Limitations and weakness of qualitative research methods

In order to gain in-depth knowledge of underlying reasons and motivations, qualitative research is conducted. However, qualitative research also have limitations. In my previous article I discussed about the limitations of quantitative research approach.  In this paper I would be discussing about 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 influences the observations and conclusions related to research problem.

For example, if the interview conducted with 15 teachers from 5 different schools on the effect of digital integration in 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.

For example, quantitative data like salary/compensation and years of experience is verified from school records. However, it is difficult to verify qualitative information like teachers’ perception on interactive classroom session or its 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 derrived based on the same information depending on the personal characteristics of the researcher (Maxwell 2005).

Difficult to investigate causality

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

For example, 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 perspective which is difficult to gauge. It is due to the lack of statistical results, which would have made the procedure more systematic.

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

References 

  • 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: https://books.google.co.in/books/about/Qualitative_Research_Design.html?id=XqaJP-iehskC&pgis=1 [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: http://link.springer.com/10.1007/978-94-007-5494-2_2 [Accessed August 1, 2016].
Examples of threats to the internal and external validity of a researchImportance of ethical considerations in a research

Priya Chetty

Partner at Project Guru
Priya is a master in business administration with majors in marketing and finance. She is fluent with data modelling, time series analysis, various regression models, forecasting and interpretation of the data. She has assisted data scientists, corporates, scholars in the field of finance, banking, economics and marketing.
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7 thoughts on “Limitations and weakness of qualitative research methods”
  1. Pingback: Research Methods – JULIE CREES

  2. Avatar FRANCIS BOAHEN 1 year & 9 months ago

    Please what is the appropriate design for case study?

  3. Avatar Avishek Majumder 1 year & 7 months ago

    Hi Mr. Francis,
    The appropriate research designs for case study base qualitative research are explanatory, descriptive and exploratory. It also depends on the type of subject area you are focusing on. Design changes if it’s clinical or environmental based studies.

  4. Avatar pat 1 year & 4 months ago

    whats is the limited generalizability ? and what is the example ?

  5. Avatar LUGOLOBI SIMON PETER 1 year ago

    great notes

  6. Avatar Irene 1 year ago

    What is the perception centred?and what are the examples?

    • Avatar Priya 1 year ago

      Dear Irene,
      I did not understand your question. Which perception are you referring to?

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