Qualitative research

Learning objectives for qualitative research on paper 3 higher level icon

  1. Distinguish between qualitative and quantitative data.

  2. Explain strengths and limitations of a qualitative approach to research.

  3. To what extent can findings be generalized from qualitative studies?

  4. Discuss ethical considerations in qualitative research.

  5. Discuss sampling techniques appropriate to qualitative research.

  6. Explain effects of participant expectations and researcher bias in qualitative research.

  7. Explain the important of credibility in qualitative research.

  8. Explain the effect of triangulation on the credibility of qualitative research.

  9. Explain reflexivity in qualitative research.


  1. Evaluate semi-structured, focus group and narrative interviews.

  2. Discuss considerations involved before, during and after an interview.

  3. Explain how researchers use inductive content analysis on interview transcripts.


  1. Evaluate participant, non-participant, naturalistic, overt and covert observations.

  2. Discuss considerations involved in setting up and carrying out an observation.

  3. Discuss how researchers analyze data obtained in observational research.

Case studies

  1. Evaluate the use of case studies in research.

  2. Explain how a case study could be used to investigate a problem in an organization or group.

  3. Discuss the extent to which findings can be generalized from a single case study.

The goal of this part of the site is to provide activities for helping students to understand the nature of qualitative research.  This is assessed only for HL on paper 3.  However, it is also important that SL candidates have some very basic knowledge of other research methods besides experimentation. I would highly recommend that both SL and HL do observations or case studies.  They are essential for understanding much of the research in the course.

Included in this section is also a set of mock Paper III's with mock answers. All of this is my own creation and not "IB approved."  The goal of these papers is to give you a chance to have your students practice for Paper III, even though there are not many actual scripts to use at this point in the curriculum.

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