Designing Effective Qualitative Research

qualitative research

In designing qualitative research, there are at least several stages that must be done by a researcher. These stages of work are carried out to establish a preliminary or pre-draft or pre-structured reference so that a researcher does not go or go into the field with an ’empty head’. 

The stages of research design can be arranged as follows: (1) Introduction or Background of Problems, (2) Theoretical Descriptions, (3) Research Methods, (4) Research Results, (5) Discussion and Analysis of Research Results, (6) Conclusions and Recommendations. In order to be better understood, it’s worth below to describe in more detail what is meant and what a researcher must do at these stages.

First, the Introduction or Background of the Problem. At this stage, a researcher reveals the background of his or her work to research a particular issue or problem. The background should be able to describe something research work with issues, issues that are relevant and significant. At this stage, a researcher can also describe the ideas behind the importance of the research. What are the main reasons so that the problem becomes very interesting, important and urgent for research to be done.

These common problems can be described in outline and contain the processes that take place in society. Therefore, it is also necessary to express ideas about events that occur in society.

At this stage, a researcher is asked to decipher the conjectures, predictions that appear in society to lead the researcher towards the formation of a new theoretical framework or an initial framework. This new theoretical framework is presented with the disclosure of the earliest reports ever, relating to the subject matter of the study. Or decipher the initial field records as the result of temporary observations, temporary interviews or provisional records of available data.

The above work will guide a researcher to arrive at the disclosure of key concepts that will be held and used by researchers in the field as an integral part in building theoretical definitions and operational definitions in a study. And in the end a researcher, at this stage, reveals the purpose of the study. What this research is doing and what benefits to be gained from the research.

Second, the theoretical description. At this stage, we are asked to elaborate on the ‘overview of literature’. What theories are available to research the subject matter or research topic. The description of the theory also asks us to be able to reveal the various results of muthakhir research in the subject or topic of research. At least the latest theories or research results that are relevant to the main problem of the research. “Literature review should demonstrate how the research being reported related to previous research and, if possible, how it give rise to particular issues, problems and ideas that current research address“(Martyn Denscombe, 2003:293-294).

At this stage, we must be able to describe a theoretical framework or conceptual framework that explains how one concept relates to another. Relationship between one theory and another. This work is important for us to arrive at the preparation of hypotheses, propositions, assumptions or research questions (Matthew B. Miles & A. Micchael Huberman, 1992: 31-60). Research propositions, assumptions and questions will make it easier for a researcher to identify the processes that occur in society and make it easier for us to search, determine indicators in the research.

 At this stage also a researcher is asked to outline the scope, limitations of the research problem. The researcher must determine the focus of his research. He must formulate the main problem of research so that the formulation of this problem can be a frame of reference for the work of a researcher in the field. Researchers can do their work with focus and wakefulness from the possibility of straying or adrift away from the main problem of their research. Finally, at this stage, we must state that the research to be carried out has limitations, both limitations caused by the availability of sources of financing, energy, opportunity, and other obstacles that can cause that this research has limitations.

Third, the research method.  At this point, we analyze the ‘existing state of knowledge on a topic‘, and describe what methods of investigation can be used to research the above topics.  We have to describe all the procedures and research strategies that we want to use. When we choose a method for investigation or a method of data collection, an investigative strategy must be established. The choice of what method should be able to show what data to be sought or collected. In addition, we also have to consider whether the method we choose can be done with the available time.

In general, qualitative research uses methods of observation, interview, survey, document tracing, questionnaires, case studies, field studies, studies of documents, photographs, images, rules, records and recordings. The determination of such data collection methods is done after we estimate that all the data we want to look for can be collected using the instrument. At this stage, a researcher must ‘ascertain’, or estimate that the choice of the method of investigation to be used must be ‘fitting’, matching’ with the data we need. We often find that choices against instruments or methods of investigation do not always match or match with data. As a result, a lot of data is not netted, or even the method is too large for the size of the data we want or vice versa. We shouldn’t get stuck like ‘shooting a fly with a cannon gun’. If something like this happens, it is very open to the possibility that the research we do becomes biased, the validity is low and not reliable.

At this stage, a researcher may decide to use one or more methods of investigation to investigate a single topic. If this decision is taken, then a researcher should describe how the implementation or use of the method is carried out or organized.  In choosing and determining the method of investigation there are three things that must be answered by us, namely (1) what the research is investigating, (2) how it is to be conducted, and (3) what benefits are likely to emerge from the investigation (Martyn Denscombe, 2003: 139).

Researchers are also asked to construct selected methods of investigation into what we often refer to as ‘guidelines’, whether they are interview guidelines, survey instruments, observation guidelines and so on. All of these constructions are useful as a temporary guide for a researcher to work in the field. A researcher cannot go down with his mind and bare hands. The researcher must have ideas and plans for what he will do on the ground, even if the plan is still in mind. Therefore, the guidelines become very helpful so that we do not get confused when on the field.  In other words, researchers must develop research instruments, be they structured or unstructured. The depiction of an investigative instrument is very useful for focusing the interview, observation or whatever the choice of method, so that the data can be collected properly. Units of analysis, the interwoven between units of analysis, indicators will be easier to recognize by preparing temporary instruments as an initial reference in the investigation.

Regardless of the choice of method of investigation, at this stage, we must first determine the population and then determine the sample of our research. We must be able to determine whether our study is aimed at the entire population or only a portion, or just a sample that has been able to show representation. Here we have to make a choice and describe that choice. Why the choice was taken and whether it has fulfilled the principle of representation of the entire population. If this is done well, qualitative research is basically a process of investigation, similar to the ditektif work (Dauglas, 1976), which starting from small units of analysis units, develops continuously until the entire network can be known. Researchers conduct investigations of one or a small thing, then develop into two, then develop into large, and can eventually touch most or part of the ‘basis’ to get answers to research problems. Description of the sample, sampling techniques and subjects to be studied must be done.  

Fourth, the results of the research.  At this stage we are ‘introduced’ to the data as a result of our discoveries in the field. Therefore at this stage we must be able to decipher how the data will be treated, processed and described. We will sort out which data are relevant and which findings are less relevant, as well as how we will treat those findings in the context of our research. We also describe how the data will be presented. Whether in the form of matrix, flowchart, description, percentage, image and so on. The presentation of the results of the study will make it easier for researchers to analyze the data that has been obtained from the field. Therefore, at this stage we must describe the estimates to present in general the findings of the study. We have also provided guidelines on how the relationship between research questions and elaboration of research results.

Fifth, discussion and analysis of research results.  At this stage, we describe how the results of the study will be analyzed, discussed. How the results of research are ‘tested’ against theories, ideas or ideas, issu-issu and problems that existed before. Researchers express analytical considerations to the findings of research results related to the results of previous studies. We also reveal how our plan for ‘fitting current research into the extant literature on the topic’ (Bruce L. Berg, 2004: 302-303). We also describe the plan of discounting the results of previous research and its implications for policy, new discoveries, Bari theories, new propositions, new hypotheses or new assumptions.

Sixth, conclusions and recommendations.  At this stage, the researcher explains how conclusions will be presented and the possible benefits of research for policy making or advanced research of the subject matter that has not been resolved, or even requires further deepening and research.

After a more detailed review of the stages of research work as outlined above, the construction of those stages is a part that must be done by researchers or us as a ‘qualitative research proposal’. Thus, qualitative research proposals, at least, must be able to contain 6 (six) stages of research implementation, so as to describe what is to be studied, and how qualitative research is to be carried out. This research proposal guide is useful as a starting basis for researchers to further pursue research, so that we do not go into the field without any preparation at all.


Denscombe, M. (2003). The Good Research Guide for Small-Scale Social Research Project.  Philadelphia. Open University Press.

Miles,M.B; & Huberman,M.A. (1995). Qualitative Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook (2nded). Thousand Oaks. California: Sage.

Berg,B.L. (2004). Qualitative Research Methods for The Social Sciences. Boston. Pearson.

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