Limitations and weakness of qualitative research methods

By Priya Chetty on September 11, 2016

In order to gain in-depth knowledge of underlying reasons and motivations, qualitative research is conducted. However, qualitative research also has limitations. In my previous article, I discussed the limitations of the quantitative research approach.  In this paper, I would be discussing the limitations with respect to qualitative research.

Time-consuming process 

The major drawback associated with qualitative cultural analysis is that this process is time-consuming. The second potential problem with qualitative research is that a particular problem could go unnoticed (Bowen 2006). Also, the interpretations of researchers are limited. Personal experience and knowledge influence the observations and conclusions related to the research problem.


If the interview was conducted with 15 teachers from 5 different schools on the effect of digital integration in the classroom teaching-learning process on the learning/understanding level of Class 9 students. Data collection will be time-consuming as it will be collected based on appointment dates fixed with individual respondents.

The entire process thus might take several weeks or months. Besides, the varied perspectives recorded will be analyzed based on the limited understanding of the researcher. Also, since qualitative study delves into personal interaction for data collection, often discussion tends to deviate from the main issue to be studied.

No result verification in qualitative research

As qualitative research is mostly open-ended, the participants have more control over the content of the data collected.  So the researcher is not able to verify the results objectively against the scenarios stated by the respondents.


Quantitative data like salary/compensation and years of experience are verified from school records. However, it is difficult to verify qualitative information like teachers’ perceptions of interactive classroom sessions or their effects on teenage students.

Labour intensive approach

The qualitative study requires a labour-intensive analysis process such as categorization, recoding, etc (Elo & Kyngäs 2008). Similarly, qualitative research requires well-experienced researchers to obtain the targeted data from the group of respondents. Also, different conclusions are derived based on the same information depending on the personal characteristics of the researcher (Maxwell 2005).

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Difficult to investigate causality

Researchers find it difficult to investigate causality between different research phenomena. Qualitative research is a little complex to explain the difference in the quality and quantity of information obtained from different respondents and arrive at non-consistent conclusions (Barbour 2000).


To determine if human development is dependent on the level of education, interview or focus group data is collected from the residents of Uttar Pradesh. It is difficult to determine the effect, owing to varied perspectives which is difficult to gauge. It is due to the lack of statistical results, which would have made the procedure more systematic.

The qualitative study requires thoughtful planning to ensure the obtained results accurately. There is no way to analyze the qualitative data mathematically. This type of research is based more on opinion and judgment rather than the results. All the qualitative studies are unique in themselves so it is difficult to replicate.


  • Barbour, R.S., 2000. The role of qualitative research in broadening the “evidence base” for clinical practice. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 6(2), pp.155–163.
  • Baxter, P., 2008. Qualitative Case Study Methodology: Study Design and Implementation for Novice Researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), pp.544–559.
  • Bowen, G.A., 2006. Document Analysis as a Qualitative Research Method. Qualitative Research Journal, 9(2), pp.27 – 40.
  • Elo, S. & Kyngäs, H., 2008. The qualitative content analysis process. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 62(1), pp.107–115.
  • Maxwell, J.A., 2005. Qualitative Research Design: An Interactive Approach, SAGE Publications. Available at: [Accessed May 20, 2015].
  • Morgan, G., 1980. The Case for Qualitative Research. Academy of Management Journal, 5(4), pp.491–500.
  • Ong, S.-E., 2003. Mass spectrometric-based approaches in quantitative proteomics. Methods, 29(2), pp.124–130.
  • Saunders, M., Lewis, P. & Thornhill, A., 2009. Research Methods for Business Students 5th ed., Essex, England: Pearson Education Limited.
  • Science, J. of D., 2001. Invited Review: Integrating Quantitative Findings from Multiple Studies Using Mixed Model Methodology. Journal of Dairy Science, 84(4), pp.741–755.
  • Simon, M.K., 2011. Dissertation and scholarly research: Recipes for success, Seattle, W.A.: Dissertation Success LLC.
  • Younus, M.A.F., 2014. Research Methodology. In Vulnerability and Adaptation to Climate Change in Bangladesh: Processes, Assessment and Effects (Springer Theses). Springer, pp. 35–76. Available at: [Accessed August 1, 2016].

Priya is the co-founder and Managing Partner of Project Guru, a research and analytics firm based in Gurgaon. She is responsible for the human resource planning and operations functions. Her expertise in analytics has been used in a number of service-based industries like education and financial services.

Her foundational educational is from St. Xaviers High School (Mumbai). She also holds MBA degree in Marketing and Finance from the Indian Institute of Planning and Management, Delhi (2008).

Some of the notable projects she has worked on include:

  • Using systems thinking to improve sustainability in operations: A study carried out in Malaysia in partnership with Universiti Kuala Lumpur.
  • Assessing customer satisfaction with in-house doctors of Jiva Ayurveda (a project executed for the company)
  • Predicting the potential impact of green hydrogen microgirds (A project executed for the Government of South Africa)

She is a key contributor to the in-house research platform Knowledge Tank.

She currently holds over 300 citations from her contributions to the platform.

She has also been a guest speaker at various institutes such as JIMS (Delhi), BPIT (Delhi), and SVU (Tirupati).



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