Qualitative Research seeks to understand social phenomena from the viewpoints of those being studied, is holistic and relies on flexible research strategies, according to the World Health Organization. A research design is a research plan that includes methods of data collection and analysis. It has traditionally been used by academic disciplines, such as sociology, psychology and anthropology but is being increasingly used in applied professions like nursing, education and public health.

Unstructured Interviews

One specific type of qualitative research design is interviews. In the unstructured interview, the questions and answers are not specifically defined in advance. This is the most common method of collecting data in cultural anthropology.

Semi-Structured Interviews

Semi-structured interviews are conducted based on a written list of questions or topics. The order of the questions can vary and the researcher can follow new leads and topics arising during the course of the interview.

Structured Interviewing

At the other end of the spectrum is structured interviewing, in which the researcher asks all respondents exactly the same questions in the same order. Interviews can be conducted among groups as well as individuals.


Another type of qualitative research design is observation. Observation can reveal habits the subjects are unaware of and can help place behavior in context. One way of observing is unobtrusive where the subjects do not know they are being watched or in an obvious way, where they do. Unobtrusive methods are subject to serious ethical dilemmas. The investigator can either participate in the events he is observing or not . Like interviews, observation can be structured, where the behaviors to be observed are more specifically defined or unstructured. Observation can be done through continuous monitoring or through spot checks.

Related Articles