solve this issue before climate change causes catastrophic damage. 
  • Is there a possibility of the other universes’ existence? Of course, our universe is unique, but it seems like scientists are getting more and more excited about the idea of a “ multiverse .” 
  • Why are there uneven parts of matter and antimatter? A mind-blowing question which should not belong to the list of simple science research topics, just as we shouldn’t belong here! But why are we still here when there is antimatter? 
  • What role does dreaming play? It might be a great question to create your own theory for a biology or psychology project. Most people had wondered why they were dreaming. What if dreams are essential for normal brain development? 
  • How can the nature of consciousness be explained? No one even knows what consciousness is in the first place… But we do know that computers have not become conscious… yet. 
  • How do we prove that we are humans? Only 1% of the genome is what makes us different from a chimpanzee. So what qualities make us rule this world? 
  • Are there other life forms in the universe? Some qualitative research topics about science may be leading to the answer. Now scientists have the tools to find habitable planets. 
  • What caused the creation of life? Some chemicals in the primordial soup made love and created the first life on our planet. But how did it happen? 
  • What is the composition of the universe? So, lets’ see… We only know 5% percent of what everything is made of. Dark energy was only discovered 22 years ago! 
  • Will people be able to time travel? Astronauts are real time-travelers since the time on the International Space Station is slower. We’ll see if we can actually travel thousands of years in the future one day. 
  • How can we manage the growing population needs ? The population of people is growing each year, and our demands are growing too. However, it might not be as easy as we think. Countries might have to join their forces to battle this issue! 
  • Can we stop aging? We grow old and die, but the Vedas, Indian religious texts, say that we don’t have to. The state of perfect health may be maintained indefinitely. However, science has little to comment on it. 
  • Where is the lowest point of the black hole? Unfortunately, scientists don’t even have the proper tools to check it. Therefore, the answer is only different theories on paper. 
  • What is on the ocean floor? The bottom of the ocean is as unknown as outer space. 95% about it is unveiled. For now, we can only send drones to the deepest parts, but it’s not nearly enough to understand everything… 
  • When will robots be available as servants? Robots can already do many tasks, like serving drinks and even milking cows. The only question is when they will be functional enough to be personal assistants? 
  • Will it be possible to cure cancer ? One day it may be possible but not in the foreseeable future for sure… Is it easier to change our lifestyles and prevent cancer than treat it later? 
  • How fast can computers become? We have been witnessing the continuous development of computers. But how much faster can they become in the future? 
  • What are the ways to kill bacteria? Drug-resistant bacteria are a big threat, and the common antibiotic is not enough. Scientists are working on discovering new antibiotics. 
  • How to solve the mystery of the prime numbers? Prime numbers are widely used for encryption, thanks to their weirdness. But don’t rush to solve this mystery, we don’t know if the internet will remain safe after that! 

Learn more on this topic:

  • 280 Good Nursing Research Topics & Questions
  • 226 Research Topics on Criminal Justice & Criminology
  • 204 Research Topics on Technology & Computer Science
  • 178 Best Research Titles about Cookery & Food
  • 497 Interesting History Topics to Research
  • 180 Best Education Research Topics & Ideas
  • 110+ Micro- & Macroeconomics Research Topics
  • 417 Business Research Topics for ABM Students
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  • 512 Research Topics on HumSS
  • 281 Best Health & Medical Research Topics
  • A List of Research Topics for Students. Unique and Interesting
  • Good Research Topics, Titles and Ideas for Your Paper
  • Databases for Research & Education: Gale
  • Research Topics: Cornell Engineering
  • Research Topics: School of Natural Resources & Environment, University of Arizona
  • Research Areas: Stanford Chemistry
  • Areas of research: Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota
  • Areas of Research: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Notre Dame
  • Areas of Research: MIT Biology
  • CCAPS Research Areas: Cornell
  • Research Topics: Institute of Astronomy, KU LEUVEN
  • List of Science Fair Project Ideas: Science Buddies
  • Short Chemistry Topics: Science
  • Choosing a research topic: Murdoch University
  • Choosing a Topic: Purdue OWL
  • How do I choose a research topic? UW Madison Libraries
  • Space Science and Astrobiology Division: NASA
  • Center fos Space Research: The University of Texas at Austin
  • Biology Research Areas: Duke
  • Research Areas: Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University
  • Research areas: Department of Biology, University of Waterloo
  • 2019’s Most Important Chemistry Research Topics: ASC Axial
  • Description of Research Areas: Department of Chemistry, University of Washington
  • Research Areas: Yale Department of Chemistry
  • Ecology: Nature
  • Ecology Research News: ScienceDaily
  • Environmental Research: Elsevier
  • Articles on Geology: The Conversation
  • Geology: Academia
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Great lists, thanks for sharing such nice titles.

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Chapter 1. Introduction

“Science is in danger, and for that reason it is becoming dangerous” -Pierre Bourdieu, Science of Science and Reflexivity

Why an Open Access Textbook on Qualitative Research Methods?

I have been teaching qualitative research methods to both undergraduates and graduate students for many years.  Although there are some excellent textbooks out there, they are often costly, and none of them, to my mind, properly introduces qualitative research methods to the beginning student (whether undergraduate or graduate student).  In contrast, this open-access textbook is designed as a (free) true introduction to the subject, with helpful, practical pointers on how to conduct research and how to access more advanced instruction.  

Textbooks are typically arranged in one of two ways: (1) by technique (each chapter covers one method used in qualitative research); or (2) by process (chapters advance from research design through publication).  But both of these approaches are necessary for the beginner student.  This textbook will have sections dedicated to the process as well as the techniques of qualitative research.  This is a true “comprehensive” book for the beginning student.  In addition to covering techniques of data collection and data analysis, it provides a road map of how to get started and how to keep going and where to go for advanced instruction.  It covers aspects of research design and research communication as well as methods employed.  Along the way, it includes examples from many different disciplines in the social sciences.

The primary goal has been to create a useful, accessible, engaging textbook for use across many disciplines.  And, let’s face it.  Textbooks can be boring.  I hope readers find this to be a little different.  I have tried to write in a practical and forthright manner, with many lively examples and references to good and intellectually creative qualitative research.  Woven throughout the text are short textual asides (in colored textboxes) by professional (academic) qualitative researchers in various disciplines.  These short accounts by practitioners should help inspire students.  So, let’s begin!

What is Research?

When we use the word research , what exactly do we mean by that?  This is one of those words that everyone thinks they understand, but it is worth beginning this textbook with a short explanation.  We use the term to refer to “empirical research,” which is actually a historically specific approach to understanding the world around us.  Think about how you know things about the world. [1] You might know your mother loves you because she’s told you she does.  Or because that is what “mothers” do by tradition.  Or you might know because you’ve looked for evidence that she does, like taking care of you when you are sick or reading to you in bed or working two jobs so you can have the things you need to do OK in life.  Maybe it seems churlish to look for evidence; you just take it “on faith” that you are loved.

Only one of the above comes close to what we mean by research.  Empirical research is research (investigation) based on evidence.  Conclusions can then be drawn from observable data.  This observable data can also be “tested” or checked.  If the data cannot be tested, that is a good indication that we are not doing research.  Note that we can never “prove” conclusively, through observable data, that our mothers love us.  We might have some “disconfirming evidence” (that time she didn’t show up to your graduation, for example) that could push you to question an original hypothesis , but no amount of “confirming evidence” will ever allow us to say with 100% certainty, “my mother loves me.”  Faith and tradition and authority work differently.  Our knowledge can be 100% certain using each of those alternative methods of knowledge, but our certainty in those cases will not be based on facts or evidence.

For many periods of history, those in power have been nervous about “science” because it uses evidence and facts as the primary source of understanding the world, and facts can be at odds with what power or authority or tradition want you to believe.  That is why I say that scientific empirical research is a historically specific approach to understand the world.  You are in college or university now partly to learn how to engage in this historically specific approach.

In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in Europe, there was a newfound respect for empirical research, some of which was seriously challenging to the established church.  Using observations and testing them, scientists found that the earth was not at the center of the universe, for example, but rather that it was but one planet of many which circled the sun. [2]   For the next two centuries, the science of astronomy, physics, biology, and chemistry emerged and became disciplines taught in universities.  All used the scientific method of observation and testing to advance knowledge.  Knowledge about people , however, and social institutions, however, was still left to faith, tradition, and authority.  Historians and philosophers and poets wrote about the human condition, but none of them used research to do so. [3]

It was not until the nineteenth century that “social science” really emerged, using the scientific method (empirical observation) to understand people and social institutions.  New fields of sociology, economics, political science, and anthropology emerged.  The first sociologists, people like Auguste Comte and Karl Marx, sought specifically to apply the scientific method of research to understand society, Engels famously claiming that Marx had done for the social world what Darwin did for the natural world, tracings its laws of development.  Today we tend to take for granted the naturalness of science here, but it is actually a pretty recent and radical development.

To return to the question, “does your mother love you?”  Well, this is actually not really how a researcher would frame the question, as it is too specific to your case.  It doesn’t tell us much about the world at large, even if it does tell us something about you and your relationship with your mother.  A social science researcher might ask, “do mothers love their children?”  Or maybe they would be more interested in how this loving relationship might change over time (e.g., “do mothers love their children more now than they did in the 18th century when so many children died before reaching adulthood?”) or perhaps they might be interested in measuring quality of love across cultures or time periods, or even establishing “what love looks like” using the mother/child relationship as a site of exploration.  All of these make good research questions because we can use observable data to answer them.

What is Qualitative Research?

“All we know is how to learn. How to study, how to listen, how to talk, how to tell.  If we don’t tell the world, we don’t know the world.  We’re lost in it, we die.” -Ursula LeGuin, The Telling

At its simplest, qualitative research is research about the social world that does not use numbers in its analyses.  All those who fear statistics can breathe a sigh of relief – there are no mathematical formulae or regression models in this book! But this definition is less about what qualitative research can be and more about what it is not.  To be honest, any simple statement will fail to capture the power and depth of qualitative research.  One way of contrasting qualitative research to quantitative research is to note that the focus of qualitative research is less about explaining and predicting relationships between variables and more about understanding the social world.  To use our mother love example, the question about “what love looks like” is a good question for the qualitative researcher while all questions measuring love or comparing incidences of love (both of which require measurement) are good questions for quantitative researchers. Patton writes,

Qualitative data describe.  They take us, as readers, into the time and place of the observation so that we know what it was like to have been there.  They capture and communicate someone else’s experience of the world in his or her own words.  Qualitative data tell a story. ( Patton 2002:47 )

Qualitative researchers are asking different questions about the world than their quantitative colleagues.  Even when researchers are employed in “mixed methods” research ( both quantitative and qualitative), they are using different methods to address different questions of the study.  I do a lot of research about first-generation and working-college college students.  Where a quantitative researcher might ask, how many first-generation college students graduate from college within four years? Or does first-generation college status predict high student debt loads?  A qualitative researcher might ask, how does the college experience differ for first-generation college students?  What is it like to carry a lot of debt, and how does this impact the ability to complete college on time?  Both sets of questions are important, but they can only be answered using specific tools tailored to those questions.  For the former, you need large numbers to make adequate comparisons.  For the latter, you need to talk to people, find out what they are thinking and feeling, and try to inhabit their shoes for a little while so you can make sense of their experiences and beliefs.

Examples of Qualitative Research

You have probably seen examples of qualitative research before, but you might not have paid particular attention to how they were produced or realized that the accounts you were reading were the result of hours, months, even years of research “in the field.”  A good qualitative researcher will present the product of their hours of work in such a way that it seems natural, even obvious, to the reader.  Because we are trying to convey what it is like answers, qualitative research is often presented as stories – stories about how people live their lives, go to work, raise their children, interact with one another.  In some ways, this can seem like reading particularly insightful novels.  But, unlike novels, there are very specific rules and guidelines that qualitative researchers follow to ensure that the “story” they are telling is accurate , a truthful rendition of what life is like for the people being studied.  Most of this textbook will be spent conveying those rules and guidelines.  Let’s take a look, first, however, at three examples of what the end product looks like.  I have chosen these three examples to showcase very different approaches to qualitative research, and I will return to these five examples throughout the book.  They were all published as whole books (not chapters or articles), and they are worth the long read, if you have the time.  I will also provide some information on how these books came to be and the length of time it takes to get them into book version.  It is important you know about this process, and the rest of this textbook will help explain why it takes so long to conduct good qualitative research!

Example 1 : The End Game (ethnography + interviews)

Corey Abramson is a sociologist who teaches at the University of Arizona.   In 2015 he published The End Game: How Inequality Shapes our Final Years ( 2015 ). This book was based on the research he did for his dissertation at the University of California-Berkeley in 2012.  Actually, the dissertation was completed in 2012 but the work that was produced that took several years.  The dissertation was entitled, “This is How We Live, This is How We Die: Social Stratification, Aging, and Health in Urban America” ( 2012 ).  You can see how the book version, which was written for a more general audience, has a more engaging sound to it, but that the dissertation version, which is what academic faculty read and evaluate, has a more descriptive title.  You can read the title and know that this is a study about aging and health and that the focus is going to be inequality and that the context (place) is going to be “urban America.”  It’s a study about “how” people do something – in this case, how they deal with aging and death.  This is the very first sentence of the dissertation, “From our first breath in the hospital to the day we die, we live in a society characterized by unequal opportunities for maintaining health and taking care of ourselves when ill.  These disparities reflect persistent racial, socio-economic, and gender-based inequalities and contribute to their persistence over time” ( 1 ).  What follows is a truthful account of how that is so.

Cory Abramson spent three years conducting his research in four different urban neighborhoods.  We call the type of research he conducted “comparative ethnographic” because he designed his study to compare groups of seniors as they went about their everyday business.  It’s comparative because he is comparing different groups (based on race, class, gender) and ethnographic because he is studying the culture/way of life of a group. [4]   He had an educated guess, rooted in what previous research had shown and what social theory would suggest, that people’s experiences of aging differ by race, class, and gender.  So, he set up a research design that would allow him to observe differences.  He chose two primarily middle-class (one was racially diverse and the other was predominantly White) and two primarily poor neighborhoods (one was racially diverse and the other was predominantly African American).  He hung out in senior centers and other places seniors congregated, watched them as they took the bus to get prescriptions filled, sat in doctor’s offices with them, and listened to their conversations with each other.  He also conducted more formal conversations, what we call in-depth interviews, with sixty seniors from each of the four neighborhoods.  As with a lot of fieldwork , as he got closer to the people involved, he both expanded and deepened his reach –

By the end of the project, I expanded my pool of general observations to include various settings frequented by seniors: apartment building common rooms, doctors’ offices, emergency rooms, pharmacies, senior centers, bars, parks, corner stores, shopping centers, pool halls, hair salons, coffee shops, and discount stores. Over the course of the three years of fieldwork, I observed hundreds of elders, and developed close relationships with a number of them. ( 2012:10 )

When Abramson rewrote the dissertation for a general audience and published his book in 2015, it got a lot of attention.  It is a beautifully written book and it provided insight into a common human experience that we surprisingly know very little about.  It won the Outstanding Publication Award by the American Sociological Association Section on Aging and the Life Course and was featured in the New York Times .  The book was about aging, and specifically how inequality shapes the aging process, but it was also about much more than that.  It helped show how inequality affects people’s everyday lives.  For example, by observing the difficulties the poor had in setting up appointments and getting to them using public transportation and then being made to wait to see a doctor, sometimes in standing-room-only situations, when they are unwell, and then being treated dismissively by hospital staff, Abramson allowed readers to feel the material reality of being poor in the US.  Comparing these examples with seniors with adequate supplemental insurance who have the resources to hire car services or have others assist them in arranging care when they need it, jolts the reader to understand and appreciate the difference money makes in the lives and circumstances of us all, and in a way that is different than simply reading a statistic (“80% of the poor do not keep regular doctor’s appointments”) does.  Qualitative research can reach into spaces and places that often go unexamined and then reports back to the rest of us what it is like in those spaces and places.

Example 2: Racing for Innocence (Interviews + Content Analysis + Fictional Stories)

Jennifer Pierce is a Professor of American Studies at the University of Minnesota.  Trained as a sociologist, she has written a number of books about gender, race, and power.  Her very first book, Gender Trials: Emotional Lives in Contemporary Law Firms, published in 1995, is a brilliant look at gender dynamics within two law firms.  Pierce was a participant observer, working as a paralegal, and she observed how female lawyers and female paralegals struggled to obtain parity with their male colleagues.

Fifteen years later, she reexamined the context of the law firm to include an examination of racial dynamics, particularly how elite white men working in these spaces created and maintained a culture that made it difficult for both female attorneys and attorneys of color to thrive. Her book, Racing for Innocence: Whiteness, Gender, and the Backlash Against Affirmative Action , published in 2012, is an interesting and creative blending of interviews with attorneys, content analyses of popular films during this period, and fictional accounts of racial discrimination and sexual harassment.  The law firm she chose to study had come under an affirmative action order and was in the process of implementing equitable policies and programs.  She wanted to understand how recipients of white privilege (the elite white male attorneys) come to deny the role they play in reproducing inequality.  Through interviews with attorneys who were present both before and during the affirmative action order, she creates a historical record of the “bad behavior” that necessitated new policies and procedures, but also, and more importantly , probed the participants ’ understanding of this behavior.  It should come as no surprise that most (but not all) of the white male attorneys saw little need for change, and that almost everyone else had accounts that were different if not sometimes downright harrowing.

I’ve used Pierce’s book in my qualitative research methods courses as an example of an interesting blend of techniques and presentation styles.  My students often have a very difficult time with the fictional accounts she includes.  But they serve an important communicative purpose here.  They are her attempts at presenting “both sides” to an objective reality – something happens (Pierce writes this something so it is very clear what it is), and the two participants to the thing that happened have very different understandings of what this means.  By including these stories, Pierce presents one of her key findings – people remember things differently and these different memories tend to support their own ideological positions.  I wonder what Pierce would have written had she studied the murder of George Floyd or the storming of the US Capitol on January 6 or any number of other historic events whose observers and participants record very different happenings.

This is not to say that qualitative researchers write fictional accounts.  In fact, the use of fiction in our work remains controversial.  When used, it must be clearly identified as a presentation device, as Pierce did.  I include Racing for Innocence here as an example of the multiple uses of methods and techniques and the way that these work together to produce better understandings by us, the readers, of what Pierce studied.  We readers come away with a better grasp of how and why advantaged people understate their own involvement in situations and structures that advantage them.  This is normal human behavior , in other words.  This case may have been about elite white men in law firms, but the general insights here can be transposed to other settings.  Indeed, Pierce argues that more research needs to be done about the role elites play in the reproduction of inequality in the workplace in general.

Example 3: Amplified Advantage (Mixed Methods: Survey Interviews + Focus Groups + Archives)

The final example comes from my own work with college students, particularly the ways in which class background affects the experience of college and outcomes for graduates.  I include it here as an example of mixed methods, and for the use of supplementary archival research.  I’ve done a lot of research over the years on first-generation, low-income, and working-class college students.  I am curious (and skeptical) about the possibility of social mobility today, particularly with the rising cost of college and growing inequality in general.  As one of the few people in my family to go to college, I didn’t grow up with a lot of examples of what college was like or how to make the most of it.  And when I entered graduate school, I realized with dismay that there were very few people like me there.  I worried about becoming too different from my family and friends back home.  And I wasn’t at all sure that I would ever be able to pay back the huge load of debt I was taking on.  And so I wrote my dissertation and first two books about working-class college students.  These books focused on experiences in college and the difficulties of navigating between family and school ( Hurst 2010a, 2012 ).  But even after all that research, I kept coming back to wondering if working-class students who made it through college had an equal chance at finding good jobs and happy lives,

What happens to students after college?  Do working-class students fare as well as their peers?  I knew from my own experience that barriers continued through graduate school and beyond, and that my debtload was higher than that of my peers, constraining some of the choices I made when I graduated.  To answer these questions, I designed a study of students attending small liberal arts colleges, the type of college that tried to equalize the experience of students by requiring all students to live on campus and offering small classes with lots of interaction with faculty.  These private colleges tend to have more money and resources so they can provide financial aid to low-income students.  They also attract some very wealthy students.  Because they enroll students across the class spectrum, I would be able to draw comparisons.  I ended up spending about four years collecting data, both a survey of more than 2000 students (which formed the basis for quantitative analyses) and qualitative data collection (interviews, focus groups, archival research, and participant observation).  This is what we call a “mixed methods” approach because we use both quantitative and qualitative data.  The survey gave me a large enough number of students that I could make comparisons of the how many kind, and to be able to say with some authority that there were in fact significant differences in experience and outcome by class (e.g., wealthier students earned more money and had little debt; working-class students often found jobs that were not in their chosen careers and were very affected by debt, upper-middle-class students were more likely to go to graduate school).  But the survey analyses could not explain why these differences existed.  For that, I needed to talk to people and ask them about their motivations and aspirations.  I needed to understand their perceptions of the world, and it is very hard to do this through a survey.

By interviewing students and recent graduates, I was able to discern particular patterns and pathways through college and beyond.  Specifically, I identified three versions of gameplay.  Upper-middle-class students, whose parents were themselves professionals (academics, lawyers, managers of non-profits), saw college as the first stage of their education and took classes and declared majors that would prepare them for graduate school.  They also spent a lot of time building their resumes, taking advantage of opportunities to help professors with their research, or study abroad.  This helped them gain admission to highly-ranked graduate schools and interesting jobs in the public sector.  In contrast, upper-class students, whose parents were wealthy and more likely to be engaged in business (as CEOs or other high-level directors), prioritized building social capital.  They did this by joining fraternities and sororities and playing club sports.  This helped them when they graduated as they called on friends and parents of friends to find them well-paying jobs.  Finally, low-income, first-generation, and working-class students were often adrift.  They took the classes that were recommended to them but without the knowledge of how to connect them to life beyond college.  They spent time working and studying rather than partying or building their resumes.  All three sets of students thought they were “doing college” the right way, the way that one was supposed to do college.   But these three versions of gameplay led to distinct outcomes that advantaged some students over others.  I titled my work “Amplified Advantage” to highlight this process.

These three examples, Cory Abramson’s The End Game , Jennifer Peirce’s Racing for Innocence, and my own Amplified Advantage, demonstrate the range of approaches and tools available to the qualitative researcher.  They also help explain why qualitative research is so important.  Numbers can tell us some things about the world, but they cannot get at the hearts and minds, motivations and beliefs of the people who make up the social worlds we inhabit.  For that, we need tools that allow us to listen and make sense of what people tell us and show us.  That is what good qualitative research offers us.

How Is This Book Organized?

This textbook is organized as a comprehensive introduction to the use of qualitative research methods.  The first half covers general topics (e.g., approaches to qualitative research, ethics) and research design (necessary steps for building a successful qualitative research study).  The second half reviews various data collection and data analysis techniques.  Of course, building a successful qualitative research study requires some knowledge of data collection and data analysis so the chapters in the first half and the chapters in the second half should be read in conversation with each other.  That said, each chapter can be read on its own for assistance with a particular narrow topic.  In addition to the chapters, a helpful glossary can be found in the back of the book.  Rummage around in the text as needed.

Chapter Descriptions

Chapter 2 provides an overview of the Research Design Process.  How does one begin a study? What is an appropriate research question?  How is the study to be done – with what methods ?  Involving what people and sites?  Although qualitative research studies can and often do change and develop over the course of data collection, it is important to have a good idea of what the aims and goals of your study are at the outset and a good plan of how to achieve those aims and goals.  Chapter 2 provides a road map of the process.

Chapter 3 describes and explains various ways of knowing the (social) world.  What is it possible for us to know about how other people think or why they behave the way they do?  What does it mean to say something is a “fact” or that it is “well-known” and understood?  Qualitative researchers are particularly interested in these questions because of the types of research questions we are interested in answering (the how questions rather than the how many questions of quantitative research).  Qualitative researchers have adopted various epistemological approaches.  Chapter 3 will explore these approaches, highlighting interpretivist approaches that acknowledge the subjective aspect of reality – in other words, reality and knowledge are not objective but rather influenced by (interpreted through) people.

Chapter 4 focuses on the practical matter of developing a research question and finding the right approach to data collection.  In any given study (think of Cory Abramson’s study of aging, for example), there may be years of collected data, thousands of observations , hundreds of pages of notes to read and review and make sense of.  If all you had was a general interest area (“aging”), it would be very difficult, nearly impossible, to make sense of all of that data.  The research question provides a helpful lens to refine and clarify (and simplify) everything you find and collect.  For that reason, it is important to pull out that lens (articulate the research question) before you get started.  In the case of the aging study, Cory Abramson was interested in how inequalities affected understandings and responses to aging.  It is for this reason he designed a study that would allow him to compare different groups of seniors (some middle-class, some poor).  Inevitably, he saw much more in the three years in the field than what made it into his book (or dissertation), but he was able to narrow down the complexity of the social world to provide us with this rich account linked to the original research question.  Developing a good research question is thus crucial to effective design and a successful outcome.  Chapter 4 will provide pointers on how to do this.  Chapter 4 also provides an overview of general approaches taken to doing qualitative research and various “traditions of inquiry.”

Chapter 5 explores sampling .  After you have developed a research question and have a general idea of how you will collect data (Observations?  Interviews?), how do you go about actually finding people and sites to study?  Although there is no “correct number” of people to interview , the sample should follow the research question and research design.  Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research involves nonprobability sampling.  Chapter 5 explains why this is so and what qualities instead make a good sample for qualitative research.

Chapter 6 addresses the importance of reflexivity in qualitative research.  Related to epistemological issues of how we know anything about the social world, qualitative researchers understand that we the researchers can never be truly neutral or outside the study we are conducting.  As observers, we see things that make sense to us and may entirely miss what is either too obvious to note or too different to comprehend.  As interviewers, as much as we would like to ask questions neutrally and remain in the background, interviews are a form of conversation, and the persons we interview are responding to us .  Therefore, it is important to reflect upon our social positions and the knowledges and expectations we bring to our work and to work through any blind spots that we may have.  Chapter 6 provides some examples of reflexivity in practice and exercises for thinking through one’s own biases.

Chapter 7 is a very important chapter and should not be overlooked.  As a practical matter, it should also be read closely with chapters 6 and 8.  Because qualitative researchers deal with people and the social world, it is imperative they develop and adhere to a strong ethical code for conducting research in a way that does not harm.  There are legal requirements and guidelines for doing so (see chapter 8), but these requirements should not be considered synonymous with the ethical code required of us.   Each researcher must constantly interrogate every aspect of their research, from research question to design to sample through analysis and presentation, to ensure that a minimum of harm (ideally, zero harm) is caused.  Because each research project is unique, the standards of care for each study are unique.  Part of being a professional researcher is carrying this code in one’s heart, being constantly attentive to what is required under particular circumstances.  Chapter 7 provides various research scenarios and asks readers to weigh in on the suitability and appropriateness of the research.  If done in a class setting, it will become obvious fairly quickly that there are often no absolutely correct answers, as different people find different aspects of the scenarios of greatest importance.  Minimizing the harm in one area may require possible harm in another.  Being attentive to all the ethical aspects of one’s research and making the best judgments one can, clearly and consciously, is an integral part of being a good researcher.

Chapter 8 , best to be read in conjunction with chapter 7, explains the role and importance of Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) .  Under federal guidelines, an IRB is an appropriately constituted group that has been formally designated to review and monitor research involving human subjects .  Every institution that receives funding from the federal government has an IRB.  IRBs have the authority to approve, require modifications to (to secure approval), or disapprove research.  This group review serves an important role in the protection of the rights and welfare of human research subjects.  Chapter 8 reviews the history of IRBs and the work they do but also argues that IRBs’ review of qualitative research is often both over-inclusive and under-inclusive.  Some aspects of qualitative research are not well understood by IRBs, given that they were developed to prevent abuses in biomedical research.  Thus, it is important not to rely on IRBs to identify all the potential ethical issues that emerge in our research (see chapter 7).

Chapter 9 provides help for getting started on formulating a research question based on gaps in the pre-existing literature.  Research is conducted as part of a community, even if particular studies are done by single individuals (or small teams).  What any of us finds and reports back becomes part of a much larger body of knowledge.  Thus, it is important that we look at the larger body of knowledge before we actually start our bit to see how we can best contribute.  When I first began interviewing working-class college students, there was only one other similar study I could find, and it hadn’t been published (it was a dissertation of students from poor backgrounds).  But there had been a lot published by professors who had grown up working class and made it through college despite the odds.  These accounts by “working-class academics” became an important inspiration for my study and helped me frame the questions I asked the students I interviewed.  Chapter 9 will provide some pointers on how to search for relevant literature and how to use this to refine your research question.

Chapter 10 serves as a bridge between the two parts of the textbook, by introducing techniques of data collection.  Qualitative research is often characterized by the form of data collection – for example, an ethnographic study is one that employs primarily observational data collection for the purpose of documenting and presenting a particular culture or ethnos.  Techniques can be effectively combined, depending on the research question and the aims and goals of the study.   Chapter 10 provides a general overview of all the various techniques and how they can be combined.

The second part of the textbook moves into the doing part of qualitative research once the research question has been articulated and the study designed.  Chapters 11 through 17 cover various data collection techniques and approaches.  Chapters 18 and 19 provide a very simple overview of basic data analysis.  Chapter 20 covers communication of the data to various audiences, and in various formats.

Chapter 11 begins our overview of data collection techniques with a focus on interviewing , the true heart of qualitative research.  This technique can serve as the primary and exclusive form of data collection, or it can be used to supplement other forms (observation, archival).  An interview is distinct from a survey, where questions are asked in a specific order and often with a range of predetermined responses available.  Interviews can be conversational and unstructured or, more conventionally, semistructured , where a general set of interview questions “guides” the conversation.  Chapter 11 covers the basics of interviews: how to create interview guides, how many people to interview, where to conduct the interview, what to watch out for (how to prepare against things going wrong), and how to get the most out of your interviews.

Chapter 12 covers an important variant of interviewing, the focus group.  Focus groups are semistructured interviews with a group of people moderated by a facilitator (the researcher or researcher’s assistant).  Focus groups explicitly use group interaction to assist in the data collection.  They are best used to collect data on a specific topic that is non-personal and shared among the group.  For example, asking a group of college students about a common experience such as taking classes by remote delivery during the pandemic year of 2020.  Chapter 12 covers the basics of focus groups: when to use them, how to create interview guides for them, and how to run them effectively.

Chapter 13 moves away from interviewing to the second major form of data collection unique to qualitative researchers – observation .  Qualitative research that employs observation can best be understood as falling on a continuum of “fly on the wall” observation (e.g., observing how strangers interact in a doctor’s waiting room) to “participant” observation, where the researcher is also an active participant of the activity being observed.  For example, an activist in the Black Lives Matter movement might want to study the movement, using her inside position to gain access to observe key meetings and interactions.  Chapter  13 covers the basics of participant observation studies: advantages and disadvantages, gaining access, ethical concerns related to insider/outsider status and entanglement, and recording techniques.

Chapter 14 takes a closer look at “deep ethnography” – immersion in the field of a particularly long duration for the purpose of gaining a deeper understanding and appreciation of a particular culture or social world.  Clifford Geertz called this “deep hanging out.”  Whereas participant observation is often combined with semistructured interview techniques, deep ethnography’s commitment to “living the life” or experiencing the situation as it really is demands more conversational and natural interactions with people.  These interactions and conversations may take place over months or even years.  As can be expected, there are some costs to this technique, as well as some very large rewards when done competently.  Chapter 14 provides some examples of deep ethnographies that will inspire some beginning researchers and intimidate others.

Chapter 15 moves in the opposite direction of deep ethnography, a technique that is the least positivist of all those discussed here, to mixed methods , a set of techniques that is arguably the most positivist .  A mixed methods approach combines both qualitative data collection and quantitative data collection, commonly by combining a survey that is analyzed statistically (e.g., cross-tabs or regression analyses of large number probability samples) with semi-structured interviews.  Although it is somewhat unconventional to discuss mixed methods in textbooks on qualitative research, I think it is important to recognize this often-employed approach here.  There are several advantages and some disadvantages to taking this route.  Chapter 16 will describe those advantages and disadvantages and provide some particular guidance on how to design a mixed methods study for maximum effectiveness.

Chapter 16 covers data collection that does not involve live human subjects at all – archival and historical research (chapter 17 will also cover data that does not involve interacting with human subjects).  Sometimes people are unavailable to us, either because they do not wish to be interviewed or observed (as is the case with many “elites”) or because they are too far away, in both place and time.  Fortunately, humans leave many traces and we can often answer questions we have by examining those traces.  Special collections and archives can be goldmines for social science research.  This chapter will explain how to access these places, for what purposes, and how to begin to make sense of what you find.

Chapter 17 covers another data collection area that does not involve face-to-face interaction with humans: content analysis .  Although content analysis may be understood more properly as a data analysis technique, the term is often used for the entire approach, which will be the case here.  Content analysis involves interpreting meaning from a body of text.  This body of text might be something found in historical records (see chapter 16) or something collected by the researcher, as in the case of comment posts on a popular blog post.  I once used the stories told by student loan debtors on the website studentloanjustice.org as the content I analyzed.  Content analysis is particularly useful when attempting to define and understand prevalent stories or communication about a topic of interest.  In other words, when we are less interested in what particular people (our defined sample) are doing or believing and more interested in what general narratives exist about a particular topic or issue.  This chapter will explore different approaches to content analysis and provide helpful tips on how to collect data, how to turn that data into codes for analysis, and how to go about presenting what is found through analysis.

Where chapter 17 has pushed us towards data analysis, chapters 18 and 19 are all about what to do with the data collected, whether that data be in the form of interview transcripts or fieldnotes from observations.  Chapter 18 introduces the basics of coding , the iterative process of assigning meaning to the data in order to both simplify and identify patterns.  What is a code and how does it work?  What are the different ways of coding data, and when should you use them?  What is a codebook, and why do you need one?  What does the process of data analysis look like?

Chapter 19 goes further into detail on codes and how to use them, particularly the later stages of coding in which our codes are refined, simplified, combined, and organized.  These later rounds of coding are essential to getting the most out of the data we’ve collected.  As students are often overwhelmed with the amount of data (a corpus of interview transcripts typically runs into the hundreds of pages; fieldnotes can easily top that), this chapter will also address time management and provide suggestions for dealing with chaos and reminders that feeling overwhelmed at the analysis stage is part of the process.  By the end of the chapter, you should understand how “findings” are actually found.

The book concludes with a chapter dedicated to the effective presentation of data results.  Chapter 20 covers the many ways that researchers communicate their studies to various audiences (academic, personal, political), what elements must be included in these various publications, and the hallmarks of excellent qualitative research that various audiences will be expecting.  Because qualitative researchers are motivated by understanding and conveying meaning , effective communication is not only an essential skill but a fundamental facet of the entire research project.  Ethnographers must be able to convey a certain sense of verisimilitude , the appearance of true reality.  Those employing interviews must faithfully depict the key meanings of the people they interviewed in a way that rings true to those people, even if the end result surprises them.  And all researchers must strive for clarity in their publications so that various audiences can understand what was found and why it is important.

The book concludes with a short chapter ( chapter 21 ) discussing the value of qualitative research. At the very end of this book, you will find a glossary of terms. I recommend you make frequent use of the glossary and add to each entry as you find examples. Although the entries are meant to be simple and clear, you may also want to paraphrase the definition—make it “make sense” to you, in other words. In addition to the standard reference list (all works cited here), you will find various recommendations for further reading at the end of many chapters. Some of these recommendations will be examples of excellent qualitative research, indicated with an asterisk (*) at the end of the entry. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. A good example of qualitative research can teach you more about conducting research than any textbook can (this one included). I highly recommend you select one to three examples from these lists and read them along with the textbook.

A final note on the choice of examples – you will note that many of the examples used in the text come from research on college students.  This is for two reasons.  First, as most of my research falls in this area, I am most familiar with this literature and have contacts with those who do research here and can call upon them to share their stories with you.  Second, and more importantly, my hope is that this textbook reaches a wide audience of beginning researchers who study widely and deeply across the range of what can be known about the social world (from marine resources management to public policy to nursing to political science to sexuality studies and beyond).  It is sometimes difficult to find examples that speak to all those research interests, however. A focus on college students is something that all readers can understand and, hopefully, appreciate, as we are all now or have been at some point a college student.

Recommended Reading: Other Qualitative Research Textbooks

I’ve included a brief list of some of my favorite qualitative research textbooks and guidebooks if you need more than what you will find in this introductory text.  For each, I’ve also indicated if these are for “beginning” or “advanced” (graduate-level) readers.  Many of these books have several editions that do not significantly vary; the edition recommended is merely the edition I have used in teaching and to whose page numbers any specific references made in the text agree.

Barbour, Rosaline. 2014. Introducing Qualitative Research: A Student’s Guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  A good introduction to qualitative research, with abundant examples (often from the discipline of health care) and clear definitions.  Includes quick summaries at the ends of each chapter.  However, some US students might find the British context distracting and can be a bit advanced in some places.  Beginning .

Bloomberg, Linda Dale, and Marie F. Volpe. 2012. Completing Your Qualitative Dissertation . 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  Specifically designed to guide graduate students through the research process. Advanced .

Creswell, John W., and Cheryl Poth. 2018 Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing among Five Traditions .  4th ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  This is a classic and one of the go-to books I used myself as a graduate student.  One of the best things about this text is its clear presentation of five distinct traditions in qualitative research.  Despite the title, this reasonably sized book is about more than research design, including both data analysis and how to write about qualitative research.  Advanced .

Lareau, Annette. 2021. Listening to People: A Practical Guide to Interviewing, Participant Observation, Data Analysis, and Writing It All Up .  Chicago: University of Chicago Press. A readable and personal account of conducting qualitative research by an eminent sociologist, with a heavy emphasis on the kinds of participant-observation research conducted by the author.  Despite its reader-friendliness, this is really a book targeted to graduate students learning the craft.  Advanced .

Lune, Howard, and Bruce L. Berg. 2018. 9th edition.  Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences.  Pearson . Although a good introduction to qualitative methods, the authors favor symbolic interactionist and dramaturgical approaches, which limits the appeal primarily to sociologists.  Beginning .

Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman. 2016. 6th edition. Designing Qualitative Research. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  Very readable and accessible guide to research design by two educational scholars.  Although the presentation is sometimes fairly dry, personal vignettes and illustrations enliven the text.  Beginning .

Maxwell, Joseph A. 2013. Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach .  3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE. A short and accessible introduction to qualitative research design, particularly helpful for graduate students contemplating theses and dissertations. This has been a standard textbook in my graduate-level courses for years.  Advanced .

Patton, Michael Quinn. 2002. Qualitative Research and Evaluation Methods . Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.  This is a comprehensive text that served as my “go-to” reference when I was a graduate student.  It is particularly helpful for those involved in program evaluation and other forms of evaluation studies and uses examples from a wide range of disciplines.  Advanced .

Rubin, Ashley T. 2021. Rocking Qualitative Social Science: An Irreverent Guide to Rigorous Research. Stanford : Stanford University Press.  A delightful and personal read.  Rubin uses rock climbing as an extended metaphor for learning how to conduct qualitative research.  A bit slanted toward ethnographic and archival methods of data collection, with frequent examples from her own studies in criminology. Beginning .

Weis, Lois, and Michelle Fine. 2000. Speed Bumps: A Student-Friendly Guide to Qualitative Research . New York: Teachers College Press.  Readable and accessibly written in a quasi-conversational style.  Particularly strong in its discussion of ethical issues throughout the qualitative research process.  Not comprehensive, however, and very much tied to ethnographic research.  Although designed for graduate students, this is a recommended read for students of all levels.  Beginning .

Patton’s Ten Suggestions for Doing Qualitative Research

The following ten suggestions were made by Michael Quinn Patton in his massive textbooks Qualitative Research and Evaluations Methods . This book is highly recommended for those of you who want more than an introduction to qualitative methods. It is the book I relied on heavily when I was a graduate student, although it is much easier to “dip into” when necessary than to read through as a whole. Patton is asked for “just one bit of advice” for a graduate student considering using qualitative research methods for their dissertation.  Here are his top ten responses, in short form, heavily paraphrased, and with additional comments and emphases from me:

  • Make sure that a qualitative approach fits the research question. The following are the kinds of questions that call out for qualitative methods or where qualitative methods are particularly appropriate: questions about people’s experiences or how they make sense of those experiences; studying a person in their natural environment; researching a phenomenon so unknown that it would be impossible to study it with standardized instruments or other forms of quantitative data collection.
  • Study qualitative research by going to the original sources for the design and analysis appropriate to the particular approach you want to take (e.g., read Glaser and Straus if you are using grounded theory )
  • Find a dissertation adviser who understands or at least who will support your use of qualitative research methods. You are asking for trouble if your entire committee is populated by quantitative researchers, even if they are all very knowledgeable about the subject or focus of your study (maybe even more so if they are!)
  • Really work on design. Doing qualitative research effectively takes a lot of planning.  Even if things are more flexible than in quantitative research, a good design is absolutely essential when starting out.
  • Practice data collection techniques, particularly interviewing and observing. There is definitely a set of learned skills here!  Do not expect your first interview to be perfect.  You will continue to grow as a researcher the more interviews you conduct, and you will probably come to understand yourself a bit more in the process, too.  This is not easy, despite what others who don’t work with qualitative methods may assume (and tell you!)
  • Have a plan for analysis before you begin data collection. This is often a requirement in IRB protocols , although you can get away with writing something fairly simple.  And even if you are taking an approach, such as grounded theory, that pushes you to remain fairly open-minded during the data collection process, you still want to know what you will be doing with all the data collected – creating a codebook? Writing analytical memos? Comparing cases?  Having a plan in hand will also help prevent you from collecting too much extraneous data.
  • Be prepared to confront controversies both within the qualitative research community and between qualitative research and quantitative research. Don’t be naïve about this – qualitative research, particularly some approaches, will be derided by many more “positivist” researchers and audiences.  For example, is an “n” of 1 really sufficient?  Yes!  But not everyone will agree.
  • Do not make the mistake of using qualitative research methods because someone told you it was easier, or because you are intimidated by the math required of statistical analyses. Qualitative research is difficult in its own way (and many would claim much more time-consuming than quantitative research).  Do it because you are convinced it is right for your goals, aims, and research questions.
  • Find a good support network. This could be a research mentor, or it could be a group of friends or colleagues who are also using qualitative research, or it could be just someone who will listen to you work through all of the issues you will confront out in the field and during the writing process.  Even though qualitative research often involves human subjects, it can be pretty lonely.  A lot of times you will feel like you are working without a net.  You have to create one for yourself.  Take care of yourself.
  • And, finally, in the words of Patton, “Prepare to be changed. Looking deeply at other people’s lives will force you to look deeply at yourself.”
  • We will actually spend an entire chapter ( chapter 3 ) looking at this question in much more detail! ↵
  • Note that this might have been news to Europeans at the time, but many other societies around the world had also come to this conclusion through observation.  There is often a tendency to equate “the scientific revolution” with the European world in which it took place, but this is somewhat misleading. ↵
  • Historians are a special case here.  Historians have scrupulously and rigorously investigated the social world, but not for the purpose of understanding general laws about how things work, which is the point of scientific empirical research.  History is often referred to as an idiographic field of study, meaning that it studies things that happened or are happening in themselves and not for general observations or conclusions. ↵
  • Don’t worry, we’ll spend more time later in this book unpacking the meaning of ethnography and other terms that are important here.  Note the available glossary ↵

An approach to research that is “multimethod in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter.  This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them.  Qualitative research involves the studied use and collection of a variety of empirical materials – case study, personal experience, introspective, life story, interview, observational, historical, interactional, and visual texts – that describe routine and problematic moments and meanings in individuals’ lives." ( Denzin and Lincoln 2005:2 ). Contrast with quantitative research .

In contrast to methodology, methods are more simply the practices and tools used to collect and analyze data.  Examples of common methods in qualitative research are interviews , observations , and documentary analysis .  One’s methodology should connect to one’s choice of methods, of course, but they are distinguishable terms.  See also methodology .

A proposed explanation for an observation, phenomenon, or scientific problem that can be tested by further investigation.  The positing of a hypothesis is often the first step in quantitative research but not in qualitative research.  Even when qualitative researchers offer possible explanations in advance of conducting research, they will tend to not use the word “hypothesis” as it conjures up the kind of positivist research they are not conducting.

The foundational question to be addressed by the research study.  This will form the anchor of the research design, collection, and analysis.  Note that in qualitative research, the research question may, and probably will, alter or develop during the course of the research.

An approach to research that collects and analyzes numerical data for the purpose of finding patterns and averages, making predictions, testing causal relationships, and generalizing results to wider populations.  Contrast with qualitative research .

Data collection that takes place in real-world settings, referred to as “the field;” a key component of much Grounded Theory and ethnographic research.  Patton ( 2002 ) calls fieldwork “the central activity of qualitative inquiry” where “‘going into the field’ means having direct and personal contact with people under study in their own environments – getting close to people and situations being studied to personally understand the realities of minutiae of daily life” (48).

The people who are the subjects of a qualitative study.  In interview-based studies, they may be the respondents to the interviewer; for purposes of IRBs, they are often referred to as the human subjects of the research.

The branch of philosophy concerned with knowledge.  For researchers, it is important to recognize and adopt one of the many distinguishing epistemological perspectives as part of our understanding of what questions research can address or fully answer.  See, e.g., constructivism , subjectivism, and  objectivism .

An approach that refutes the possibility of neutrality in social science research.  All research is “guided by a set of beliefs and feelings about the world and how it should be understood and studied” (Denzin and Lincoln 2005: 13).  In contrast to positivism , interpretivism recognizes the social constructedness of reality, and researchers adopting this approach focus on capturing interpretations and understandings people have about the world rather than “the world” as it is (which is a chimera).

The cluster of data-collection tools and techniques that involve observing interactions between people, the behaviors, and practices of individuals (sometimes in contrast to what they say about how they act and behave), and cultures in context.  Observational methods are the key tools employed by ethnographers and Grounded Theory .

Research based on data collected and analyzed by the research (in contrast to secondary “library” research).

The process of selecting people or other units of analysis to represent a larger population. In quantitative research, this representation is taken quite literally, as statistically representative.  In qualitative research, in contrast, sample selection is often made based on potential to generate insight about a particular topic or phenomenon.

A method of data collection in which the researcher asks the participant questions; the answers to these questions are often recorded and transcribed verbatim. There are many different kinds of interviews - see also semistructured interview , structured interview , and unstructured interview .

The specific group of individuals that you will collect data from.  Contrast population.

The practice of being conscious of and reflective upon one’s own social location and presence when conducting research.  Because qualitative research often requires interaction with live humans, failing to take into account how one’s presence and prior expectations and social location affect the data collected and how analyzed may limit the reliability of the findings.  This remains true even when dealing with historical archives and other content.  Who we are matters when asking questions about how people experience the world because we, too, are a part of that world.

The science and practice of right conduct; in research, it is also the delineation of moral obligations towards research participants, communities to which we belong, and communities in which we conduct our research.

An administrative body established to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects recruited to participate in research activities conducted under the auspices of the institution with which it is affiliated. The IRB is charged with the responsibility of reviewing all research involving human participants. The IRB is concerned with protecting the welfare, rights, and privacy of human subjects. The IRB has the authority to approve, disapprove, monitor, and require modifications in all research activities that fall within its jurisdiction as specified by both the federal regulations and institutional policy.

Research, according to US federal guidelines, that involves “a living individual about whom an investigator (whether professional or student) conducting research:  (1) Obtains information or biospecimens through intervention or interaction with the individual, and uses, studies, or analyzes the information or biospecimens; or  (2) Obtains, uses, studies, analyzes, or generates identifiable private information or identifiable biospecimens.”

One of the primary methodological traditions of inquiry in qualitative research, ethnography is the study of a group or group culture, largely through observational fieldwork supplemented by interviews. It is a form of fieldwork that may include participant-observation data collection. See chapter 14 for a discussion of deep ethnography. 

A form of interview that follows a standard guide of questions asked, although the order of the questions may change to match the particular needs of each individual interview subject, and probing “follow-up” questions are often added during the course of the interview.  The semi-structured interview is the primary form of interviewing used by qualitative researchers in the social sciences.  It is sometimes referred to as an “in-depth” interview.  See also interview and  interview guide .

A method of observational data collection taking place in a natural setting; a form of fieldwork .  The term encompasses a continuum of relative participation by the researcher (from full participant to “fly-on-the-wall” observer).  This is also sometimes referred to as ethnography , although the latter is characterized by a greater focus on the culture under observation.

A research design that employs both quantitative and qualitative methods, as in the case of a survey supplemented by interviews.

An epistemological perspective that posits the existence of reality through sensory experience similar to empiricism but goes further in denying any non-sensory basis of thought or consciousness.  In the social sciences, the term has roots in the proto-sociologist August Comte, who believed he could discern “laws” of society similar to the laws of natural science (e.g., gravity).  The term has come to mean the kinds of measurable and verifiable science conducted by quantitative researchers and is thus used pejoratively by some qualitative researchers interested in interpretation, consciousness, and human understanding.  Calling someone a “positivist” is often intended as an insult.  See also empiricism and objectivism.

A place or collection containing records, documents, or other materials of historical interest; most universities have an archive of material related to the university’s history, as well as other “special collections” that may be of interest to members of the community.

A method of both data collection and data analysis in which a given content (textual, visual, graphic) is examined systematically and rigorously to identify meanings, themes, patterns and assumptions.  Qualitative content analysis (QCA) is concerned with gathering and interpreting an existing body of material.    

A word or short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence-capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data (Saldaña 2021:5).

Usually a verbatim written record of an interview or focus group discussion.

The primary form of data for fieldwork , participant observation , and ethnography .  These notes, taken by the researcher either during the course of fieldwork or at day’s end, should include as many details as possible on what was observed and what was said.  They should include clear identifiers of date, time, setting, and names (or identifying characteristics) of participants.

The process of labeling and organizing qualitative data to identify different themes and the relationships between them; a way of simplifying data to allow better management and retrieval of key themes and illustrative passages.  See coding frame and  codebook.

A methodological tradition of inquiry and approach to analyzing qualitative data in which theories emerge from a rigorous and systematic process of induction.  This approach was pioneered by the sociologists Glaser and Strauss (1967).  The elements of theory generated from comparative analysis of data are, first, conceptual categories and their properties and, second, hypotheses or generalized relations among the categories and their properties – “The constant comparing of many groups draws the [researcher’s] attention to their many similarities and differences.  Considering these leads [the researcher] to generate abstract categories and their properties, which, since they emerge from the data, will clearly be important to a theory explaining the kind of behavior under observation.” (36).

A detailed description of any proposed research that involves human subjects for review by IRB.  The protocol serves as the recipe for the conduct of the research activity.  It includes the scientific rationale to justify the conduct of the study, the information necessary to conduct the study, the plan for managing and analyzing the data, and a discussion of the research ethical issues relevant to the research.  Protocols for qualitative research often include interview guides, all documents related to recruitment, informed consent forms, very clear guidelines on the safekeeping of materials collected, and plans for de-identifying transcripts or other data that include personal identifying information.

Introduction to Qualitative Research Methods Copyright © 2023 by Allison Hurst is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

Qualitative Research on Science Education in Schools

  • First Online: 12 January 2022

Cite this chapter

qualitative research title about science

  • Michaela Vogt 4 &
  • Katja N. Andersen 5  

Part of the book series: Challenges in Physics Education ((CPE))

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Specific features in the three steps of theoretical framing, data collection and data analysis characterise qualitative research on science education. As a general tendency, the qualitative paradigm contributes to research results that are gained by the interpretation of non-numerical data collected through a rather open, not hypothesis-driven, process-like research (Bortz and Döring in Research methods and evaluation: for human and social scientists. Springer Medizin, Heidelberg, 2016 ; Lamnek and Krell in Qualitative social research: With online material. Beltz, Weinheim, 2016 ). Beyond this pragmatic shortcut to the paradigmatic perspective, it should be emphasised that the following contribution is based on a fundamental understanding of qualitative research in the sense of a multidimensional modular system. The individual components of this system can be used and combined flexibly. However, this must happen based on the solid foundation of theory and the principled orientation towards the object of research or research questions. This contribution presents and discusses current trends in qualitative research on science education in schools. The chapter focusses on the four steps (a) theoretical groundwork for a research project in didactics, (b) data collection implying sampling, methods and technical support, (c) data analysis with its diverse methods and criteria of quality and (d) the interpretation of the analysed data related to the theoretical framework as well as to the research field.

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We would like to thank Philipp Mayring (Alpen-Adria Universität Klagenfurt, Austria) and Astrid Huber (Private Pädagogische Hochschule der Diözese Linz, Austria) for carefully and critically reviewing this chapter.

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Vogt, M., Andersen, K.N. (2021). Qualitative Research on Science Education in Schools. In: Fischer, H.E., Girwidz, R. (eds) Physics Education. Challenges in Physics Education. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-87391-2_17

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A qualitative study of teachers’ and students’ experiences with a context-based curriculum unit designed in collaboration with STEM professionals and science educators

  • Kristine Bakkemo Kostøl   ORCID: orcid.org/0000-0001-6768-0301 1 &
  • Kari Beate Remmen 2  

Disciplinary and Interdisciplinary Science Education Research volume  4 , Article number:  26 ( 2022 ) Cite this article

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Context-based science teaching aims to increase students’ motivation for science learning by demonstrating the personal and societal relevance of science knowledge and practices. However, designing and implementing context-based science teaching can be challenging for teachers. Moreover, context-based learning can be challenging for students as well. The purpose of this study is to describe the experiences of two science teachers and their 16-year-old students after implementing a context-based curriculum unit designed in collaboration with STEM professionals and facilitated by us – science educators and researchers. The research approach is informed by participatory methods involving collaboration between teachers and us as science educators, with the intention of supporting teachers in developing new teaching practices. Data were collected through three focus group interviews with two teachers and two groups of students ( N  = 9). The transcripts were analysed by inductive coding combined with a refined, literature-driven analysis. Besides positive influences on students’ learning, we found that the context-based curriculum provided an opportunity for the students to contribute to society, which served as another purpose for learning science than traditional science teaching. However, we discuss some challenges that may have implications for this type of collaboration between teachers, science educators, and STEM professionals: the importance of authenticity, teacher involvement in field trip planning, and misalignment between the curriculum unit and assessment.


A recurring challenge in science education is that students often perceive science as boring and irrelevant to their lives, mainly because science is taught through authoritative teaching methods in which the scientific knowledge is presented as isolated facts with few links to students’ personal life or local communities (Gilbert et al., 2011 ; Osborne & Dillon, 2008 ; Rennie et al., 2018 ). Therefore, approaches such as context-based teaching, project-based teaching, and socio-scientific issues have been proposed to demonstrate the personal and societal relevance of science knowledge and practices and hence foster students’ motivation for science learning (Bennett, 2016 ; Hasni et al., 2014; Sevian et al., 2018 ; Sadler et al., 2017 ). Within context-based teaching, for example, a realistic problem taken from the world of science or from the students’ everyday life outside of school is used as a starting point for meaningful learning of the scientific content (Gilbert, 2006 ). Examples from research include saving energy, assessing the necessity of bottled drinking water (Lupión-Cobos et al., 2017 ), designing sustainable travel (Overman et al., 2014 ), investigating the declining effects of antibiotics (Penuel et al., 2022 ), and assessing the health of local creeks (King & Henderson, 2018 ). Other research has exemplified how context-based teaching can be realised through partnerships between science teachers and external professionals within science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (henceforth: STEM). In these partnerships, STEM professionals provide the context for applying scientific knowledge and practices. (Hellgren & Lindberg, 2017 ; Houseal et al., 2014 ; Kostøl et al., 2021 ; Tytler et al., 2018 ).

Current research concludes that context-based approaches can have a positive influence on students’ attitudes to science and that students learn the same amount of science in context-based teaching as in traditional science teaching (Bennett, 2016 ; Bennett et al., 2007 ). Studies have shown that context-based curriculums involving collaboration with external STEM professionals also inform students about the relevance of science outside school and possible careers (Houseal et al., 2014 ; Kostøl et al., 2021 ; Parker et al., 2020 ; Tsybulsky, 2019 ). However, studies have also identified challenges with context-based science education. For instance, students are unfamiliar with context-based problems and produce answers that they believe their teachers expect from them (Broman et al., 2018 ). From a teaching perspective, teachers find it challenging to design suitable contexts (Stolk et al., 2016 ), to reduce traditional science teaching, and to address the complexity of the context, such as linking scientific content to society, technology, and politics (e.g., Bossér et al., 2015 ; Lupión-Cobos et al., 2017 ). Consequently, science educators call for initiatives that support teachers in designing and implementing context-based teaching in science (Lupión-Cobos et al., 2017 ; Stolk et al., 2016 ), as well as initiatives that support teachers in collaborating with STEM professionals outside of school (Falloon, 2013 ). It is thus important to develop knowledge about how teachers and students actually experience context-based teaching developed through such initiatives. Accordingly, the present study is carried out within Lektor2 in Norway, where science educators support teachers in collaborating with STEM professionals to design and implement context-based teaching units for grades 8–13. The present study investigates how two science teachers and their 16-year-old students reflect on their experiences from a context-based curriculum unit, developed and implemented within Lektor2, which involved collaboration with a STEM professional and ourselves as science educators facilitating the process of designing a context-based curriculum unit. The following research question is investigated:

• How do two science teachers and nine students describe their experiences of implementing a context-based curriculum unit involving collaboration with a STEM professional and facilitators?

Before presenting further details about the methodology and findings, the theoretical perspectives informing the context-based curriculum designs are explained.

Context-based science teaching

Theoretically, context-based teaching – and similar ideas such as problem-based teaching, project-based teaching (Hasni et al., 2014; Penuel et al., 2022 ), and teaching about socio-scientific issues (Sadler et al., 2017 ) – is associated with constructivist theories and situated learning, which consider learning as construction of knowledge through active, collaborative engagement within authentic contexts of practice (Gilbert, 2006 ; Lave & Wenger, 1991 ; Taconis et al., 2016). Context-based approaches thus address the purpose of science education to more than acquiring scientific concepts; it is also about developing scientific literacy. Sevian et al. ( 2018 ) use the two visions of scientific literacy described by Roberts ( 2007 ) to illustrate context-based teaching. In Vision I, scientific literacy involves learning basic scientific content and skills that can later be applied to more complex scientific problems. By contrast, Vision II begins with confronting a complex societal problem that sets the scene for learning the scientific content and skills necessary to solve the problem. According to Sevian et al. ( 2018 ), context-based learning ‘takes a solid stance as Vision II’. Hence, the context serves as a starting point – a knowledge need – that facilitates further student-driven inquiries and collaboration (Bennett et al., 2007 ; Stolk et al., 2016 ). This approach to learning requires that the teacher reduce their use of traditional teaching of science and rather support students in carrying out inquiries and developing the needed knowledge (Overman et al., 2016). More specifically, teachers can provide support by, for example, asking questions to elicit students’ experiences and ideas, modelling what questions students need to ask, scaffolding student inquiries by asking the students to describe their observations, hypothesis, and experiment, directing students’ attention to important learning goals, providing feedback, and discussing challenges that students encounter in their process of learning (Bjønness & Kolstø, 2015 ; Grossman et al., 2019 ; Hmelo-Silver et al., 2007 ).

In some cases, the context for the problem derives from the school’s local community, also called society-based science teaching or community science (Adams, 2012 ; King, 2012 ). For example, the problem can be questions related to local food production, water quality of the local river, or a survey of available food choices in the community. As these contexts are more accessible outside the classroom, out-of-school activities – such as field trips – can often become natural components in context-based science teaching (Baran et al., 2019 ; King & Henderson, 2018 ).

Field trips as a component of context-based curriculum units

Field trips can be undertaken to several different settings, including science centres, museums, urban and natural environments, university laboratories, industrial sites, or STEM professionals workplaces. Activities in such settings can provide cognitive and social learning and promote interest and motivation for science (DeWitt & Storksdieck, 2008 ; Tal et al., 2014 ). However, the learning potential of field trips depends on the quality of planning and implementation, which are influenced by factors such as preparation and follow-up activities in the classroom, setting novelty, the quality of student activities, teacher involvement, and connection to school curriculum (DeWitt & Storksdieck, 2008 ; Jose et al., 2017 ; Lee et al., 2020 ; Tal et al., 2014 ). Accordingly, design principles and recommendations have been developed to support teachers in designing effective field trips in science education (e.g., Remmen & Frøyland, 2017 ; Tal et al., 2014 ). For example, with the aim of identifying key characteristics of good practice in outdoor teaching, Tal et al. ( 2014 ) analysed 40 field trips in Israel, which resulted in the following design principles (directly quoted):

Field trips should be planned together by the teachers and the field guides who need to discuss their goals, means and collaboration pattern

Field trips should be planned with knowledge of and connection to the school curriculum, in order to make ideas visual and concrete

The teacher should be involved throughout the field trip, as a mediator in the cognitive and in the social domains

The guide should make use of the environment in various ways, including building on students’ discoveries and their attention

Students should learn from interactions with objects in the environment and from interactions with each other

Field trips should be based on student-centered learning activity, in which students explore and investigate the environment hands on, share findings and thoughts and discuss things

Field trips should include “amplified” physical experience, adventure activities, and opportunities to directly experience the unique features of the outdoors

The design principles from Tal et al. ( 2014 ) informed the present study, as the context-based curriculum includes collaboration between teachers and STEM professionals and taking students on field trips to the STEM professional’s workplace. Two principles were particularly important for the present study, namely the principles emphasising the importance of teacher involvement and collaboration between the teacher and field guide for succeeding with field trips. Students exposed to ‘high teacher involvement’ during field trips report higher learning outcomes, indicating a positive relationship between teacher involvement and self-reported student outcomes from field trips (Alon & Tal, 2017 ). However, lack of teacher involvement in planning and during field trips have been a common challenge in collaborations between teachers and external partners (Faria & Chagas, 2013 ; Morag & Tal, 2012 ).This in line with our own experience with Lektor2. Therefore, a crucial point in the present study was to ensure close collaboration between the teachers and the STEM professional on designing a context-based curriculum unit in science.

The study context and research approach

The context for the present study is Lektor2, a national partnership programme in Norway offering professional development for teachers and financial support for schools that aim to involve STEM professionals from the local community in their teaching. The teachers enrolled in the programme are required to collaborate in designing an authentic context-based task for students called a commission , in which the students are commissioned by STEM professionals to carry out a job requiring authentic, complex problem-solving (Kostøl et al., 2021 ).

Based on the need for more research on the support of teachers for designing context-based curriculum units (Falloon, 2013 ; Lupión-Cobos et al., 2017 ; Stolk et al., 2016 ), our approach is informed by participatory methods, involving collaboration between teachers and science education researchers. Participatory methods aim at supporting teachers to expand their perspectives on teaching and develop new practices (Postholm, 2020 ). Our study involves two science teachers and their students, a STEM partner, and ourselves as science educators, facilitating and researching the process. In the present project, collaboration between teachers, STEM professionals and us as science educators on a context-based curriculum unit was considered as ‘new practice’, as the teachers lacked prior experience with both context-based science teaching and collaboration with STEM professionals outside the school system. Teacher A (TA) was in her first year of teaching and taught two classes of Year 11 upper secondary students (aged 16 years) in an integrated science course, while Teacher B (TB) had more than five years of teaching experience and taught the same course in one class of Year 11 students. Approximately 90 students were involved.

The STEM professionals were employees from Ruter, a company operating public transport in the capital district in Norway. The head of a project called Fossil Free 2020 and one of the company’s managers were directly involved in the collaboration with the teachers. Similar to the teachers, the STEM professionals also lacked experience with collaborating on context-based science curriculums.

Our role as science educators was to facilitate collaboration between the teachers and the STEM professional and support the teachers to develop the curriculum unit in collaboration with the STEM professional. Specifically, we as facilitators tried to discuss with the teachers to ensure that the curriculum unit was designed in line with Lektor2 requirements, the literature on context-based science teaching, and design principles for field trips described above. Even though we were familiar with Lektor2 and the literature, we felt that our involvement in putting theory into practice together with the teachers and the STEM professionals, required us to refine our own practices of supporting such collaboration processes in context-based science teaching. Hence, we consider our collaboration on developing a context-based curriculum unit as an innovative learning cycle that can potentially lead to new local solutions that become part of our refined practices (Engeström & Sannino, 2010 ). Table 1 describes the stages of the innovative cycle, including the initiation, development, and implementation of the curriculum unit, and contributions from each partner: the teachers, STEM professional, and us as facilitators. Figure  1 gives an overview of the classroom and field trip activities. Details about the curriculum unit are described in Supplementary Material . The commission given to the students by the STEM professional is illustrated in Fig.  2 .

figure 1

Overview of the activities in the curriculum unit. Large circles denote activities collaboratively designed by the teachers, STEM professional, and us as facilitators. Small circles denote activities designed or organised by the teachers

figure 2

The commission letter given to the students by Ruter (the letter has been translated and anonymised)

Data collection

As facilitators and researchers, we participated in the design process and then observed part of the implementation of the curriculum unit, such as the visit from the STEM professional in the students’ classroom and the field trips (Table 1 ). This provided a platform for conducting interviews with the teachers and the students one month after the completion of the curriculum unit. We conducted three focus group semi-structured interviews: one with the teachers and two interviews with groups of students (N = 9). The teachers were encouraged to discuss their teaching in science compared to their experiences in the context-based curriculum unit. The students were interviewed in two focus groups – Group 1 (three boys, two girls) and Group 2 (three boys, one girl). We queried the students’ views on working with the commission from Ruter (Fig.  2 ), their perceptions of school science, and how they compared the context-based approach to “normal” teaching.

Data analysis

The interview transcripts were first read by both authors before the first author proceeded to analyse the content of the transcripts in NVivo 12. The first author highlighted sections with quotes relevant to the research question. Then, we asked a colleague to consider the entire transcript to ensure that other relevant information was not missed (Creswell & Miller, 2000 ). We collaborated to develop codes on the selected passages that were close to the teachers’ and students’ utterances (Saldaña, 2016 ). This resulted in a list of codes, which we divided into two broad categories: teaching activities and comparison with normal teaching . Teaching activities consists of statements addressing the teachers’ and students’ reflections on the activities that were provided through the context-based curriculum unit, including reflections regarding assessment and field trip experiences. Comparison with normal teaching contains the teachers’ and students’ comparisons between the context-based curriculum unit and their perception of normal teaching in science, similar to Overman et al. ( 2014 ). Eventually, we compared our codes to the literature review, enabling us to combine a literature and data-driven analysis. All codes are described in Table 2 .

Strategies for ensuring the quality of the research

As partners in the development of the context-based curriculum unit (see Table 1 ), we have certain roles and interests which require a reflexive approach to our own research process. As an example of reflexivity, we include ourselves as ‘we’ or ‘facilitators’ in the representation of the design of the context-based curriculum unit (Table 1 ), in the interpretation of the data, and in the critical discussion of the findings. Regarding the data analysis, we have tried to enhance the quality by alternating between analysing the data collaboratively and individually to establish a common understanding of the interpretations of the data (Creswell & Creswell, 2018 ). Additionally, the categories and codes that emerged during our analysis were discussed with a third-party researcher to enhance consistency in defining the codes (Creswell & Creswell, 2018 ; Gibbs, 2007 ).

The teachers’ and students’ perceptions of participating in the context-based curriculum unit are presented in this section. Findings from the category teaching activities are presented first, followed by findings from comparison with normal teaching . Indexing of students (e.g., S1, S2) is only used to indicate that different students are interacting. F denotes questions and contributions from us, the facilitators, whereas TA and TB denote teacher A and teacher B.

Teaching activities

The classroom activities were led by the teachers and engaged students in acquiring knowledge and skills needed to solve the commission of recommending future transport technologies (Fig.  2 ). The commission was frequently mentioned in the interviews, as prompted by our questions, but also initiated by the teachers and students themselves. Both teachers and students reflected on the commission’s role in relation to the classroom activities:

TA: I think it [the commission] was nice to have as an overall frame over time. Connecting a lot of learning to one project. I think that was really good.
F: So you connected the learning to the commission in a way?
TA: Yes. We worked with it over several weeks, while at the same time having one project to think about. “Remember that we’re working on the Ruter commission”. “We’re learning this because we’re working with the Ruter commission”.
TB: Yes, “what can we draw from this (…) to answer the commission?”.

As seen in the excerpt, the teachers considered the commission as a purpose for the classroom activities in which they taught about electricity, fuel cells, batteries, etc. Both teachers described what they said to remind their students about the commission and connect the science content in the classroom to it – for example, “Remember that we’re working on the Ruter commission”. Thus, the teachers used the commission to justify the classroom activities, which led to the code commission as a purpose for learning science content in the classroom . We then asked the teachers whether this explicit linking of the commission to the content influenced the students’ engagement in the activities:

F: Did you recognise any difference in students’ engagement while working with the commission compared to normal teaching?
TB: I think more students were engaged, even though some students were still disengaged. But more students were participating.

Engagement in the classroom activities was also confirmed by the students in both groups. The most deliberated reflection emerged in Group 2:

S: Yes, because now it was like…now it was someone who took part in this project, whereas…and then you need to be engaged and grasp the content, so you know what to include in your project and what to include in your presentation. You then automatically pay more attention, but normally when you have this theory [science content], it’s just for…a test. (…)

This student described her engagement in the classroom activity (lecture) as a need to understand the scientific knowledge to judge whether it was useful for the commission. Utterances such as these were coded as engagement in classroom activities and describe the students’ perceptions of the classroom activities.

The students in both groups also discussed how they felt about receiving a commission from Ruter, as seen in the following interaction in Group 1:

S1: You felt that you took part in something important, that what you did…
S2: You got to contribute.
S1: Yes, that you could contribute to something. Like, when you take a test, it’s just for your own sake, but now you were also helping someone else. So that’s also motivating.
S2: Knowing that the work you’re doing is…important, is…yes, as I said, important. That’s much more motivating than just memorising.

As seen in the excerpt, the students felt that they contributed to a solution and that this was important for someone outside of themselves. Hence, giving something back appears to be a critical feature of the commission, which was coded as contribution to society or a client outside school . In this code we also included responses describing the science content in the curriculum unit as relevant for settings outside school, for example:

S: I found it exciting, because often, science can be heavy and demotivating because you’re just going to sit down and memorise. But now, we got to see it in practice, and we felt that what we learned was important related to the society as well. And that I found exciting.

The teachers shared the students’ perceptions of the commission as an opportunity to contribute beyond themselves, as seen in the following quote:

TA: I find the commission so important. It’s not just a random commission to make the students work. It’s important.

However, a student in Group 1 did not celebrate the contribution aspect:

S: (…) But what at least I found a bit disengaging was that they have a solution already, so they won’t use one of the students’ solutions. In that sense it was like: Yeah, yeah, they won’t be used anyway. But it was fun to like…try to find a solution.

Our understanding of the quote above is that the commission was not perceived as entirely realistic. “They won’t use one of the students’ solutions” describes the student’s awareness that the commission was a fictive situation after all, although the problem was realistic and the same problem the transport company grappled with. However, none of the other students in Group 1 agreed to or elaborated on this view.

The field trip to the STEM professional’s research station for buses was another activity that was collaboratively designed by the teachers and the STEM professional, with the aim of providing direct experiences with bus technologies that the students could use in their work with the commission. The students described how the field trip contributed to their learning as follows:

S1: It was much easier to understand the solutions [to the commission] when we got to see it in real-life.
S2: Yes, I also felt I understood more about how the hydrogen buses worked when we visited Ruter and got to see how they handled different challenges and exploited the benefits of using hydrogen in buses. (…)

Experiencing the different buses and technologies during the field trip helped the students gain a better understanding of the commission and possible solutions, resulting in the code connections between field trip experiences and the commission . Such connections were also present in the teachers’ reflections, exemplified by the following response:

TA: When we talked about fuel cells, it was very good to be able to say that this happens inside the buses, and yes, “you experienced yourselves that it’s only water that comes out. You drank the water”. Always have something to connect it to. Otherwise, it can be very technical with electrons moving in wires.

Our interpretation of this excerpt is that the teacher made connections between the students’ direct experiences during the field trip and the subsequent classroom activities.

The field trip to the university lab was not mentioned by the teachers. However, the students in Group 1 had many things to say about it:

S1: I didn’t get what this had to do with it [the commission].
S2: (…) we got to see some things inside a lab. And then…It was just a bit…well, I didn’t quite get it.
S1: It was sort of off-topic. We didn’t quite understand what this had to do with biofuels, buses, or hydrogen.
S2: Well, it was within the topic, but it was sort of…it was a bit difficult to grasp. It was complicated.
S1: And then we got to see a hydrogen car. Then we didn’t understand what that had to do with the lecture and the lab.

As seen above, the students experienced the field trip to the university lab as ‘difficult to grasp’, indicating that they did not recognise the connection between the field trip and the commission, which we coded as connections between field trip experiences and the commission . However, when prompted by us, some of the students mentioned the hydrogen car as an aspect of the university lab that they related to the commission. One student said:

S: Yes, the lecture about that [hydrogen] car, that we understood, but we didn’t understand much of the lab visit with hydrogen and…

During parts of the curriculum unit, the students worked independently with the commission in groups. The teachers described how they tried to support the students during the group work by providing guidance and frequently collect written products.

TB: (…) We walked around to the groups, guiding them and helping them, and…collected work from them. About once a week, I collected something which they [students] got back and could use in their further work.

Evidently, the teachers provided feedback on students’ written work, which was coded as teacher support during classroom activities . However, teacher B did not provide any example of the type of feedback, which may be a limitation in our data.

When we asked the students about the kind of support they received from the teacher, the students said that they received help although they could not specify what sort of help. For example, in Group 1, the students could not recall whether they received feedback from their teacher on their work. However, later in the interview one of the students added that more teacher support would be preferable, without specifying what sort of help he was asking for.

The final classroom activity was carried out after the visit to the transport company’s workplace (Fig.  1 ). This was an oral examination, where the teachers asked questions about different technologies related to renewable energy, such as how fuel cells work or how solar cells operate. The information was used to assess the students’ learning of the scientific knowledge. The teachers chose to do so because they were more familiar with oral or written tests and found it difficult to assess the students’ understanding based on their oral presentation to the STEM professional:

TB: Yes, oral examinations are more common at our place. And written tests or digital tests. But I find it incredibly hard to assess a presentation.

The teachers’ and students’ descriptions of the assessment of the students’ learning at the end of the curriculum unit was coded as summative assessment . The students expressed different opinions about the oral examination, exemplified by the following responses from students in Group 1 and 2, respectively:

S: During the oral examination it was easy to show everything you knew. You got to show what you’d worked on that you didn’t necessarily present, because someone else in the group had to take their part of the presentation even though they hadn’t worked on it. So…yes, it became clearer who had been working well on the assignment.
S: But I didn’t like the fact that we only got assessed on the oral examination and not all the other things, because there was a lot of work before this. We had two presentations, one in the beginning and one presentation for Ruter, and we had ongoing assignments. And we didn’t get an overall assessment. Only on the oral examination.

The first quote presents the view of the students in Group 1, namely that they appreciated the oral examination because it allowed them to demonstrate understanding that did not emerge in the group’s oral presentation for the transport company. The second quote above illustrates a different opinion among the Group 2 students. Here, the students were dissatisfied with the oral examination because they felt that their efforts during the curriculum was not appreciated by the teachers’ assessment.

Teacher B described the students’ presentations as ‘fragmented’, meaning that the students presented facts for each type of transport technology without comparing them and discussing the best solution. This evoked a reflection on her own teaching and the fact that the students were not familiar with skills such as argumentation and comparing solutions to be part of the assessment:

TB: Yes, compare and argue... But it is like…They [the students] are not used to that being something we use to distinguish between grades. That’s something they explicitly need to be told, actually. They’re used to be awarded with an A if they just come up with enough [content].

Comparison with usual teaching

Both teachers and students reflected on the curriculum unit by comparing it with how they usually teach and learn school science. In the student interviews, these reflections emerged when the facilitator asked about their effort.

F: If you compare the effort you put into this project compared to other projects you have [at school], were there any differences?
S1: Yes, most definitely.
S2: This was in a way much bigger, and you know it was for Ruter, so it was for a real – how do I put it – client.
S3: And it was – we were to design a solution. In school it’s just a presentation about a galvanic element or something (…), but now we needed to physically find a solution, so we had to know it. In a normal school presentation, you just need to know the facts and not think yourself. So [in this commission] we got to delve much more into it.

As seen above, the students in Group 1 emphasised that the curriculum unit inspired them to increase their effort to learn as compared to “usual”. This was supported by students in Group 2:

S1: (…) I will say, at least for me, I put in a greater effort to learn everything than I would’ve in normal teaching.
S2 (…) I put in more effort, yes, learned a bit more about this and a bit faster, because we were to present for someone who actually cares. (…)

These types of responses were coded as context-based curriculum as a different approach .

For the teachers, reflections regarding the approach emerged when the facilitator asked if they would recommend other teachers to design curriculum activities in collaboration with STEM professionals:

TB: If you’re looking for advice for teachers, you should say that you see an increase in the students’ motivation, that there is something more going on in their heads when using this kind of approach, than during normal teaching.
TB: Yes, increased motivation to work with it, not just sitting there memorising concepts and manners of operation, but that they use what they know to argue and discuss, compare…which, after all, is much more important than reciting lots of facts.
TA: That they [the students] see that what they learn in school is being used outside the classroom. I think that’s really important.

When asked by the facilitator, the teachers reflected on their students’ outcomes compared to normal classroom teaching.

TA: (…) the students have become better at thinking and having opinions. They are used to just...reciting facts. But with this project, I think they have increased their thinking.

As seen above, Teacher A thought that her students had developed their thinking during the curriculum unit, which was coded as s tudent outcomes from the curriculum unit . The students in Group 1 had similar perceptions of their outcomes:

S1: I, at least, had to reflect much more about what I was doing, and needed to know that everything I did, that I…that I understood everything I was doing, and not just the solution we went for (…) but also: “I do not choose these solutions because I don’t think they apply to the commission we are to solve. (…)
S2: (…) we were to find a solution; we weren’t just presenting about what we had learned. We actually needed to think for ourselves, because that was a part of the assignment.

Regarding the students’ learning of science content knowledge, the following discussion between the teachers and us (the Lektor2 facilitators) occurred:

TB: (…) they [students] might be left with more science content knowledge with normal, non-commission [teaching]. But in the end, that’s not what I want them to be left with. It doesn’t matter if they don’t remember how solar cells work (…). It’s more important that they know how to compare, argue, weigh the pros and cons, see the sustainable perspective…And that’s evident here.
TA: But I think they remember this better than if we just say: “Today we are learning about heat pumps” (…). I think they remember better how fuel cells work than heat pumps.
F: Yes, that’s what you said earlier: everyone knows the result – it’s water that’s coming out.
TA: Yes, and then suddenly everyone knows how electrolysis works. I don’t think they would’ve known that if it weren't for this project and the commission.

The excerpt above suggests that the teachers had different views on the students’ learning of science content from the curriculum unit. Whereas Teacher B believed that the students would have gained more content knowledge from ‘normal’ teaching, Teacher A disagreed with that by stating that the experiences gained from the context-based curriculum unit reinforced the students’ memory of scientific knowledge.

The purpose of this study was to describe the experiences of two teachers and their students after participating in a context-based curriculum unit involving support from Lektor2 facilitators, collaboration with a STEM professional, and field trips. The experiences were described in two main categories: teaching activities and comparison with normal teaching , which revealed that the context-based curriculum provided experiences that were different from their usual practices of science teaching and learning. This did not mean that the context-based curriculum excluded learning activities associated with traditional science teaching, such as lectures. Both the teachers and the students found these more engaging than usual, indicating that the context – that is, the commission to evaluate different bus technologies – provided a purpose for traditional science teaching. This illustrates how context-based teaching aligns with Vision II of scientific literacy, in which solving a complex societal problem becomes the main purpose for learning scientific content and skills (Roberts, 2007 ; Roberts & Bybee, 2014 ). However, the interview data revealed discrepancies between the teachers’ and the students’ experiences that allow us to reflect upon challenges with context-based curriculum units involving collaboration with STEM professionals and science education researchers. Because researchers often are developers of context-based science teaching (Bennett, 2016 ), we – as facilitators and researchers – will include reflections on how we contributed to (or inhibited) the new practices we tried to develop together with the teachers.

Discrepancy between context and commission

As apparent by the code contribution to society or a client outside school , the students’ and the teachers’ felt they were taking part in something important, and that they had the opportunity to contribute to an ongoing issue in their local area. Most of the students in Group 1 and 2 considered their contribution important because they were helping a client outside school with solving a commission. These experiences align with Gilbert’s ( 2006 ) notion of ‘context as a social circumstance’, in which students and the teacher jointly work with real-life problems that are considered important to the lives of their community. Contributing and communicating scientific findings to the local community is one way to promote authenticity in science education (Anker-Hansen & Andreé, 2019 ; Grossman et al., 2019 ). In the present study, the authentic experience was enabled by the involvement of STEM professionals from a local transport company. However, one of the students in Group 1 found it disengaging that the STEM professional would likely not use their solutions anyway. Perhaps this student reflected more critically on the commission, with the STEM professionals pretending to involve the students, and the students pretending to offer help to solve the commission. The context was realistic – the transport company’s transition to renewable transport technologies, but the commission – or the problem – was a fictive situation: the transport company did not really need the students’ help. This aligns with our earlier study involving a much higher number of participants (Kostøl et al., 2021 ), in which we argue that the extent to which the commission is genuine – and not fictive – is important for the students’ motivation and engagement in context-based curriculum units within Lektor2. Despite the slight difference in the authenticity between the context and commission, the category comparing with normal teaching (comprising of the codes context-based curriculum as a different approach and student outcomes from curriculum unit ), reveals that both the teachers and students reported an increased effort among the students compared to normal teaching, and that the students were better at thinking and reflecting. It is known that project-based and context-based teaching can influence students’ learning and attitudes towards science more positively compared to traditional science teaching (Bennett et al., 2007 ; Hasni et al., 2016 ). More interesting, however, is that the usual science teaching undertaken in the classroom became more meaningful to the students. Hence, it appears that students can experience traditional science teaching as more useful and engaging if it is situated within a context-based curriculum. This supports Lupión-Cobos et al. ( 2017 ), who found that teachers perceived their students as more interested, motivated, and involved when teaching scientific competences in the classroom through a context-based approach.

Teacher involvement before and during field trips

Although both field trips (Fig.  1 ) aimed to provide scientific knowledge relevant to the commission, the students were more enthusiastic about the field trip to the research station for buses ( connections between field trip experiences and the commission) . One explanation may be the teachers’ involvement in the two field trips, as teachers’ participation in planning and implementation influence students’ learning (Tal et al., 2014 ). For the field trip to the university lab, we – the facilitators – informed the scientists about the students’ commission, and the scientists were responsible for planning and presenting content through lectures and demonstrations (Table 1 ). Hence, the teachers were not really involved in the planning and implementation of the field trip, which can influence the students’ perceptions negatively (Tal et al., 2014 ). Reflecting on our roles as facilitators in the curriculum development, our involvement may have been a disfavour for the teachers and students, as we obviously did not invite them to influence the focus and content of the field trip to the university lab. By contrast, the field trip to the research station for buses was collaboratively designed by the teachers and STEM professionals (e.g., discussing activities and content), which is more in line with the design principle ‘field trips should be planned together’ (Tal et al., 2014 ). Hence, the difference in the teachers’ and our involvement as facilitators in the two field trips may have influenced the students’ perceptions of the relevance of the scientific content presented during the field trips. Support for this can be found in the students’ statements in the interviews, for example ‘We didn’t quite understand what this [the visit to the university lab] had to do with biofuels, buses, or hydrogen’ ( connections between field trip experiences and the commission ). As observers at the university lab, we know that the scientific knowledge presented during the field trip was relevant for the students’ commission; however, it was not made explicit to the students. That the applicability of the scientific knowledge was not explicitly addressed may be ascribed to the lack of teacher involvement during the university lab visit. However, the students recalled the hydrogen car. Perhaps the car was a concrete representation of innovative transport technologies, which made it possible for some of the students to relate it to the commission of assessing transport technologies. This may be an example of near transfer in context-based courses, which occurs when the student’s mental map connected to one focal event is similar to another focal event (Gilbert et al., 2011 ). Furthermore, the students’ ability to relate the hydrogen car to the commission was made individually without the teacher’s support, which aligns with other investigations in which students receive little help from teachers to connect the field trip content to the classroom curriculum (Bamberger & Tal, 2008 ).

At least two lessons can be taken from the discussion above. The first is that facilitators need to involve the teachers in the planning and design of the field trip, particularly when the purpose is to acquire scientific knowledge necessary for solving a commission in a context-based curriculum unit. The second aspect concerns the students finding similarities between the commission (the realistic problem) and the field trip experience. Further research may explore both aspects with the hypothesis that if the teacher is more involved in the design of the field trip, there will be more opportunities for students to relate the field trip experience to the context-based curriculum unit.

Assessment unaligned with the context-based curriculum unit

The curriculum unit was finalised by an oral examination designed and organised by the teachers (Fig.  1 ). This practice aligns with summative assessment , as it aimed at grading what the students had learned at the end of the curriculum unit (Dixson & Worrell, 2016 ). According to the teachers, there was a need for an individual oral examination because they found it difficult to assess the students based on their group presentations for the transport company. Similar to Lupión-Cobos et al.’s ( 2017 ) study, assessment of student learning during context-based teaching appears to be a challenge in our findings as well. One explanation for this could be the lack of focus on assessment in the collaborative design process between us and the teachers (Table 1 ). Therefore, we will use this as an opportunity to discuss how assessment of student learning can be handled in context-based curriculum units. Our findings from the student interviews can provide some ideas. The students perceived the oral examination differently, as evidenced by the responses in the code summative assessment . The students in Group 1 considered the oral examination as an opportunity to show their scientific knowledge to the teacher. By contrast, Group 2 students felt that the oral examination was limiting their competence to the scientific knowledge. They called for an assessment in which the teachers included all the work related to the commission – and not only the scientific knowledge they had gained. We interpret the Group 2 students’ view as a call for more coherence between the formative and summative assessments, in which all the activities in the curriculum unit counts in the summative assessment. As revealed by comparison with normal teaching , the commission required the students to form opinions and develop arguments for their solutions, which was appreciated by both the students and the teachers (see student outcomes from the curriculum unit ). Despite this, the teachers’ description indicates that the oral examination focused on facts about renewable technologies. Furthermore, the students were not familiar with being assessed on skills such as argumentation or the ability to compare ( summative assessment ). Hence, consistent with other studies (Avargil et al., 2012 ; Iversen & Jónsdóttir, 2019 ), it appears to be a misalignment between the students’ outcomes celebrated by the teachers and students, and what the teachers emphasised when assessing the students’ learning. Some of the responsibility for this can be ascribed to us as facilitators, as the type of and content of assessment was not emphasised in our collaboration (see Table 1 ). Perhaps we relied too much on the teachers’ expertise in designing and implementing assessment adapted to their students. Thus, a lesson learned from this is that teachers and facilitators (science educators) need to collaborate about developing formative and summative assessment practices when students work with a commission from a STEM professional. Such practices need to allow students to demonstrate their learning through, for example, authentic products requiring decision-making skills and reflection on the process of learning (Dixson & Worrell, 2016 ). Further research may address how both teachers and facilitators like us can assess such performances as part of context-based curriculum units, for example by drawing on principles for assessing student-driven projects (Brennan et al., 2021 ).

Conclusions and implications

From the discussion above, it appears that the context-based curriculum unit involving collaboration with a STEM professional and us as Lektor2 facilitators provided opportunities for learning that were different from ‘usual classroom teaching’ for both teachers and students. Overall, both teachers and students experienced context-based learning as engaging, and they appreciated the commission as an opportunity to contribute to the public. However, our discussion proposed at least three challenges with context-based curriculum units that need to be considered in future collaborative design processes involving teachers, STEM professionals and science educators. First, when engaging students to solve a commission or an authentic problem on behalf of a client outside of school, it is important to consider the authenticity of the commission. A following implication is that teachers should discuss the problem’s degree of authenticity with the students, especially if it is questionable whether the client genuinely needs the students’ help. Second, the field trip to the research station for bus technologies, collaboratively designed by the teachers and STEM professionals, appeared to be more beneficial for the students’ learning experience than the field trip to the university lab (not collaboratively designed). Accordingly, teachers need to be involved in the planning and design of field trips involving collaboration with external STEM professionals to help students perceive the experience as relevant to the commission. Third, there appeared to be a misalignment between the knowledge and skills required by the students in the context-based curriculum unit and the type of assessment the teachers used to evaluate the students’ learning. We interpreted the summative assessment as traditional, and some of the students found it to be limiting. Thus, further interventions involving teachers and science educators may explore how students’ learning can be assessed in a way that reflects the context-based curriculum with STEM professionals.

Availability of data and materials

The dataset used and analysed during the current study are not publicly available due to teachers’ and students’ privacy, but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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K.B.R and K.B.K collected data through interviews with teachers and students. K.B.K did the first analysis of the data, followed by further analysis and discussions by both authors. K.B.K and K.B.R have contributed equally in the writing of the manuscript. The authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Kostøl, K.B., Remmen, K.B. A qualitative study of teachers’ and students’ experiences with a context-based curriculum unit designed in collaboration with STEM professionals and science educators. Discip Interdscip Sci Educ Res 4 , 26 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s43031-022-00066-x

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A Practical Guide to Writing Quantitative and Qualitative Research Questions and Hypotheses in Scholarly Articles

Edward barroga.

1 Department of General Education, Graduate School of Nursing Science, St. Luke’s International University, Tokyo, Japan.

Glafera Janet Matanguihan

2 Department of Biological Sciences, Messiah University, Mechanicsburg, PA, USA.

The development of research questions and the subsequent hypotheses are prerequisites to defining the main research purpose and specific objectives of a study. Consequently, these objectives determine the study design and research outcome. The development of research questions is a process based on knowledge of current trends, cutting-edge studies, and technological advances in the research field. Excellent research questions are focused and require a comprehensive literature search and in-depth understanding of the problem being investigated. Initially, research questions may be written as descriptive questions which could be developed into inferential questions. These questions must be specific and concise to provide a clear foundation for developing hypotheses. Hypotheses are more formal predictions about the research outcomes. These specify the possible results that may or may not be expected regarding the relationship between groups. Thus, research questions and hypotheses clarify the main purpose and specific objectives of the study, which in turn dictate the design of the study, its direction, and outcome. Studies developed from good research questions and hypotheses will have trustworthy outcomes with wide-ranging social and health implications.


Scientific research is usually initiated by posing evidenced-based research questions which are then explicitly restated as hypotheses. 1 , 2 The hypotheses provide directions to guide the study, solutions, explanations, and expected results. 3 , 4 Both research questions and hypotheses are essentially formulated based on conventional theories and real-world processes, which allow the inception of novel studies and the ethical testing of ideas. 5 , 6

It is crucial to have knowledge of both quantitative and qualitative research 2 as both types of research involve writing research questions and hypotheses. 7 However, these crucial elements of research are sometimes overlooked; if not overlooked, then framed without the forethought and meticulous attention it needs. Planning and careful consideration are needed when developing quantitative or qualitative research, particularly when conceptualizing research questions and hypotheses. 4

There is a continuing need to support researchers in the creation of innovative research questions and hypotheses, as well as for journal articles that carefully review these elements. 1 When research questions and hypotheses are not carefully thought of, unethical studies and poor outcomes usually ensue. Carefully formulated research questions and hypotheses define well-founded objectives, which in turn determine the appropriate design, course, and outcome of the study. This article then aims to discuss in detail the various aspects of crafting research questions and hypotheses, with the goal of guiding researchers as they develop their own. Examples from the authors and peer-reviewed scientific articles in the healthcare field are provided to illustrate key points.


A research question is what a study aims to answer after data analysis and interpretation. The answer is written in length in the discussion section of the paper. Thus, the research question gives a preview of the different parts and variables of the study meant to address the problem posed in the research question. 1 An excellent research question clarifies the research writing while facilitating understanding of the research topic, objective, scope, and limitations of the study. 5

On the other hand, a research hypothesis is an educated statement of an expected outcome. This statement is based on background research and current knowledge. 8 , 9 The research hypothesis makes a specific prediction about a new phenomenon 10 or a formal statement on the expected relationship between an independent variable and a dependent variable. 3 , 11 It provides a tentative answer to the research question to be tested or explored. 4

Hypotheses employ reasoning to predict a theory-based outcome. 10 These can also be developed from theories by focusing on components of theories that have not yet been observed. 10 The validity of hypotheses is often based on the testability of the prediction made in a reproducible experiment. 8

Conversely, hypotheses can also be rephrased as research questions. Several hypotheses based on existing theories and knowledge may be needed to answer a research question. Developing ethical research questions and hypotheses creates a research design that has logical relationships among variables. These relationships serve as a solid foundation for the conduct of the study. 4 , 11 Haphazardly constructed research questions can result in poorly formulated hypotheses and improper study designs, leading to unreliable results. Thus, the formulations of relevant research questions and verifiable hypotheses are crucial when beginning research. 12


Excellent research questions are specific and focused. These integrate collective data and observations to confirm or refute the subsequent hypotheses. Well-constructed hypotheses are based on previous reports and verify the research context. These are realistic, in-depth, sufficiently complex, and reproducible. More importantly, these hypotheses can be addressed and tested. 13

There are several characteristics of well-developed hypotheses. Good hypotheses are 1) empirically testable 7 , 10 , 11 , 13 ; 2) backed by preliminary evidence 9 ; 3) testable by ethical research 7 , 9 ; 4) based on original ideas 9 ; 5) have evidenced-based logical reasoning 10 ; and 6) can be predicted. 11 Good hypotheses can infer ethical and positive implications, indicating the presence of a relationship or effect relevant to the research theme. 7 , 11 These are initially developed from a general theory and branch into specific hypotheses by deductive reasoning. In the absence of a theory to base the hypotheses, inductive reasoning based on specific observations or findings form more general hypotheses. 10


Research questions and hypotheses are developed according to the type of research, which can be broadly classified into quantitative and qualitative research. We provide a summary of the types of research questions and hypotheses under quantitative and qualitative research categories in Table 1 .

Research questions in quantitative research

In quantitative research, research questions inquire about the relationships among variables being investigated and are usually framed at the start of the study. These are precise and typically linked to the subject population, dependent and independent variables, and research design. 1 Research questions may also attempt to describe the behavior of a population in relation to one or more variables, or describe the characteristics of variables to be measured ( descriptive research questions ). 1 , 5 , 14 These questions may also aim to discover differences between groups within the context of an outcome variable ( comparative research questions ), 1 , 5 , 14 or elucidate trends and interactions among variables ( relationship research questions ). 1 , 5 We provide examples of descriptive, comparative, and relationship research questions in quantitative research in Table 2 .

Hypotheses in quantitative research

In quantitative research, hypotheses predict the expected relationships among variables. 15 Relationships among variables that can be predicted include 1) between a single dependent variable and a single independent variable ( simple hypothesis ) or 2) between two or more independent and dependent variables ( complex hypothesis ). 4 , 11 Hypotheses may also specify the expected direction to be followed and imply an intellectual commitment to a particular outcome ( directional hypothesis ) 4 . On the other hand, hypotheses may not predict the exact direction and are used in the absence of a theory, or when findings contradict previous studies ( non-directional hypothesis ). 4 In addition, hypotheses can 1) define interdependency between variables ( associative hypothesis ), 4 2) propose an effect on the dependent variable from manipulation of the independent variable ( causal hypothesis ), 4 3) state a negative relationship between two variables ( null hypothesis ), 4 , 11 , 15 4) replace the working hypothesis if rejected ( alternative hypothesis ), 15 explain the relationship of phenomena to possibly generate a theory ( working hypothesis ), 11 5) involve quantifiable variables that can be tested statistically ( statistical hypothesis ), 11 6) or express a relationship whose interlinks can be verified logically ( logical hypothesis ). 11 We provide examples of simple, complex, directional, non-directional, associative, causal, null, alternative, working, statistical, and logical hypotheses in quantitative research, as well as the definition of quantitative hypothesis-testing research in Table 3 .

Research questions in qualitative research

Unlike research questions in quantitative research, research questions in qualitative research are usually continuously reviewed and reformulated. The central question and associated subquestions are stated more than the hypotheses. 15 The central question broadly explores a complex set of factors surrounding the central phenomenon, aiming to present the varied perspectives of participants. 15

There are varied goals for which qualitative research questions are developed. These questions can function in several ways, such as to 1) identify and describe existing conditions ( contextual research question s); 2) describe a phenomenon ( descriptive research questions ); 3) assess the effectiveness of existing methods, protocols, theories, or procedures ( evaluation research questions ); 4) examine a phenomenon or analyze the reasons or relationships between subjects or phenomena ( explanatory research questions ); or 5) focus on unknown aspects of a particular topic ( exploratory research questions ). 5 In addition, some qualitative research questions provide new ideas for the development of theories and actions ( generative research questions ) or advance specific ideologies of a position ( ideological research questions ). 1 Other qualitative research questions may build on a body of existing literature and become working guidelines ( ethnographic research questions ). Research questions may also be broadly stated without specific reference to the existing literature or a typology of questions ( phenomenological research questions ), may be directed towards generating a theory of some process ( grounded theory questions ), or may address a description of the case and the emerging themes ( qualitative case study questions ). 15 We provide examples of contextual, descriptive, evaluation, explanatory, exploratory, generative, ideological, ethnographic, phenomenological, grounded theory, and qualitative case study research questions in qualitative research in Table 4 , and the definition of qualitative hypothesis-generating research in Table 5 .

Qualitative studies usually pose at least one central research question and several subquestions starting with How or What . These research questions use exploratory verbs such as explore or describe . These also focus on one central phenomenon of interest, and may mention the participants and research site. 15

Hypotheses in qualitative research

Hypotheses in qualitative research are stated in the form of a clear statement concerning the problem to be investigated. Unlike in quantitative research where hypotheses are usually developed to be tested, qualitative research can lead to both hypothesis-testing and hypothesis-generating outcomes. 2 When studies require both quantitative and qualitative research questions, this suggests an integrative process between both research methods wherein a single mixed-methods research question can be developed. 1


Research questions followed by hypotheses should be developed before the start of the study. 1 , 12 , 14 It is crucial to develop feasible research questions on a topic that is interesting to both the researcher and the scientific community. This can be achieved by a meticulous review of previous and current studies to establish a novel topic. Specific areas are subsequently focused on to generate ethical research questions. The relevance of the research questions is evaluated in terms of clarity of the resulting data, specificity of the methodology, objectivity of the outcome, depth of the research, and impact of the study. 1 , 5 These aspects constitute the FINER criteria (i.e., Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, and Relevant). 1 Clarity and effectiveness are achieved if research questions meet the FINER criteria. In addition to the FINER criteria, Ratan et al. described focus, complexity, novelty, feasibility, and measurability for evaluating the effectiveness of research questions. 14

The PICOT and PEO frameworks are also used when developing research questions. 1 The following elements are addressed in these frameworks, PICOT: P-population/patients/problem, I-intervention or indicator being studied, C-comparison group, O-outcome of interest, and T-timeframe of the study; PEO: P-population being studied, E-exposure to preexisting conditions, and O-outcome of interest. 1 Research questions are also considered good if these meet the “FINERMAPS” framework: Feasible, Interesting, Novel, Ethical, Relevant, Manageable, Appropriate, Potential value/publishable, and Systematic. 14

As we indicated earlier, research questions and hypotheses that are not carefully formulated result in unethical studies or poor outcomes. To illustrate this, we provide some examples of ambiguous research question and hypotheses that result in unclear and weak research objectives in quantitative research ( Table 6 ) 16 and qualitative research ( Table 7 ) 17 , and how to transform these ambiguous research question(s) and hypothesis(es) into clear and good statements.

a These statements were composed for comparison and illustrative purposes only.

b These statements are direct quotes from Higashihara and Horiuchi. 16

a This statement is a direct quote from Shimoda et al. 17

The other statements were composed for comparison and illustrative purposes only.


To construct effective research questions and hypotheses, it is very important to 1) clarify the background and 2) identify the research problem at the outset of the research, within a specific timeframe. 9 Then, 3) review or conduct preliminary research to collect all available knowledge about the possible research questions by studying theories and previous studies. 18 Afterwards, 4) construct research questions to investigate the research problem. Identify variables to be accessed from the research questions 4 and make operational definitions of constructs from the research problem and questions. Thereafter, 5) construct specific deductive or inductive predictions in the form of hypotheses. 4 Finally, 6) state the study aims . This general flow for constructing effective research questions and hypotheses prior to conducting research is shown in Fig. 1 .

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Research questions are used more frequently in qualitative research than objectives or hypotheses. 3 These questions seek to discover, understand, explore or describe experiences by asking “What” or “How.” The questions are open-ended to elicit a description rather than to relate variables or compare groups. The questions are continually reviewed, reformulated, and changed during the qualitative study. 3 Research questions are also used more frequently in survey projects than hypotheses in experiments in quantitative research to compare variables and their relationships.

Hypotheses are constructed based on the variables identified and as an if-then statement, following the template, ‘If a specific action is taken, then a certain outcome is expected.’ At this stage, some ideas regarding expectations from the research to be conducted must be drawn. 18 Then, the variables to be manipulated (independent) and influenced (dependent) are defined. 4 Thereafter, the hypothesis is stated and refined, and reproducible data tailored to the hypothesis are identified, collected, and analyzed. 4 The hypotheses must be testable and specific, 18 and should describe the variables and their relationships, the specific group being studied, and the predicted research outcome. 18 Hypotheses construction involves a testable proposition to be deduced from theory, and independent and dependent variables to be separated and measured separately. 3 Therefore, good hypotheses must be based on good research questions constructed at the start of a study or trial. 12

In summary, research questions are constructed after establishing the background of the study. Hypotheses are then developed based on the research questions. Thus, it is crucial to have excellent research questions to generate superior hypotheses. In turn, these would determine the research objectives and the design of the study, and ultimately, the outcome of the research. 12 Algorithms for building research questions and hypotheses are shown in Fig. 2 for quantitative research and in Fig. 3 for qualitative research.

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  • EXAMPLE 1. Descriptive research question (quantitative research)
  • - Presents research variables to be assessed (distinct phenotypes and subphenotypes)
  • “BACKGROUND: Since COVID-19 was identified, its clinical and biological heterogeneity has been recognized. Identifying COVID-19 phenotypes might help guide basic, clinical, and translational research efforts.
  • RESEARCH QUESTION: Does the clinical spectrum of patients with COVID-19 contain distinct phenotypes and subphenotypes? ” 19
  • EXAMPLE 2. Relationship research question (quantitative research)
  • - Shows interactions between dependent variable (static postural control) and independent variable (peripheral visual field loss)
  • “Background: Integration of visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive sensations contributes to postural control. People with peripheral visual field loss have serious postural instability. However, the directional specificity of postural stability and sensory reweighting caused by gradual peripheral visual field loss remain unclear.
  • Research question: What are the effects of peripheral visual field loss on static postural control ?” 20
  • EXAMPLE 3. Comparative research question (quantitative research)
  • - Clarifies the difference among groups with an outcome variable (patients enrolled in COMPERA with moderate PH or severe PH in COPD) and another group without the outcome variable (patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH))
  • “BACKGROUND: Pulmonary hypertension (PH) in COPD is a poorly investigated clinical condition.
  • RESEARCH QUESTION: Which factors determine the outcome of PH in COPD?
  • STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: We analyzed the characteristics and outcome of patients enrolled in the Comparative, Prospective Registry of Newly Initiated Therapies for Pulmonary Hypertension (COMPERA) with moderate or severe PH in COPD as defined during the 6th PH World Symposium who received medical therapy for PH and compared them with patients with idiopathic pulmonary arterial hypertension (IPAH) .” 21
  • EXAMPLE 4. Exploratory research question (qualitative research)
  • - Explores areas that have not been fully investigated (perspectives of families and children who receive care in clinic-based child obesity treatment) to have a deeper understanding of the research problem
  • “Problem: Interventions for children with obesity lead to only modest improvements in BMI and long-term outcomes, and data are limited on the perspectives of families of children with obesity in clinic-based treatment. This scoping review seeks to answer the question: What is known about the perspectives of families and children who receive care in clinic-based child obesity treatment? This review aims to explore the scope of perspectives reported by families of children with obesity who have received individualized outpatient clinic-based obesity treatment.” 22
  • EXAMPLE 5. Relationship research question (quantitative research)
  • - Defines interactions between dependent variable (use of ankle strategies) and independent variable (changes in muscle tone)
  • “Background: To maintain an upright standing posture against external disturbances, the human body mainly employs two types of postural control strategies: “ankle strategy” and “hip strategy.” While it has been reported that the magnitude of the disturbance alters the use of postural control strategies, it has not been elucidated how the level of muscle tone, one of the crucial parameters of bodily function, determines the use of each strategy. We have previously confirmed using forward dynamics simulations of human musculoskeletal models that an increased muscle tone promotes the use of ankle strategies. The objective of the present study was to experimentally evaluate a hypothesis: an increased muscle tone promotes the use of ankle strategies. Research question: Do changes in the muscle tone affect the use of ankle strategies ?” 23


  • EXAMPLE 1. Working hypothesis (quantitative research)
  • - A hypothesis that is initially accepted for further research to produce a feasible theory
  • “As fever may have benefit in shortening the duration of viral illness, it is plausible to hypothesize that the antipyretic efficacy of ibuprofen may be hindering the benefits of a fever response when taken during the early stages of COVID-19 illness .” 24
  • “In conclusion, it is plausible to hypothesize that the antipyretic efficacy of ibuprofen may be hindering the benefits of a fever response . The difference in perceived safety of these agents in COVID-19 illness could be related to the more potent efficacy to reduce fever with ibuprofen compared to acetaminophen. Compelling data on the benefit of fever warrant further research and review to determine when to treat or withhold ibuprofen for early stage fever for COVID-19 and other related viral illnesses .” 24
  • EXAMPLE 2. Exploratory hypothesis (qualitative research)
  • - Explores particular areas deeper to clarify subjective experience and develop a formal hypothesis potentially testable in a future quantitative approach
  • “We hypothesized that when thinking about a past experience of help-seeking, a self distancing prompt would cause increased help-seeking intentions and more favorable help-seeking outcome expectations .” 25
  • “Conclusion
  • Although a priori hypotheses were not supported, further research is warranted as results indicate the potential for using self-distancing approaches to increasing help-seeking among some people with depressive symptomatology.” 25
  • EXAMPLE 3. Hypothesis-generating research to establish a framework for hypothesis testing (qualitative research)
  • “We hypothesize that compassionate care is beneficial for patients (better outcomes), healthcare systems and payers (lower costs), and healthcare providers (lower burnout). ” 26
  • Compassionomics is the branch of knowledge and scientific study of the effects of compassionate healthcare. Our main hypotheses are that compassionate healthcare is beneficial for (1) patients, by improving clinical outcomes, (2) healthcare systems and payers, by supporting financial sustainability, and (3) HCPs, by lowering burnout and promoting resilience and well-being. The purpose of this paper is to establish a scientific framework for testing the hypotheses above . If these hypotheses are confirmed through rigorous research, compassionomics will belong in the science of evidence-based medicine, with major implications for all healthcare domains.” 26
  • EXAMPLE 4. Statistical hypothesis (quantitative research)
  • - An assumption is made about the relationship among several population characteristics ( gender differences in sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of adults with ADHD ). Validity is tested by statistical experiment or analysis ( chi-square test, Students t-test, and logistic regression analysis)
  • “Our research investigated gender differences in sociodemographic and clinical characteristics of adults with ADHD in a Japanese clinical sample. Due to unique Japanese cultural ideals and expectations of women's behavior that are in opposition to ADHD symptoms, we hypothesized that women with ADHD experience more difficulties and present more dysfunctions than men . We tested the following hypotheses: first, women with ADHD have more comorbidities than men with ADHD; second, women with ADHD experience more social hardships than men, such as having less full-time employment and being more likely to be divorced.” 27
  • “Statistical Analysis
  • ( text omitted ) Between-gender comparisons were made using the chi-squared test for categorical variables and Students t-test for continuous variables…( text omitted ). A logistic regression analysis was performed for employment status, marital status, and comorbidity to evaluate the independent effects of gender on these dependent variables.” 27


  • EXAMPLE 1. Background, hypotheses, and aims are provided
  • “Pregnant women need skilled care during pregnancy and childbirth, but that skilled care is often delayed in some countries …( text omitted ). The focused antenatal care (FANC) model of WHO recommends that nurses provide information or counseling to all pregnant women …( text omitted ). Job aids are visual support materials that provide the right kind of information using graphics and words in a simple and yet effective manner. When nurses are not highly trained or have many work details to attend to, these job aids can serve as a content reminder for the nurses and can be used for educating their patients (Jennings, Yebadokpo, Affo, & Agbogbe, 2010) ( text omitted ). Importantly, additional evidence is needed to confirm how job aids can further improve the quality of ANC counseling by health workers in maternal care …( text omitted )” 28
  • “ This has led us to hypothesize that the quality of ANC counseling would be better if supported by job aids. Consequently, a better quality of ANC counseling is expected to produce higher levels of awareness concerning the danger signs of pregnancy and a more favorable impression of the caring behavior of nurses .” 28
  • “This study aimed to examine the differences in the responses of pregnant women to a job aid-supported intervention during ANC visit in terms of 1) their understanding of the danger signs of pregnancy and 2) their impression of the caring behaviors of nurses to pregnant women in rural Tanzania.” 28
  • EXAMPLE 2. Background, hypotheses, and aims are provided
  • “We conducted a two-arm randomized controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate and compare changes in salivary cortisol and oxytocin levels of first-time pregnant women between experimental and control groups. The women in the experimental group touched and held an infant for 30 min (experimental intervention protocol), whereas those in the control group watched a DVD movie of an infant (control intervention protocol). The primary outcome was salivary cortisol level and the secondary outcome was salivary oxytocin level.” 29
  • “ We hypothesize that at 30 min after touching and holding an infant, the salivary cortisol level will significantly decrease and the salivary oxytocin level will increase in the experimental group compared with the control group .” 29
  • EXAMPLE 3. Background, aim, and hypothesis are provided
  • “In countries where the maternal mortality ratio remains high, antenatal education to increase Birth Preparedness and Complication Readiness (BPCR) is considered one of the top priorities [1]. BPCR includes birth plans during the antenatal period, such as the birthplace, birth attendant, transportation, health facility for complications, expenses, and birth materials, as well as family coordination to achieve such birth plans. In Tanzania, although increasing, only about half of all pregnant women attend an antenatal clinic more than four times [4]. Moreover, the information provided during antenatal care (ANC) is insufficient. In the resource-poor settings, antenatal group education is a potential approach because of the limited time for individual counseling at antenatal clinics.” 30
  • “This study aimed to evaluate an antenatal group education program among pregnant women and their families with respect to birth-preparedness and maternal and infant outcomes in rural villages of Tanzania.” 30
  • “ The study hypothesis was if Tanzanian pregnant women and their families received a family-oriented antenatal group education, they would (1) have a higher level of BPCR, (2) attend antenatal clinic four or more times, (3) give birth in a health facility, (4) have less complications of women at birth, and (5) have less complications and deaths of infants than those who did not receive the education .” 30

Research questions and hypotheses are crucial components to any type of research, whether quantitative or qualitative. These questions should be developed at the very beginning of the study. Excellent research questions lead to superior hypotheses, which, like a compass, set the direction of research, and can often determine the successful conduct of the study. Many research studies have floundered because the development of research questions and subsequent hypotheses was not given the thought and meticulous attention needed. The development of research questions and hypotheses is an iterative process based on extensive knowledge of the literature and insightful grasp of the knowledge gap. Focused, concise, and specific research questions provide a strong foundation for constructing hypotheses which serve as formal predictions about the research outcomes. Research questions and hypotheses are crucial elements of research that should not be overlooked. They should be carefully thought of and constructed when planning research. This avoids unethical studies and poor outcomes by defining well-founded objectives that determine the design, course, and outcome of the study.

Disclosure: The authors have no potential conflicts of interest to disclose.

Author Contributions:

  • Conceptualization: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
  • Methodology: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
  • Writing - original draft: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
  • Writing - review & editing: Barroga E, Matanguihan GJ.
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The word qualitative implies an emphasis on the qualities of entities and on processes and meanings that are not experimentally examined or measured [if measured at all] in terms of quantity, amount, intensity, or frequency. Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the situational constraints that shape inquiry. Such researchers emphasize the value-laden nature of inquiry. They seek answers to questions that stress how social experience is created and given meaning. In contrast, quantitative studies emphasize the measurement and analysis of causal relationships between variables, not processes. Qualitative forms of inquiry are considered by many social and behavioral scientists to be as much a perspective on how to approach investigating a research problem as it is a method.

Denzin, Norman. K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. “Introduction: The Discipline and Practice of Qualitative Research.” In The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research . Norman. K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds. 3 rd edition. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2005), p. 10.

Characteristics of Qualitative Research

Below are the three key elements that define a qualitative research study and the applied forms each take in the investigation of a research problem.

  • Naturalistic -- refers to studying real-world situations as they unfold naturally; non-manipulative and non-controlling; the researcher is open to whatever emerges [i.e., there is a lack of predetermined constraints on findings].
  • Emergent -- acceptance of adapting inquiry as understanding deepens and/or situations change; the researcher avoids rigid designs that eliminate responding to opportunities to pursue new paths of discovery as they emerge.
  • Purposeful -- cases for study [e.g., people, organizations, communities, cultures, events, critical incidences] are selected because they are “information rich” and illuminative. That is, they offer useful manifestations of the phenomenon of interest; sampling is aimed at insight about the phenomenon, not empirical generalization derived from a sample and applied to a population.

The Collection of Data

  • Data -- observations yield a detailed, "thick description" [in-depth understanding]; interviews capture direct quotations about people’s personal perspectives and lived experiences; often derived from carefully conducted case studies and review of material culture.
  • Personal experience and engagement -- researcher has direct contact with and gets close to the people, situation, and phenomenon under investigation; the researcher’s personal experiences and insights are an important part of the inquiry and critical to understanding the phenomenon.
  • Empathic neutrality -- an empathic stance in working with study respondents seeks vicarious understanding without judgment [neutrality] by showing openness, sensitivity, respect, awareness, and responsiveness; in observation, it means being fully present [mindfulness].
  • Dynamic systems -- there is attention to process; assumes change is ongoing, whether the focus is on an individual, an organization, a community, or an entire culture, therefore, the researcher is mindful of and attentive to system and situational dynamics.

The Analysis

  • Unique case orientation -- assumes that each case is special and unique; the first level of analysis is being true to, respecting, and capturing the details of the individual cases being studied; cross-case analysis follows from and depends upon the quality of individual case studies.
  • Inductive analysis -- immersion in the details and specifics of the data to discover important patterns, themes, and inter-relationships; begins by exploring, then confirming findings, guided by analytical principles rather than rules.
  • Holistic perspective -- the whole phenomenon under study is understood as a complex system that is more than the sum of its parts; the focus is on complex interdependencies and system dynamics that cannot be reduced in any meaningful way to linear, cause and effect relationships and/or a few discrete variables.
  • Context sensitive -- places findings in a social, historical, and temporal context; researcher is careful about [even dubious of] the possibility or meaningfulness of generalizations across time and space; emphasizes careful comparative case study analysis and extrapolating patterns for possible transferability and adaptation in new settings.
  • Voice, perspective, and reflexivity -- the qualitative methodologist owns and is reflective about her or his own voice and perspective; a credible voice conveys authenticity and trustworthiness; complete objectivity being impossible and pure subjectivity undermining credibility, the researcher's focus reflects a balance between understanding and depicting the world authentically in all its complexity and of being self-analytical, politically aware, and reflexive in consciousness.

Berg, Bruce Lawrence. Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences . 8th edition. Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, 2012; Denzin, Norman. K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Handbook of Qualitative Research . 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000; Marshall, Catherine and Gretchen B. Rossman. Designing Qualitative Research . 2nd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1995; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009.

Basic Research Design for Qualitative Studies

Unlike positivist or experimental research that utilizes a linear and one-directional sequence of design steps, there is considerable variation in how a qualitative research study is organized. In general, qualitative researchers attempt to describe and interpret human behavior based primarily on the words of selected individuals [a.k.a., “informants” or “respondents”] and/or through the interpretation of their material culture or occupied space. There is a reflexive process underpinning every stage of a qualitative study to ensure that researcher biases, presuppositions, and interpretations are clearly evident, thus ensuring that the reader is better able to interpret the overall validity of the research. According to Maxwell (2009), there are five, not necessarily ordered or sequential, components in qualitative research designs. How they are presented depends upon the research philosophy and theoretical framework of the study, the methods chosen, and the general assumptions underpinning the study. Goals Describe the central research problem being addressed but avoid describing any anticipated outcomes. Questions to ask yourself are: Why is your study worth doing? What issues do you want to clarify, and what practices and policies do you want it to influence? Why do you want to conduct this study, and why should the reader care about the results? Conceptual Framework Questions to ask yourself are: What do you think is going on with the issues, settings, or people you plan to study? What theories, beliefs, and prior research findings will guide or inform your research, and what literature, preliminary studies, and personal experiences will you draw upon for understanding the people or issues you are studying? Note to not only report the results of other studies in your review of the literature, but note the methods used as well. If appropriate, describe why earlier studies using quantitative methods were inadequate in addressing the research problem. Research Questions Usually there is a research problem that frames your qualitative study and that influences your decision about what methods to use, but qualitative designs generally lack an accompanying hypothesis or set of assumptions because the findings are emergent and unpredictable. In this context, more specific research questions are generally the result of an interactive design process rather than the starting point for that process. Questions to ask yourself are: What do you specifically want to learn or understand by conducting this study? What do you not know about the things you are studying that you want to learn? What questions will your research attempt to answer, and how are these questions related to one another? Methods Structured approaches to applying a method or methods to your study help to ensure that there is comparability of data across sources and researchers and, thus, they can be useful in answering questions that deal with differences between phenomena and the explanation for these differences [variance questions]. An unstructured approach allows the researcher to focus on the particular phenomena studied. This facilitates an understanding of the processes that led to specific outcomes, trading generalizability and comparability for internal validity and contextual and evaluative understanding. Questions to ask yourself are: What will you actually do in conducting this study? What approaches and techniques will you use to collect and analyze your data, and how do these constitute an integrated strategy? Validity In contrast to quantitative studies where the goal is to design, in advance, “controls” such as formal comparisons, sampling strategies, or statistical manipulations to address anticipated and unanticipated threats to validity, qualitative researchers must attempt to rule out most threats to validity after the research has begun by relying on evidence collected during the research process itself in order to effectively argue that any alternative explanations for a phenomenon are implausible. Questions to ask yourself are: How might your results and conclusions be wrong? What are the plausible alternative interpretations and validity threats to these, and how will you deal with these? How can the data that you have, or that you could potentially collect, support or challenge your ideas about what’s going on? Why should we believe your results? Conclusion Although Maxwell does not mention a conclusion as one of the components of a qualitative research design, you should formally conclude your study. Briefly reiterate the goals of your study and the ways in which your research addressed them. Discuss the benefits of your study and how stakeholders can use your results. Also, note the limitations of your study and, if appropriate, place them in the context of areas in need of further research.

Chenail, Ronald J. Introduction to Qualitative Research Design. Nova Southeastern University; Heath, A. W. The Proposal in Qualitative Research. The Qualitative Report 3 (March 1997); Marshall, Catherine and Gretchen B. Rossman. Designing Qualitative Research . 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999; Maxwell, Joseph A. "Designing a Qualitative Study." In The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods . Leonard Bickman and Debra J. Rog, eds. 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009), p. 214-253; Qualitative Research Methods. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Yin, Robert K. Qualitative Research from Start to Finish . 2nd edition. New York: Guilford, 2015.

Strengths of Using Qualitative Methods

The advantage of using qualitative methods is that they generate rich, detailed data that leave the participants' perspectives intact and provide multiple contexts for understanding the phenomenon under study. In this way, qualitative research can be used to vividly demonstrate phenomena or to conduct cross-case comparisons and analysis of individuals or groups.

Among the specific strengths of using qualitative methods to study social science research problems is the ability to:

  • Obtain a more realistic view of the lived world that cannot be understood or experienced in numerical data and statistical analysis;
  • Provide the researcher with the perspective of the participants of the study through immersion in a culture or situation and as a result of direct interaction with them;
  • Allow the researcher to describe existing phenomena and current situations;
  • Develop flexible ways to perform data collection, subsequent analysis, and interpretation of collected information;
  • Yield results that can be helpful in pioneering new ways of understanding;
  • Respond to changes that occur while conducting the study ]e.g., extended fieldwork or observation] and offer the flexibility to shift the focus of the research as a result;
  • Provide a holistic view of the phenomena under investigation;
  • Respond to local situations, conditions, and needs of participants;
  • Interact with the research subjects in their own language and on their own terms; and,
  • Create a descriptive capability based on primary and unstructured data.

Anderson, Claire. “Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 74 (2010): 1-7; Denzin, Norman. K. and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Handbook of Qualitative Research . 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2000; Merriam, Sharan B. Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation . San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2009.

Limitations of Using Qualitative Methods

It is very much true that most of the limitations you find in using qualitative research techniques also reflect their inherent strengths . For example, small sample sizes help you investigate research problems in a comprehensive and in-depth manner. However, small sample sizes undermine opportunities to draw useful generalizations from, or to make broad policy recommendations based upon, the findings. Additionally, as the primary instrument of investigation, qualitative researchers are often embedded in the cultures and experiences of others. However, cultural embeddedness increases the opportunity for bias generated from conscious or unconscious assumptions about the study setting to enter into how data is gathered, interpreted, and reported.

Some specific limitations associated with using qualitative methods to study research problems in the social sciences include the following:

  • Drifting away from the original objectives of the study in response to the changing nature of the context under which the research is conducted;
  • Arriving at different conclusions based on the same information depending on the personal characteristics of the researcher;
  • Replication of a study is very difficult;
  • Research using human subjects increases the chance of ethical dilemmas that undermine the overall validity of the study;
  • An inability to investigate causality between different research phenomena;
  • Difficulty in explaining differences in the quality and quantity of information obtained from different respondents and arriving at different, non-consistent conclusions;
  • Data gathering and analysis is often time consuming and/or expensive;
  • Requires a high level of experience from the researcher to obtain the targeted information from the respondent;
  • May lack consistency and reliability because the researcher can employ different probing techniques and the respondent can choose to tell some particular stories and ignore others; and,
  • Generation of a significant amount of data that cannot be randomized into manageable parts for analysis.

Research Tip

Human Subject Research and Institutional Review Board Approval

Almost every socio-behavioral study requires you to submit your proposed research plan to an Institutional Review Board. The role of the Board is to evaluate your research proposal and determine whether it will be conducted ethically and under the regulations, institutional polices, and Code of Ethics set forth by the university. The purpose of the review is to protect the rights and welfare of individuals participating in your study. The review is intended to ensure equitable selection of respondents, that you have met the requirements for obtaining informed consent , that there is clear assessment and minimization of risks to participants and to the university [read: no lawsuits!], and that privacy and confidentiality are maintained throughout the research process and beyond. Go to the USC IRB website for detailed information and templates of forms you need to submit before you can proceed. If you are  unsure whether your study is subject to IRB review, consult with your professor or academic advisor.

Chenail, Ronald J. Introduction to Qualitative Research Design. Nova Southeastern University; Labaree, Robert V. "Working Successfully with Your Institutional Review Board: Practical Advice for Academic Librarians." College and Research Libraries News 71 (April 2010): 190-193.

Another Research Tip

Finding Examples of How to Apply Different Types of Research Methods

SAGE publications is a major publisher of studies about how to design and conduct research in the social and behavioral sciences. Their SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases database includes contents from books, articles, encyclopedias, handbooks, and videos covering social science research design and methods including the complete Little Green Book Series of Quantitative Applications in the Social Sciences and the Little Blue Book Series of Qualitative Research techniques. The database also includes case studies outlining the research methods used in real research projects. This is an excellent source for finding definitions of key terms and descriptions of research design and practice, techniques of data gathering, analysis, and reporting, and information about theories of research [e.g., grounded theory]. The database covers both qualitative and quantitative research methods as well as mixed methods approaches to conducting research.

SAGE Research Methods Online and Cases

NOTE :  For a list of online communities, research centers, indispensable learning resources, and personal websites of leading qualitative researchers, GO HERE .

For a list of scholarly journals devoted to the study and application of qualitative research methods, GO HERE .

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