Insights into Invaluable Qualitative Research Questions + 5 Examples

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Learn some of the key components of qualitative research questions + 5 examples

When we think about research questions, we think of two main types: qualitative and quantitative. Where quantitive questions measure data, metrics, numbers, the “what”, and the quantifiable aspects of our inquiry, qualitative data explore the “why” and “how” of the matter.

Examples of quantitative questions:

  • How many people use the public restroom per day?
  • What is the median income of a resident in X city?

Qualitative research helps answer questions about how people feel and what they think, rather than simply what they do. Qualitative research involves descriptors rather than numbers and seeks to understand human experiences through narrative, phenomenological, and ethnographical examination. Qualitative research is inductive, going from the specific to the general or in other words deeply exploring individual experiences to develop a greater understanding of the larger picture.

Examples of qualitative questions:

  • What brought you to use the app?
  • How did it feel using the new feature?

Qualitative research can help us gain detailed information about people’s experiences by “addressing questions beyond ‘what works’, towards ‘what works for whom when, how and why, and focusing on intervention improvement rather than accreditation1,”

What Are The Qualitative Research Methods?

There are many options for conducting qualitative research. The following is a list of popular methods:

  • One-on-one Interview
  • Focus Groups
  • Ethnographic research
  • Record keeping
  • Observations
  • Case study research
  • Phenomenology
  • Grounded theory
  • The Point of Curiosity

To begin crafting your research questions, consider what you want to know about the topic you’re studying. If you release a new feature on your app, for example, you may want to know how that feature is being experienced by your users.

The Overarching Question

It is essential to ask a guiding question that provides a focus for the study. From there, we can determine what kinds of data need to be collected.

Imagine you have several questions about how the users of your product feel about an update to the product. You want to know if they enjoyed the look of the new product, how they like the smell of it, and whether they prefer the old version or the new version. This can be boiled down to a single question.

What are the customers’ thoughts on the recent updates to our product?
From the essential question, the parameters and objectives for the research emerge.

Framing Your Question

The theoretical framing of your question may need to shift as you collect data. Imagine the aforementioned product changes were reported to have been rolled out in a way that the customer had opinions about. The reaction they had to the implementation of the change becomes a factor to study, too. Therefore, rather than simply asking questions about the user experience of the updated product, you can include additional questions about the implementation that inquire how the customers reacted to the process of change as well as the change itself.

Ethics Matter

It is imperative for researchers to avoid causing harm whenever possible. Especially if you are working with marginalized populations, it is important to consider the impact of your inquiry. Attempt to formulate questions that avoid harm in to physical, emotional, and mental health. To learn more about this topic, check out the study2 in our source list from the International Journal of Qualitative Studies In Education.

Crafting Your Questions

The questions you write should have the goal of:

Producing rich data

Being understandable to non-experts in your field
Complementing the method of research. For example, in ethnographical research, questions will help you understand the culture of the study whereas, in phenomenological research, questions may be open-ended.

The Flow Of Questions

Overarching question to driving questions to the theoretical framework to the relationship between question & framework

5 Sample Qualitative Research Questions

What is the user’s perception of the brand?

How do users interact with the product?

What are the user’s frustrations with the product?

Why do customers purchase our product?

How do people feel about the quality of your product when compared to competitors?

Conclusion

Now that we have explored what qualitative research questions are, the methods of research, why these research questions matter, how to write them, consider the following:

  • It’s important be to inclusive of all relevant perspectives in your question writing.
  • It’s important to create specific questions that will generate clear, data-rich answers.
  • Write questions that reflect your research goals and perspectives.
  • Write questions that encourage in-depth answers to get rich data.

***sources
1. Busetto, L., Wick, W. & Gumbinger, C. How to use and assess qualitative research methods. Neurol. Res. Pract. 2, 14 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1186/s42466-020-00059-z
2. Jane Agee (2009) Developing qualitative research questions: a reflective process, International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 22:4, 431-447, DOI: 10.1080/09518390902736512. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09518390902736512

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