A qualitative research project explores a question, examines a societal or historical problem, or explains the qualities of a specific topic. Unlike quantitative research projects that deal with numbers and statistics, the data in a qualitative research project is generally presented in the form of words or pictures, and the researcher may set out to explore a phenomenon or idea with only a rough idea of what he needs. Despite the open-ended nature of qualitative research, it is still possible to design your research project and create a timeline for its completion.
Choose a topic for your project. You may opt to devote just a few days to this step on your timeline, but if you are searching for a topic for a dissertation or book project, it may take you several months or longer to decide on a topic. If you have already been assigned a specific topic to explore, you can leave this step out of your timeline.
Conduct your research. Decide how much time you will spend researching your topic. Your project may require you to read multiple books, conduct interviews, or travel to observe people or events in a specific location. Decide on your research method(s) and then determine how much time you will need to complete the research. For example, you may decide that you need three weeks to read books on your subject or three months to conduct interviews about your topic.
Analyze the results of your research. Decide how much time you need to organize the research you have conducted and analyze the results.
Prepare your research for presentation. Determine how much time you will need to write up or otherwise prepare to present your research and analysis. This may take only a few days for a short term paper or several months or even years for a dissertation or book.
Receive feedback from your project adviser, professor or anyone else who will critique your work. You may want to consider building in time for feedback throughout your project rather than only after you have prepared it for presentation.
Proofread and edit your work. Many people are so excited to finish their project that they forget to add time for this important final step.
Add some "cushion time" to your timeline. Remember that things can and will go wrong. Examples include: lack of feedback from your adviser, a crashed computer and accidentally deleted interview notes. Time-sucking accidents happen, so build some extra time into your timeline, so that you are prepared when inevitable problems occur.
While this list provides the steps that you need to account for in your timeline, only you are capable of determining how quickly (or slowly) you need to work and how much time should be devoted to each step.
Be sure to note official deadlines as you are making your timeline. For example, if you are writing a dissertation you may be required to turn it in to your committee by a specific date in order to graduate. If you are writing a paper for a class, a professor may require you to turn in a first draft for feedback on a certain date. As you build your timeline, take these official deadlines into consideration.
- Wilderdom: Qualitative Versus Quantitative Research: Key Points in a Classic Debate
- "Secrets for a Successful Dissertation"; Jacqueline Fitzpatrick, Jan Secrist, and Debra J. Wright; 1998
- "How to Complete and Survive a Doctoral Dissertation"; David Sternberg; 1981
- An image of man with books image by Mykola Velychko from Fotolia.com