Qualitative Research

Qualitative research can provide rich, in-depth information on the views, attitudes and behaviours of those involved in the education system. NFER offers an end-to-end qualitative research service, from selecting the best approach and instrument design through to helping our clients interpret what the data means for them.

We have a strong track record in successfully conducting robust qualitative research for our clients. We carry out stand-alone qualitative research, as well as using qualitative approaches within mixed-methods studies and evaluations. We use qualitative research for a range of reasons, including to explore:

  • how policy and practice interventions are being implemented
  • the views and feelings of different groups of people, such as programme deliverers and participants
  • perceptions of impact in the early days of an intervention
  • how people’s views have changed over time, such as before and after they’ve taken part in an initiative or within longitudinal studies
  • the factors influencing differences of view or behaviour
  • likely responses to different options or scenarios to inform future policy and practice initiatives.

Our researchers are highly skilled in designing qualitative studies that address our clients’ needs. We offer a range of different qualitative methods, providing maximum flexibility, including:

  • face-to-face, telephone and online in-depth interviews
  • focus groups
  • case studies
  • participatory methods and activity workshops
  • classroom observations.

We are happy to provide advice on which will work best for each client’s particular study, participant group, timescale and budget.

We have extensive subject and sector knowledge and work hard to ensure that our research instruments are well thought out, current and impartial. We then put our instruments into practice, using our considerable experience in eliciting qualitative information from different participant groups, including children and young people, in one-to-one and group settings.

We have decades of experience in recruiting participants to qualitative projects. We achieve good levels of engagement through our excellent personal relationships with schools, colleges and key education stakeholders and our emphasis on minimising the burden for participants.

Qualitative research projects tend to generate a lot of data, and we use cutting edge software to support our analysis. This helps us to drill down in the data, to unpick what different groups of people said and the influence of contextual or other factors in shaping their responses. Our clients find this sophisticated level of analysis invaluable. We ensure that our results provide an in-depth understanding of people’s experiences, perspectives and histories in the context of their personal circumstances or settings. We work hard to ensure our reports are insightful and genuinely useful to our clients by structuring reporting around their key research questions, providing examples and illustrating our reports with quotations from participants. 

We deliver qualitative work in the UK and internationally.

If you are interested in commissioning us to work with you, please contact our Bid Team.