Types of Qualitative Data

Types of Qualitative Data

This module will provide an overview of the most common types of data collection methods used in qualitative research studies. It also includes an assessment of the advantages and disadvantages of each method.

Learning Objectives

  • To describe different types of qualitative data collection methods
  • To compare and contrast the methods
  • To recognize which method of data collection is the most appropriate for a given research topic.


As discussed in the previous model, there are five common approaches to studying a qualitative research question. Those approaches included ethnography, phenomenology, narrative research, grounded theory, and case studies. Once you have selected the appropriate approach, you will need to determine the best method for collecting data. Several of these approaches may lend themselves to more than type of data collection method. The following chart provides an overview of the most common types of data collection methods. It includes a description, advantages, disadvantages, and a list of the qualitative approaches for which each type of data collection would be appropriate.


qual data chart 3.GIF

Because there are multiple methods that may be appropriate for collecting data for the approach you have chosen, you will need to spend some time considering which method is the best fit. Factors that should be considered when selecting a method include the objectives of the research, feasibility, time, funding, logistics, experience of research team, the type of participants and so forth. The following links may provide additional insight:

The following YouTube video provides an overview of some of the most common types of qualitative data collection methods as well as a discussion of advantages and disadvantages of each.

Suggested Readings

Berg, B. L., & Lune, H. (2004). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (Vol. 5). Boston: Pearson.
Creswell, J. W. (2012). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches. Sage.
Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. Sage Publications, Incorporated.
Dey, I. (2003). Qualitative data analysis: A user friendly guide for social scientists. Routledge.
Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook. Sage.
Judd, C. M., McClelland, G. H., & Ryan, C. S. (2009). Data analysis: A model comparison approach . Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.
Patton, M. Q. (1990). Qualitative evaluation and research methods . SAGE Publications, Inc.
Quinn, G. G. P., & Keough, M. J. (2002). Experimental design and data analysis for biologists. Cambridge University Press.

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