Challenges of Qualitative Research

Although qualitative research has often been associated with reliable results, several scholars have outlined significant problems. Firstly, Privitera (2018) says that it is difficult to determine the validity and reliability of qualitative research data. I feel the statement is correct because it may be challenging to determine whether a researcher was biased when making conclusions. Cohen (2000) warns that researchers are prone to emotional attachment during qualitative research, which might affect the validity of the data collected. Unlike quantitative research, qualitative research may overlook critical statistics that participants may take for granted. Mack et al. (2005) say that qualitative researchers can adjust their research questions to suit their data, which raises concerns on the reliability of the results. 

            Cohen describes lack of confidence in the field, researchers’ health being put at risk, the plight of learning new languages and missing important data in qualitative research (2000). This happens especially in exotic contexts, where participants may hide some information or the research misinterprets the foreign culture (Cohen, 2000). However, I feel that learning new languages is not a problem—it is an opportunity to increase social knowledge and learn new cultural perspectives. I agree with Mack et al. (2005), who say qualitative research is time-consuming, difficult to document data, and inherently a subjective exercise, while research should be objective. However, subjectivity can be overcome by being conscious and ensuring objectivity.

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An important note from Rose Wiles is that there should be an ethical framework to guide researchers as many ethical issues such as confidentiality and anonymity are evident (Wiles, 2012). It is essential because research ethics has many benefits for the respondents, the community, the researcher, and the researcher. The study must satisfy the fundamental principles of ethics, including autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence.


Cohen, J. H. (2000). Problems in the Field: Participant observation and the assumption of neutrality. Field Methods, 12(4), 316-333.×0001200404

Mack, N., Woodsong, C., MacQueen, K., Guest, G., & Namey, E. (2005). Qualitative research methods: A data collector’s Field guide.

Privitera, G. J. (2018). Research methods for the behavioral sciences. Sage Publications.

Wiles, R. (2012, November 29). What is Qualitative Research Ethics? NCRM Podcasts [Audio podcast].