Qualitative Data

Qualitative data is extremely varied in nature. It includes virtually any information that can be captured that is not numerical in nature. Here are some of the major categories or types:

In-Depth Interviews

In-Depth Interviews include both individual interviews (e.g., one-on-one) as well as “group” interviews (including focus groups). The data can be recorded in a wide variety of ways including stenography, audio recording, video recording or written notes. In depth interviews differ from direct observation primarily in the nature of the interaction. In interviews it is assumed that there is a questioner and one or more interviewees. The purpose of the interview is to probe the ideas of the interviewees about the phenomenon of interest.

Direct Observation

Direct observation is meant very broadly here. It differs from interviewing in that the observer does not actively query the respondent. It can include everything from field research where one lives in another context or culture for a period of time to photographs that illustrate some aspect of the phenomenon. The data can be recorded in many of the same ways as interviews (stenography, audio, video) and through pictures, photos or drawings (e.g., those courtroom drawings of witnesses are a form of direct observation).

Written Documents

Usually this refers to existing documents (as opposed transcripts of interviews conducted for the research). It can include newspapers, magazines, books, websites, memos, transcripts of conversations, annual reports, and so on. Usually written documents are analyzed with some form of content analysis.