Standard Article

Qualitative Research Methods

  1. Constance T. Fischer

Published Online: 30 JAN 2010

DOI: 10.1002/9780470479216.corpsy0763

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology

How to Cite

Fischer, C. T. 2010. Qualitative Research Methods. Corsini Encyclopedia of Psychology. 1–2.

Author Information

  1. Duquesne University

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 30 JAN 2010


Qualitative psychological research addresses people who are living through particular situations. Findings are presented discursively (descriptively) or through listed interrelated themes. Examples of studied phenomena are the experiences of being criminally victimized, being joyful, awaiting biopsy results, and the formation of white-space Rorschach responses as described by clients. Two related forms of qualitative research, conversation analysis and discourse analysis, identify people's interactive ways of gaining or maintaining influence. Examples of these studies are interdisciplinary team meetings with patients in a psychiatric facility, marital discussions, and psychotherapy sessions. These situations as lived by participants are not amenable to experimental methods, which require manipulation and measurement in terms of predetermined categories. Hence, qualitative—descriptive—methods have been developed to access situations as they unfold in the life world. Qualitative research is not opposed to categorical, quantitative research, which historically has been essential to psychology's becoming scientific and has provided our ever-evolving body of knowledge. Qualitative research is in the beginning stages of providing an empirical body of understanding.


  • generalization;
  • hermeneutic interpretation;
  • human science psychology;
  • rigor;
  • representation;
  • validity