Qualitative Data Collection

Qualitative data collection involves normally collecting non-numerical information about a phenomenon. The data collected can be text, pictures, and numerical observation at times. This post will examine differences between qualitative and quantitative research as well as the steps of qualitative data collection

Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research

There are several major difference between qualitative and quantitative data collection.

  • Qualitative relies on a much smaller sample size using purposeful sampling while quantitative involves larger samples selected through random/non-random sampling.
  • Qualitative uses open-ended questions while quantitative uses closed questions when interviewing
  • Qualitative researchers almost always develop their own instruments while quantitative researchers use other people’s instruments.
  • Qualitative research involves personal contact with the respondents while quantitative research does not necessarily require this.
  • Qualitative research tries to help us understand a central phenomenon better while quantitative research seeks to test theories.

Steps of Qualitative Data Collection

Anything that involves qualitative research is rarely linear in nature. This means that the steps mention below does not necessarily happen in the order present. Qualitative research is often iterative and involves repeating steps, moving back and forth as well. In general, it is common to see the following steps happen in qualitative research.

  1. Determine participants-This involves deciding who you will collect data from by identifying a population and appropriate sampling strategy.
  2. Ethical concerns-This relates to obtaining the needed permissions to contact the sample population.
  3. Decide what to collect-You need to determine what information that the participants supply is needed to answer your research questions.
  4. Develop instrument-Design interview protocol
  5. Administer instrument-Conduct the data collection

Again, the process is often never this simple and straightforward. Regardless of the order in which these steps take place, all of the steps need to happen at one time or another when conducting qualitatively.


Qualitative research provides an alternative view to understanding the world. By relying on text and images, qualitative research provides a research description of reality in comparison to quantitative research. In general, there are five steps to qualitative research. The order of the completion of these steps vary but all should be completed when conducting qualitative research.

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