Qualitative research is a term applied to a wide range of methods for handling materials that are relatively unstructured and not appropriately reduced to numbers. Working with transcripts of interviews, focus groups, or audio/video files or with field notes or other documents, researchers seek new understanding of a situation, experience or process. Goals vary from complete understanding of a process over time to swift discovery and illustration of themes.
These methods are used across social and health sciences, education, market and business research, program evaluation, legal, political and historical studies, life histories and policy assessment. Different methodologies require different ways of handling and interpreting the data.
Qualitative research requires both creativity and data management—sensitive interpretation of complex data, accurate access to information and ways of rigorously exploring themes and discovering and testing patterns. Software can assist in all these processes and NVivo 8 is designed to integrate them.