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Theory of Qualitative Research

There are many types of case studies, but mostly, they are often a subtype of the following categories. Illustrative case studies are aimed at providing general knowledge about a subject, and therefore, are comprised of descriptive information (Epler, 2019). These case studies use real-life events to give a more favourable description and provide examples (Epler, 2019). Cumulative case studies are the synthesis of available information about a subject (George, 2019). The goal is to generalise the subject matter without conducting new research (George, 2019). These case studies also help identify areas that have already been studied and hint at topics that need further examination.

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In quantitative research, a hypothesis is a claim that will be tested during the study. In qualitative research, however, a hypothesis is given a different role. The primary goal of a hypothesis is to provide a general understanding of what should be investigated during the research (Flick, 2018). The outcome of qualitative research is a new theory that has not been previously examined. These emerging theories can then be tested using quantitative approaches (Silverman, 2016). While many aspiring researchers attempt to find ways to test a hypothesis in qualitative research, it should be noted that the aim of such a study is not proving a hypothesis, but instead discovering new areas that may be of interest.

Coding is an essential part of qualitative research and is often the most time-consuming phase. Coding means categorising and labelling available data, but some researchers emphasise that it presupposes finding relationships between the research topic and a specific idea (Wicks, 2017). The quality of coding largely determines the quality of the research (Wicks, 2017). Time is the most significant challenge – it takes time and experience to code well (Belotto, 2018). This obstacle can be overcome by peer-review process and setting feasible deadlines. Another problem is deciding on the extent to which the existing theory will guide the process (Belotto, 2018). This challenge is worth considering because the goal of any research is to enlarge the boundaries of science. It is not possible to achieve this aim by relying only on the existing theory. Researchers try to overcome this challenge by seeking balance – while existing theory guides the process, it does not put restrictions.

Often, qualitative research relies on the results of in-person interviews. The design of these interviews is vital because challenges may arise if the conversation is designed inadequately (Azevedo et al., 2017). One instance of many possible obstacles is the reluctance of an individual being interviewed to answer questions posed by the interviewer (Azevedo et al., 2017). Such a situation may result in failure to collect information. Another challenge is the use of reported data by participants. In many cases, individuals rely on reported information when drawing conclusions or making claims (Powney & Watts, 2018). It is often not possible to assess the credibility of such data, which may render the whole research as unreliable.

Traditionally, scientific studies had been labelled as either quantitative or qualitative. However, there has been a shift toward mixed methods – it is a study that is comprised of both the qualitative and quantitative approaches (Green et al., 2015). Researchers may aim at testing a hypothesis that they formulate through qualitative findings. Alternatively, when an experiment suggests a causal relationship, qualitative methods may be used to explain why this relationship exists (Gunasekare, 2015). The latter form of a mixed-method study aligns more comfortably with values of the qualitative research paradigm, because the emphasis put on the philosophical and theoretical underpinnings, rather than statistical proofs.


Azevedo, V., Carvalho, M., Fernandes-Costa, F., Mesquita, S., Soares, J., Teixeira, F., & Maia, Â. (2017). Interview transcription: Conceptual issues, practical guidelines, and challenges. Revista de Enfermagem Referência, 4(14), 159-167.

Belotto, M. J. (2018). Data analysis methods for qualitative research: Managing the challenges of coding, interrater reliability, and thematic analysis. The Qualitative Report, 23(11), 2622-2633.

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Epler, P. (2019). Types of case studies. In A. Baron & K. McNeal (Eds.), Case study methodology in higher education (pp. 20-46). IGI Global.

Flick, U. (2018). Designing qualitative research. Sage.

George, A. L. (2019). Alexander L. George: A pioneer in political and social sciences. Springer.

Green, C. A., Duan, N., Gibbons, R. D., Hoagwood, K. E., Palinkas, L. A., & Wisdom, J. P. (2015). Approaches to mixed methods dissemination and implementation research: Methods, strengths, caveats, and opportunities. Administration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research, 42(5), 508-523.

Gunasekare, D. U. (2015). Mixed research method as the third research paradigm: A literature review. International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR), 2015(1), 1-7.

Powney, J., & Watts, M. (2018). Interviewing in educational research. Routledge.

Silverman, D. (Ed.). (2016). Qualitative research. Sage.

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Wicks, D. (2017). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Emerald Publishing.

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