QUALITATIVE RESEARCH INSTRUMENTS: There are many types of qualitative research tools; however, the one you choose must go according to our research objectives. To choose the proper one or ones you must answer the following questions: What are you really planning to find out? How are you going to observe the target population? What´s the best tool to observe certain variables or indicators? Among the most used instruments in research are the observation, the survey and the interview (Eladio, 2006). However, from these ones the observation, and the interview are the ones that are used in a qualitative investigation. There are others like: history or life stories, discussion groups, in-depth interviews, case study, and focus group that are used in a qualitative research investigation.


Direct observation

When the topic and the objectives are not well define we can always carry out a direct observation. It is called direct observation because you write down information of a phenomenon or event that is taking place at that very moment. After a while of observing you might have a better idea of the research problem and start writing the topic, research objectives, questions, or hypothesis of actin or change if you need them. The direct observation begins with the first interaction the researcher has with the phenomenon to be studied. It is divided in structured and unstructured observation. The difference between them is that structured observation is carried out with an observation guide and it is nonparticipant. However, an unstructured observation does not need an observation guide and can be participant or nonparticipant.

Structured observation

To carry out a structured observation you must first select the variables or indicators you are about to observe. Take into account the participants, behavior, and environment where it will take place as well as any physical movements or symbols that are important to be taken into account. The observation notes must be compared periodically to check their reliability (Scribano & Zacarias, 2013). Keep in mind that you might need a close or open observation notes. The following chart gives you a better idea of open observation notes you might consider using

Participant observation vrs. Observer participant

The role of the observer can be divided in participant observer and observer participant (Scribano & Zacarias, 2013). To be a participant observer is to be part of the community and feel and live what the target population goes through. In other words the observer becomes part of the community members and enjoys all the rights the community members have. On the other hand, an observer participant is the one that carries the role of a visitor with the only right to observe their behavior and environment without participating in their activities. As previously said the observer participant can only take notes of the activities he observes.


As establish here, an “interviewing involves asking questions and getting answers from participants in a study. Interviewing has a variety of forms including: individual, face-to-face interviews and face-to-face group interviewing. The asking and answering of questions can be mediated by the telephone or other electronic devices (e.g. computers) (Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, 2006) . Interviews can also be structured, semi-structure or unstructured”. There are also other interviews as in-depth interviews, clinical interviews, history stories and life stories.

In-depth interview

An In-depth interview is the one that takes place when you interview the studied population (individually or in groups) so that it freely expresses any idea, feelings and motivations about the topic being studied (Oxman C.1998:9). Bear in mind that this interview establishes a relationship among persons and that you must have an opening question. Keep the persons talking all the time. Ask them to
clarify any ambiguous topics. Finally invite the interviewees to conclude the topic (Scribano & Zacarías, 2007).

Face to face interview

A face to face interview is a version of an in-depth interview. It is used in an English oral exam, in a market, custom research or in a qualitative research. It is useful for targeting detailed perceptions, opinions, and attitudes. This face to face interview can be done in person or by mass media (phone, video call or webinar). When carrying out this type of interview have ready a discussion guide or questionnaire. It is time consuming; however if it is a personal face to face interview or a video call it allows to probe for explanation of responses. It also gives you the opportunity to interpret body language and facial expressions (Marshall, 2016).

Clinical interview

Therapeutic or clinical interviews are another special kind of professional interview, in which the purpose is to increase understanding and produce change in the person being interviewed. (Sewell, 2016)

Semi-structured interview

The semi-structured interview is more commonly used in health care-related qualitative research. Such an interview is characteristically based on a flexible topic guide that provides a loose structure of open-ended questions to explore experiences and attitudes. It has the advantage of great flexibility, enabling the researcher to enter new areas and produce richer data. In addition, it helps the researcher to develop a rapport with the informants. Semi-structured interviews elicit people’s own views and descriptions and have the benefit of uncovering issues or concerns that have not been anticipated by the researcher. They are commonly used when the aim is to gain information on the perspectives, understandings and meanings constructed by people regarding the events and experiences of their lives. However, this type of interviewing is claimed to reduce the researcher’s control over the interview situation and take a longer time to conduct and analysis, in addition to the difficulties of the analysis process. (Zakiya Q., 2016) d) Semi-structured interview: This type of interview consists in having a serious of variables that guide your interview to facilitate the analysis and interpretation of data. The difference among the survie and the semistructured interview is that the last one totally keeps the characteristics of a focus interview (Scribano & Zacarías, 2007).

History, stories and life tells

History, stories and life stories This is a social science technique where an individual lets us know directly or indirectly about his life, surrounding, environment, education, work, social status, religion, believes, history and personal social factors related to his life. To know a person you might want to go over all his/her personal belongings like diaries, PC, Cellphone, software, social media, facebook, what´s up, twitter, instant gram, e-mails, any written material that exists related to this individual. You may also consider the autobiographies written by the subject in question or any letter related with the unit of observation.

Tells from life or life story are narrations done by the person talking about his own life or two individual talking about this very own person narrating what they know or remember, as well as a discussion about a topic where the unit of observation is involved.    Finally, you might want to triangulate this versions to have a clear idea of the indicators you are trying to observe. Childhood, adolescence, and adultness stories, background and references are extremely important when using this technique.

Discussion group

A Discussion group is the one where an interviewer asks a series of structured questions to the participants which have been selected according to the units of observation, indicators and objectives. The participants answer the questions individually without being interrupted by the others social pressure.

Focus group

On the other hand, a focus group is the one where once more interviewer answer questions in a group and where group member can easily interrupt them mean while they are answering the question. Discussion takes place like a debate.