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QUALITATIVE

OVERVIEW

“Qualitative research is a situated activity that locates the observer in the world. Qualitative research consists of a set of interpretive, material practices that make the world visible. These practices transform the world. They turn the world into a series of representations, including field notes, interviews, conversations, photographs, recordings, and memos to the self. At this level, qualitative research involves an interpretive, naturalistic approach to the world. This means that qualitative researchers study things in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret, phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them” (Creswell and Poth 2018; Denzin & Lincoln, 2011, p. 3).

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Scroll down to find information on:

  • When to use qualitative research and core characteristics

  • What are the advantages of using a quantitative approach for urban design?

  • What limitations and/or challenges should I be aware of?

  • Research methods and techniques

  • What are necessary skills for me to acquire?

  • Key literature

 

When to use qualitative research and core characteristics

  • The research is exploratory, complex and extensive; It has its roots in an interpretative research paradigm and inductive reasoning (e.g. constructivism, relativism or pluralism)

  • An ‘emphasis on qualities of entities and on processes and meanings, and it is a ‘set of interpretative activities’ (Denzin, 2000)

  • The research is flexible, creative and adaptable

  • The qualitative researcher has a multi-tasking profile

  • Methods are performed ‘locally, temporally and situationally’ (Denzin, 2000)

 

What are the advantages of using a quantitative approach for urban design?

  • Allows for a degree of depth and subjectivity which cannot be found in quantitative research – therefore complex questions and uncertain situations can be tackled

  • Tends to be exploratory, innovative, and largely experimental

  • Opportunity to create an understanding of the phenomenon relatively quickly – suggested for short and medium-time research projects (with some exceptions like ethnography)

  • Provides for an extensive understanding of context, situation or event

  • Focuses on the voices and experiences of participants, in contrast to the researcher’s lookout Research does not require codification and quantitative indicators since it does not aim to generalise

  • Usually cost efficient, except for specific research designs and when visual techniques and materials like films and photography are required as these can be costly

 

What limitations and/or challenges should I be aware of?

  • Qualitative data does not allow for generalisation, it is not statistically representative

  • It is based on interpretations therefore very subjective

  • Tends to be innovative and experimental therefore not heavily precise

  • Analysis usually depends on small samples, which may be excessively contextual/variable

  • They may generate speculative future visions Some methods like ethnography can be time-consuming involving extensive fieldwork and observations/notations, so these are advised to long-term studies

 

RESEARCH METHOD AND TECHNIQUES 

  • Case Study

  • Ethnography

  • Phenomenology

  • Narrative study

  • Grounded Theory (inductive research)

  • Observation (participant and non-participant)

  • Interviewing (structured and semi-structured)

  • Photography and Film

  • Archival and/or content analysis (e.g. analysis of documents, pictures or maps)

  • Mapping (e.g. of spatial data or uses)

  • Focus groups

 
 
 

key literature

  • Clough, Peter; Nutbrown, Cathy (2002) A Student’s Guide to Methodology: Justifying Enquiry, London, Thousands Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications

  • Creswell, J. and Poth, G. (2018) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches 4th Edition, Sage

  • Creswell, J. (2007) Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design

  • Flick, Uwe (2002) 2nd Ed. An Introduction to Qualitative Research, London, Thousands Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications

  • Flaherty, Michael; Ellis, Carolyn (ed.) (1992) Investigating Subjectivity: Research on Lived Experience, London, Thousands Oaks, New Delhi: Sage Publications

  • Hay, I. (ed.) (2010) Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press

  • Hay, I. (ed.) (2010) Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press

MIXED METHODS