Qualitative research design is based on Interpretive approach, which claims that social reality can be explained only after it is understood and interpreted. The researcher does not aim to explain the casualty relations between facts, s/he aims to understand and interpret the perspectives of the the social actors and the reasons and motivations of social actions. (...) Unlike quantitative researches, qualitative researches do not begin with hypotheses. The qualitative research process is more flexible than the quantitative research process. The qualitative research problems are not as precise as in quantitative research, and data are gathered with non-standardized measurement tools. The data gathering process is free and flexible, but not suitable for the repetition by other researchers. The qualitative researches do not have the aim of generalizing the findings and predicting social facts, thus their samples are smaller than the samples of quantitative researches. The samples are selected through non-probability (judgemental) sampling techniques.
"The difference between nonprobability and probability sampling is that in probability sampling, units are selected randomly, but in nonprobability sampling they are judgmentally selected. "
In qualitative research design, data are gathered through unstructured (not controlled, in-depth) interview, focus group interview, unstructured (not controlled) observation, semi-structured observation, life story interview, oral history, case study and document analysis. All of the data gathering instruments used in qualitative research are non-standardized instruments.
Unstructured observation: Unlike the structured observation, an observation chart is not used in the unstructured observation. Although observers have an idea about what and how they are going to observe, they are free to observe additional behaviors or events. Unstructured observations are divided into participant and non-participant observations. In non-participant observation, the observer observes from outside. In participant observation, the researcher enters into the culture s/he observes, and tries to be partially or completely a member. However, the degree of participation may change. In regard to the participation degree, observers may have four different roles in observations:
• Complete observer: The observer is neither seen nor noticed by the participants, s/he does not form interactions with the participants, observes from outside. People may change their behaviors when they are aware of the fact that they are being observed. This is an obstacle in observation and is called Hawthorne Effect. Complete observer role is a good strategy for minimizing the Hawthorne Effect.
• Observer as participant: The researcher and the aim of the observation are known and recognized by participants. There is, but little, interaction between the researcher and the participants. The researcher tries to act neutral.
• Participant as observer: There is full interaction between the researcher and the participants. The researcher becomes a partial member of the culture s/he observes, and establishes friendships with the participants.
• Complete participant: The researcher acts as a complete member of the observed culture. The participants do not know that they are being observed, the identity of the researcher is hidden.
Focus group interview: In focus group interviews, the researcher, according to specific criteria, selects 6-12 people as a sample and tells them the topic. Later the sample gathers and talks on this predetermined topic. Focus group interviews are especially effective if the researcher aims to observe the group interaction and group dynamics.
Semi-structured observation: Semi-structured observations are used in order to check whether some social actions, which are observed before, are going to appear again. Often an observation form is used in this observation design.