What Is a Qualitative Research Proposal?

A qualitative research proposal is a formal, written proposal that outlines a topic to be explored and researched using qualitative methodology. It is most often used in the academe and in science and research. 

According to an article published on Medium, there are six characteristics that a good qualitative researcher ought to possess. He or she should have a curious and open mindset, an awareness of the broader context, is empathetic and patient, and is also able to utilize multiple research methods. Lastly, the researcher should also be ethical and collaborative.    

Qualitative Research Proposal Ideas

Unlike quantitative research, there is more room for words and expression in qualitative research. Some fields are more appropriate for a qualitative research approach. And if you are looking for topic ideas, it would be good to explore these particular areas of study:  

Psychology: A lot can be said and explored about the human mind and its applications. Even into the 21st century, there is still a lot on-going studies and research about psychology and its subcategories. But the field of psychology is still a science, and it still employs the empirical method of experimentation and research. There are dozens of topics that can be further explored and tested; these include the areas of mental health, psychiatric medication, or even ethical practices in the field. Anthropology: In simple terms, anthropology is the study of man vis-à-vis his relationship to society and the world around him. In qualitative research, numerous studies have been conducted on communities, cultural phenomena, oral tradition, linguistics, indigenous groups, etc. Studying anthropology is closely linked to ethnography. Ethnographic researchers explore the various patterns, cultural practices, rituals, and beliefs of a particular group or sector of society. Like psychology, it is not that simple to quantify human beings and their relationships. Unlike the natural sciences, there is no set formula that solves the broad spectrum of human needs and emotions. The best thing qualitative research can do is to help people understand the breadth and depth of the human condition. Political Science: Political science is a social science and involves a vast network of human systems and man-made processes. Governance, power, position, influence, and policy are just some of the broad topics under political science. What does that mean for qualitative researchers? It entails going deep into the workings and societal structures, but offering explanations using a political context. For instance, a relevant topic in today’s affairs would be the rise of populist and right-wing leaders around the world. A qualitative research proposal would want to answer the questions surrounding this phenomenon. Researchers use qualitative data to find out what led to this rise in power or why people continue to support ‘strongman’ leaders. Business: The world of commerce, finance, and business is not purely numbers and figures. Qualitative research aims to explore and answer the questions surrounding these statistics. Studying market trends and predictions require a qualitative element too. It seeks to understand the forces that drive supply and demand. Or more simple examples could revolve around best practices for customer retention or the connection between social media frequency and higher sales. Economics: Economics, like business, is highly driven by the market and its unpredictable movement. The objective of economic qualitative research is to get a better understanding of market forces and its variables in the hope that it will lead to the creation of healthy policies that promote a greater quality of life. A good research topic is one that is relevant and one that holds real-world applications. For example, a qualitative research topic could be about the pressing and urgent concern of the COVID-19 pandemic and its economic effects on countries. Social Work: The area of social work usually makes a good topic for a case study because the field is ideal for conducting complex qualitative research. Social work involves multiple stakeholders such as children, parents, families, government agencies, courts, teachers, counselors, etc. It is also characterized by a lot of systems and procedures that influence life-changing decisions. To do qualitative research on social work and get a deeper understanding of it can be a very fulfilling thing- especially if the goal is to improve the lives that are greatly affected by the systems.

How to Create a Qualitative Research Proposal

For convenience, you can use any of the sample templates above as a guide and reference. Then follow the step-by-step guide below to start on your qualitative research proposal. 

Step 1: Research Problem

Any research proposal starts with a research question or problem. This section is brief and can be accompanied by a prior introduction. Keep your introductory paragraph short but engaging. The research problem is the why of your paper. It should be the reason for investing the time and effort into your research and analysis. State your objectives or purpose clearly and explain why you seek to answer the research question. 

Step 2: Theoretical Framework

Before diving right into your research, it is imperative you establish a theoretical framework. This essentially means having a perspective or paradigm that will determine how you view and interpret your data. This is especially useful in the social sciences where a theoretical framework is needed to formulate concepts and assumptions about a particular area. Having a model to follow, or at least derive ideas from, can be a helpful way to proceed. It can help the researcher establish more sound rationalizations and conclusions. Further, it is also important to note that your theoretical framework affects how you develop your proposal’s review of related literature

Step 3: Research Methodology 

This section is critical because it outlines how the researcher plans to execute his research problem. For qualitative studies, common data collection strategies include field interviews, survey forms, focus group discussions and the like. It is imperative these methods are identified in the proposal because without a solid plan of action, it can lead to poor data analysis and lackluster interpretations. 

Step 4: References and Appendix 

Lastly, in addition to your conclusion, make sure you properly cite your references, primary, and secondary sources. Qualitative research tends to have a lot of documentation such as interview transcripts, survey forms, and field notes. The appendix should, therefore, contain all of these supporting documents. 


What is a qualitative research proposal?

A qualitative research proposal is a formal and comprehensive proposal that details the relevance and methodology of a qualitative research topic. A qualitative research proposal usually also follows a standard format and is one of the most common academic requirements.

How do you write a qualitative research proposal?

To write a qualitative research proposal, you first need to establish your research problem. Other common components of a research paper include the abstract, introduction, objectives, review of related literature, theoretical framework, research methodology, etc.

What are the 5 types of qualitative research?

According to research and software firm MeasuringU, there are five types of qualitative methods. These are ethnography, narrative, phenomenological, grounded theory, and case study.

What are qualitative research methods?

The most common qualitative research methods used are interviews, focus groups, observations, and survey forms.

A qualitative research paper or final thesis is a basic academic requirement for a lot of students. But before totally immersing yourself in the research, the first hurdle you have to overcome is coming up with a research proposal. By using the sample templates above as a helpful guide and reference, you will be able to craft a solid and impactful qualitative research proposal. Start browsing and download a template now!