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Non-directive interviewing

Case study

Survey method

Naturalistic observation

Qualitative research methods

Although qualitative research may involve the use of descriptive statistics, more frequently it involves methods that do not usually employ numerical methods; these may include, for example, questionnaires, case studies or content analysis. It is recognized that to have a fuller picture, psychologists may choose to approach their data collection by using more than one method. To achieve this, psychologists can use triangulation to allow for a more credible interpretation of the data that has been collected.

For example, when studying aggression in humans, a psychologist may:
  • measure hormone levels
  • conduct an interview
  • observe behaviour over an extended period of time.

The measurement of hormones is quantitative, while the other two methods can be quantitative or qualitative. The measurement of hormones may give only a partial interpretation of aggression. However, the use of all three methods will give a more credible interpretation of what is happening in human aggression.

Students will be expected to explain, apply and evaluate the following when using all qualitative methods.
  • Ethics
  • Participant and researcher expectancies
  • Demand characteristics
  • Sampling techniques

For all of the qualitative methods, students will be expected to:
  • explain each method
  • identify conditions appropriate for the use of each method (sampling techniques, participant and researcher expectancies, how demand characteristics affect data)
  • evaluate the strengths and limitations of each method
  • explain why a single method of qualitative research is often inadequate for drawing conclusions.

There are many different qualitative research methods. Students must study in detail only the following qualitative research methods.
  1. Interviews
  2. Questionnaires/surveys
  3. Observation
  4. Content analysis
  5. Case study


Students are expected to be able to define, explain, apply and evaluate the terms below:
Types of interview
  • Structured
  • Semi-structured
  • Unstructured
  • One-to-one interviews
  • Conversational interviews
  • Small-group interviews (focus groups)
  • E-mail and telephone interviews
  • Verbal protocols (think-aloud protocols)

Verbal protocols are particularly used in task analysis (for example, in problem solving, learning a new task such as using a computer or driving a police car in dense traffic), or obtaining feedback from a patient undertaking a new form of treatment.
Verbal protocols are a record of what people say when they are asked to think aloud as they perform a task. Their speech is recorded and later transcribed so that the mental processes that are reported can be analysed.
Cohen, G (1989), Memory in the Real World, Lawrence Earlbaum Associates, Hillsdale

Methods of transcribing recorded interviews
Methods of transcribing recorded interviews include the traditional method (words only) and the post-modern method (words plus volume, pitch, speed, pauses, facial expressions, gestures and other non-verbal communication).


Students are expected to be able to define, explain, apply and evaluate the terms below.
  • Large-scale and small-scale surveys
  • Identification and representativeness of target population
  • Techniques of sampling from target population
  • Use of a Likert scale


Students are expected to be able to define, explain, apply and evaluate the terms below.
  • Participant observation
  • Non-participant observation
  • Methods of recording data, including time, event and point sampling

Content analysis

Students are expected to be able to explain how to apply the techniques of content analysis to:
  • printed material
  • television, video and film
  • advertising
  • Internet and e-mail.

Case study

Students are expected to know about the types of case study listed below, as well as related concepts including data-collection methods and problems of generalization.
  • One individual
  • Small and large groups
Students are also expected to be able to understand the following concepts related to case studies.
  • Collecting data, including self-reports, observed data and a range of other techniques.
  • Issues of generalizing from an individual case study. Some case studies are chosen to be representative of a target population (extrinsic/instrumental case studies) and are therefore more generalizable; others are chosen because the case is especially unusual or interesting (intrinsic case studies) and these are less generalizable.


Triangulation is the application and combination of several research methodologies in the study of the same phenomenon.
The use of evidence from different sources, of different methods of collecting data and of different investigators, where feasible, are all triangulation techniques which enhance credibility.
Robson, C (1998), Real World Research, Blackwell, Oxford

Types of triangulation
There are four basic types of triangulation.
  • Data triangulation, which involves using different times, locations and participants (individuals or groups).
  • Investigator triangulation, which involves using multiple, rather than single observers.
  • Theory triangulation, which involves using theories from more than one perspective in the interpretation of the data.
  • Methodological triangulation, which involves using more than one method and may consist of within-method or between-method strategies.
Multiple triangulation involves a combination of the four basic types.

Descriptive statistics

Students are expected to be able to define, explain, use and apply the terms below.
  • Measures of central tendency
  • Mean
  • Median
  • Mode
  • Measures of dispersion
  • Range
  • Variance
  • Standard deviation
  • Quartile and semi-interquartile range

Graphical techniques
Students are expected to be able to define, explain, use and apply the terms below.
  • Bar chart
  • Histogram
  • Line graph
  • Frequency polygon

(Source: IBO Diploma Programme, Psychology, For first examinations 2005)

Paper III

  1. See workbook
  2. See Qualitative classwork

When making your study notes - copy and paste across all the work you have done in the specific sections BUT put it in bullet point form

Connections: Paper I

Keep in mind that this information is also relevant to paper I in terms of evaluating the methodologies used in investigating each perspective. Make sure that you can cross reference when necessary so that you see the applicability of all this material to both Paper I and Paper III.

You need to be able to discuss the following areas :
  • A definition of the research method (including the different categories of that method)
  • an example of a research study that reflects the method
  • the connections between the method and the perspective and whether there is an overlap with another perspective

Strengths and limitations of the method
  • ensure that you can do this not just for the broader definition of the method but also for its categories
  • be able to fully explain ecological validity in the specific context of the particular method you are discussing

Ethics and controversies
  • Be familiar with AT LEAST one ethical code of conduct covering procedures that must be followed when using human and non-human participants in research. Review the codes outlined by the BPS or the APA.
  • Make sure you can apply this when discussing a specific method
  • Be objective
  • Be balanced