Introduction to qualitative research methodology

This manual, written by Karina Kielmann, Fabian Cataldo and Janet Seeley, aims to give readers of a non-scientific background an introduction to key theoretical concepts and methodologies in qualitative research.

Readers will be taken through how to formulate research questions, organise the practical and logistical aspects of qualitative research, develop and utilise research tools, and gather, manage and analyse qualitative data.


"This manual is based on a course entitled ‘Qualitative Research Methods for Non-Social Scientists’ which was developed by the authors, and run in Entebbe, Uganda, in March 2010. The course was part of the capacity building efforts of the Evidence for Action Research Programme Consortium, funded by the Department for International Development, UK1. The participants came from Zambia, Malawi and Uganda, most with clinical backgrounds in HIV. Their high levels of motivation and enthusiasm for the course and their desire to build on what they had learnt led to the idea of this manual. Aimed primarily at non-social scientists, the manual is also accessible to a wider audience.

It introduces qualitative methods in an interesting and hands-on way to provide you with an understanding of key concepts and methods in qualitative research as applied to the field of health.

All three authors are trained anthropologists who have been working in health and development for many years. They have conducted research, taught, and built capacity for qualitative and applied anthropological research in different types of health settings in a variety of countries.

The manual can be used as a stand-alone, self-learning tool by individuals new to the use of social science methods in health research; it can also be used by social scientists tasked with conducting short-term training in qualitative research methods for applied health research.

The authors have drawn extensively on their own experiences of teaching and using qualitative research methods, but they have also tried to synthesise many important insights gained from teachers, colleagues, and scholars, some of whom have been acknowledged in the previous section. There are, of course, many excellent manuals and websites providing introductions to qualitative methods. The objective here is to complement these more in-depth sources with an overview that introduces the user to the topic and approach. If you would like more information on the different topics covered, an annotated list of other useful references is provided on page 79." (Kielmann, Cataldo & Seeley 2011, p.4)


  • The Qualitative Lens  6
  • The Quantitative - Qualitative Continuum  12
  • Issues in the Design of Qualitative Research  18
  • Interviews  24
  • Group Interviews  33
  • Observation  41
  • Fieldwork  47
  • Ethics and Logistics of Data Collection  53
  • Steps Towards Data Analysis  64
  • Next Steps  70
  • End Notes  71
  • Feedback on Exercises  72
  • Optional Exercises  76
  • Qualitative Research Methods - A List of Useful References  79
  • Acknowledgements  82
  • Appendix A - Example of a Focus Group Discussion Guide  83
  • Appendix B - Example of an Interview Guide  84
  • Semi-Structured Interview


Kielmann, K., Cataldo, F., & Seeley, J., 2011. Introduction to Qualitative Research Methodology. DFID. Retrieved from