Qualitative research is a collection of methodological approaches used to study the social world, in which activities are studied in naturalistic settings rather than under experimental conditions, and where the subjective experiences of ordinary people are of greater interest than objective categories and measurements of researchers. (Davies, 2000).
Qualitative research uses a variety of methods, including interviews, observations of naturally-occurring activities, detailed description and ethnography, conversation and discourse analysis, analysis of text and semiotic representations, personal accounts, biographies and oral histories. In qualitative approaches to evaluation, the aim is to understand a programme or particular aspects of it as a whole. Instead of entering the study with a pre-existing set of expectations for examining or measuring processes and outcomes (quantitative approach), the emphasis is on detailed description and in-depth understanding as it emerges from direct contact and experience with the programme and its participants.
See also, quantitative researchEMCDDA glossary