Non-Experimental Research
(Humanities & Social Sciences Research)
(Updated on 20 March 2014)


Qualitative analysis is commonly used in Humanities and Social Sciences research. It has special value for investigating complex and sensitive socio-political issues from either a sociological, historical or literary standpoint.
It can be broadly divided into 2 sub-fields:
1. Practical/Applied Research
2. Pure/Literature-Based Research

Note that a thorough preliminary research or a literature review of the theoretical, historical and contemporary developments of your chosen topic needs to be done. This means that the springboard for your research needs to be based on a sound, academic platform. You need to ensure that the topic you choose fits into a larger development context and/or also examine how that topic has evolved through time.


1. Practical/Applied Research
  • Is motivated by a practical problem which defines the research question. E.g. An existing social issue widely reported in the newspapers or widely debated in online forums.
  • Often leads to a proposed solution that helps to solve the practical problem.

Research Signficance:
a) Topic: I am studying ..........
b) Question: because I want to find out what/why/how ..........
c) Practical Significance: in order to help my reader understand ..........

2. Pure Research
  • Is motivated by a conceptual problem that helps us to understand an issue in-depth.
  • It does not bear a solution to a practical problem, but it improves the understanding of an EXISTING community of researchers.
  • Involves theoretical analysis which evolves around the selection and discussion of theoretical and descriptive materials within a specified, relevant context. In some cases, there may be detailed comparison of theories in terms of their applicability.
  • The approach in this sub-category is centred on reviewing literature, with a focus on primary and(or) secondary sources. Hence, research projects with a History or Literature slant may find this sub-category particularly suitable.
    Examples of past titles which qualify for this sub-category are:
    • Revisiting the riots: A media perspective
    • Review of recent politics of Sino-American relations
    • Political Openness of Singapore: Past and Present
    • Changing Lanes : A Study of the evolution of secular rhetoric in Singapore Politics
    • Shedding Light on the Literary Vampire
    • Analysis of Singaporean Nationalistic Song Lyrics

Research Signficance:
a) Topic: I am studying ..........
b) Conceptual Question: because I want to find out what/why/how ..........
c) Conceptual Significance: in order to help my reader understand ..........
d) Potential Practical Application: so that readers/political leaders can ..........

Two key questions you need to ask yourself:
1. So what? Beyond your own interest, why would others think that your topic is a question worth asking.
2. What will be lost if your question is not answered? How will not answering your research question keep us from understanding something better than we do?

Once you have completed the literature survey – you should come up with a concrete plan for data collection.

This usually means that some form of in-depth interviewing, participant observation, direct observation or research into relevant case studies is probably called for.

An important three-step formula for identifying the significance of your research question:
1. Topic: I am studying ..........
2. Question: because I want to find out what/why/how ..........
3. Practical/Conceptual Significance: in order to help my reader understand ..........



I Identify the issue or problem
  • What is the issue or problem?
  • Who are the stakeholders and what are their positions?
  • What is your initial position on this issue?
  • Is the source reliable?
  • Note: The foundation for the entire research MUST be based on a solid academic platform.

II Vital Step: Read about the issue and identify points of view or arguments through information sources
  • What are your print sources?
  • What are your media sources?
  • What are your people sources?
  • What are your preliminary findings based on a review of existing sources?
  • Note: Refer to journals, archives of political speeches by key figures, newspaper archives, critiques or other academic publications. Wikipedia should only be used as a convenient springboard, it SHOULD NOT be the MAIN SOURCE of information.

III Form a set of questions that can be answered by a specific set of data
There is no fixed number of research questions that you need to pose, although the questions posed will determine the kind of data that you need, hence influencing your data collection method(s).
At least 3-5 RQs are recommended.
  • What would be the results of ___?
  • Who would benefit and by how much?
  • Who would be harmed and by how much?
  • How does the phenomenon happen?
  • Why does the phenomenon happen?

IV Gather evidence through research techniques such as interviews, observations, case studies
  • Which research technique is most suitable for exploring this set of data? What is the modus operandi adopted by researchers in this field?
  • What interview questions should you ask?
  • What observations should you make? How do these differ from current observations by academics and experts?
  • Which cases should you study? Why are these cases significant/relevant?
  • Remember to base your methodology on existing research by a recognised community of practitioners.

V Manipulate and transform data (coding) so that it can be interpreted
  • How can you summarize what you found out?
  • Should you develop charts, diagrams or graphs to represent your data?
  • Can you classify the data into themes/categories?

VI Draw conclusions and make inferences
  • What do the data mean?
  • How can you interpret what you found out?
  • How do the data support your original point of view?
  • Do you need to modify your original point of view?
  • Are you able to use academic theories to explain the data?
  • How does it support other points of view?
  • What conclusion(s) can you make about the issue?

VII Determine implications and consequences
  • What are the consequences of following the point of view that you support?
  • Do you know enough or are there now new questions to be answered?
  • What new conclusion(s) can you form from further investigation?

VIII Communicate the findings
  • What are your purpose, issue and point of view and how will you explain them to your intended audience?
  • What data will you use to support your point of view?
  • How will you conclude your presentation?

Booth, W., Colomb, G. & Williams, J. (2008). The Craft of Research (3rd Ed,).Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press.
Van Tassel-Baska, J & Stambaugh, T. (2005). Comprehensive Curriculum for Gifted Learners (3rd Ed.). Michigan: Allyn & Bacon.


A research strategy would typically involve each of the following:

- Briefly describe or define your topic.
- What do you want to find out?
- State what you think will happen in a hypothesis.

- How will you test your hypothesis?
- Identify your samples, variables, design a questionnaire and/ or conduct interviews to collect data, code the data and decide the scope of measurement you think is appropriate for your study.

- What did the data you collect indicate about what happened in your research project?
- Include all data here in a simple text chart. What did your chart and statistical analysis show? This is especially important with regard to your hypothesis.

- What did you find out?
- What does your analysis of data say in brief?
- State whether you accepted or rejected your hypothesis. Why?

- Utilize what you learned from your research in the world outside of the classroom. How will your research findings help people solve problems or make your world a better place to live?
- Or how could your findings be used to further explore your topic?


Quantitative Research
Qualitative Research
Scientific Method
Deductive. The researcher tests hypothesis and theory with data.
Inductive. The researcher generates new hypotheses and grounded theory from data collected during fieldwork.
View of human behavior
Behaviour is regular and predictable. Tends to be associated with pre-determined research design.
Behaviour is fluid, dynamic, situational, social, contextual, and personal. Tends to be associated with emergent research design.
Most common research objectives
Description, explanation, and prediction.
Description, exploration and discovery.
Narrow-angle lens, testing specific hypotheses. Specific focus.
Wide-angle and “deep-angle” lens, examining the breadth and depth of phenomena to learn more about them. Holistic in perspective.
Nature of observation
Attempt to study behaviour under controlled conditions.
Study behaviour in natural environments. Study the context in which behaviour occurs.
Nature of reality
Objective (Different observers agree on what is observed.
Subjective, personal, and socially constructed.
Form of data
Collect quantitative data based on precise measurement using structured and validated data collection instruments. (e.g. closed-ended items, ratings scales, behavioral responses). Large scale.
Collect qualitative data (e.g. in depth interviews, participant observation, field notes, and open-ended questions). The researcher is primary data collection instrument. Small scale.
Nature of data
Words, images and categories.
Data analysis
Identify statistical relationships
Search for patterns, themes, and holistic features. Description.
Generalizing findings.
Specific findings. Representation of insider viewpoint. Present multiple perspectives.
Form of final report
Statistical report (correlations, comparison of means, statistical significance).
Narrative report with contextual description and direct quotations from research participants.


1. What do you need or want to find out?
2. What skills do you have?
3. Will your methodological preferences answer your questions?
4. How will your methods affect the answers you get?
5. How will you affect your research?
6. Which methods are acceptable?
7. Using more than one method
8. Allowing for changes in direction


  • Raw data used to test the hypothesis and to solve research problems.
  • These include documents from the period, objects, maps, subject interviews or the text itself (for historical or literary research)

  • Mainly consists of research reports written for scholarly and professional audiences.
  • Often used by researchers to keep up with their respective fields and frame new areas of research.

  • Textbooks and articles that synthesise secondary sources for general readers – includes mass circulation publications found online (e.h. Wikipedia) or in encyclopaedia entries or magazines.


Introduction : What is the project all about? Why is it chosen? Why is it important, significant or interesting? What do you hope to achieve from your investigation?

Investigative Approach / Theoretical Framework: What theoretical background drives the investigation of the project? What approaches were considered? Justify the final approach decided upon. Were there any initial assumptions or hypotheses made? Are there any key questions that you hope to answer from your investigation? What is the main focus of your project?

Methodology/Procedure: Describe in detail the steps in your study or investigation, including timeframe, adaptations to the original plans/frameworks. How does your method lead towards answering the key question(s) in your study? How reliable, representative and valid is your data & method?

Findings: What data were collected from the study? Your data must be organised and presented in a reader-friendly format.

Analysis of Findings/ Discussion: How did you analyse the data collected? Why was the data analysed the way you did? Is there a precedence to this approach? Present your analysis in a way that makes for easy interpretation by the reader. The use of tools, such as tables, graphs, charts would improve your presentation. The tables, graphs, etc, have to be interpreted, i.e. what do they mean?

Conclusion: What significant conclusions can you make from the analysis of the findings? Do the conclusions fit your initial assumptions or hypotheses? If they don't, can you explain the cause of any deviations? Can you explain any interesting or unexpected results of your investigations? Are your research questions sufficiently answered by your investigation? What further investigations can your team or other investigators do as a follow-up?

References: List your references in APA format – The listing should include the author's family name in alphabetical order, the year of publication, title of publication (italicised), relevant chapters/pages (if applicable), publisher, country of publication. References should contain a good mix of printed or non-printed media – preferably with an academic slant or from an authoritative source.

The general sequence of the qualitative method is:
  1. Observe events/ ask questions with open-ended answers (not highly structured or limited responses).
  2. Do the relevant research - literature survey, search for evidence and data as a springboard for the analysis.
  3. Record/log the relevant observations
  4. Interpret (analyse your respondents’ reactions, write emergent speculations).
  5. Return to observe, or ask more questions of people for further clarifications.
  6. Repeat steps 3 - 5 until you can support a particular point of view, with empirical evidence as well as with reference to academic theories.
  7. Formal Theorising (emerging out of speculations and hypotheses).
    [N.B. A new theory is not expected at Projects Day judging. Any sensibly formulated conclusion(s) will be given due credit.]
  8. Draw conclusions.


A good research project begins with the identification of a worthy issue for exploration. According to Prof Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, College of William and Mary, an issue has the following characteristics:
  • Real world: Relevant, contemporary, widely-debated, ambiguous and evolving – with no simple answers.
  • Multiple points of view: Identify the stakeholders. There should be a practical slant/link to Singapore society.
  • Practical: There SHOULD be existing literature in the field pertaining to your area of research and there should be the availability of substantial information/data for collection/mining.
  • Multi-faceted and Significant to the researcher: Research offers the opportunity to ask questions about things that matter. While asking questions and seeking solutions, you have the chance to consider the arguments of others and to contribute your personal perspective and original thinking. When you care about an issue, you will be willing to spend time digging for evidence, taking a stand, developing an argument, and proposing a resolution to the problem.

In this category, the researchers study what naturally occurs or has already occurred in society or environment by observing, interviewing, surveying and measuring things as they are and study how variables are related.
Non-experimental research is used to provide solutions to problems and add to what it is known by common through the collection and analysis of data.


  • Pick 2-3 CORE readings/journals/articles that have significantly contributed to your ideas in the project

  • Check your sources for reliability:

  1. Is the source published or posted online by reputable press?

  2. Was the book or article peer-reviewed? Was it well-received and well-reviewed?

  3. Is the author a reputable scholar?

  4. If the source is only available online, is it sponsored by a reputable organization?

  5. Is the source current?

  6. Has the source been frequently cited by others?

  • Expound in detail the range and degree of influence of these sources on your research field and relate it in detail to YOUR project.

  • Do not write more than 500 words.



Details on how to do research (Qualitative and Quantitative)

The Complete APA Referencing Guide

(Updated on 2 Jan 2014)

Overall grading





Slides will be uploaded after the appropriate briefings

Student Briefing on 7 March 2014

Additional Qualitative Analysis Slides for Information 2014

Semi-Finals Training on 9 May 2014