Social science research often fits into one of two categories: qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative research focuses on human behavior from a participant's point of view, while quantitative research seeks facts found commonly across defined groups. Six types of qualitative research are widely used in business, education and government organizational models.


The six types of qualitative research are the phenomenological model, the ethnographic model, grounded theory, case study, historical model and the narrative model.

Phenomenological Method

Describing how any one participant experiences a specific event is the goal of the phenomenological method of research. This method utilizes interviews, observation and surveys to gather information from subjects. Phenomenology is highly concerned with how participants feel about things during an event or activity. Businesses use this method to develop processes to help sales representatives effectively close sales using styles that fit their personality.

Ethnographic Model

The ethnographic model is one of the most popular and widely recognized methods of qualitative research; it immerses subjects in a culture that is unfamiliar to them. The goal is to learn and describe the culture's characteristics much the same way anthropologists observe the cultural challenges and motivations that drive a group. This method often immerses the researcher as a subject for extended periods of time. In a business model, ethnography is central to understanding customers. Testing products personally or in beta groups before releasing them to the public is an example of ethnographic research.

Grounded Theory Method

The grounded theory method tries to explain why a course of action evolved the way it did. Grounded theory looks at large subject numbers. Theoretical models are developed based on existing data in existing modes of genetic, biological or psychological science. Businesses use grounded theory when conducting user or satisfaction surveys that target why consumers use company products or services. This data helps companies maintain customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Case Study Model

Unlike grounded theory, the case study model provides an in-depth look at one test subject. The subject can be a person or family, business or organization, or a town or city. Data is collected from various sources and compiled using the details to create a bigger conclusion. Businesses often use case studies when marketing to new clients to show how their business solutions solve a problem for the subject.

Historical Model

The historical method of qualitative research describes past events in order to understand present patterns and anticipate future choices. This model answers questions based on a hypothetical idea and then uses resources to test the idea for any potential deviations. Businesses can use historical data of previous ad campaigns and the targeted demographic and split-test it with new campaigns to determine the most effective campaign.

Narrative Model

The narrative model occurs over extended periods of time and compiles information as it happens. Like a story narrative, it takes subjects at a starting point and reviews situations as obstacles or opportunities occur, although the final narrative doesn't always remain in chronological order. Businesses use the narrative method to define buyer personas and use them to identify innovations that appeal to a target market.