Qualitative Research: Studying for the LMSW Exam

By Emily Pellegrino on October 26, 2012

Definition of the word research with the term circled in red

I must admit that this week's topic was always one I struggled with while in graduate school. However, it's one that's really important, and something that you will see on the LMSW exam. Research studies inform our professional practice and it is important to know the up-to-date research so that we can ethically and competently work with clients. Qualitative research is a specific type of research design, and a term that is good to know for the LMSW exam.

Let's get started with a sample question.

Sample Question:

All of the following are aspects of qualitative research EXCEPT:

A. It investigates the how and why of decision making.

B. The researcher serves as the primary data gathering instrument.

C. It involves descriptive or inferential statistical analysis.

D. It generally uses smaller sample sizes

Qualitative research is generally a more exploratory type of research where we are trying to gain insight into a certain phenomenon. This can often be explored through verbal data, such as interviews, focus groups, narratives, or participant observation. On the other hand, quantitative research gathers information by obtaining numerical data through questionnaires, surveys, and measurable data. This is the biggest difference between qualitative and quantitative research. For the LMSW exam it's good to know that qualitative research is a subjective research design and one that seeks to understand why something occurs.

The Social Work Dictionary defines qualitative research as, "Systematic investigations that include inductive, in-depth, nonquantitative studies of individuals, groups, organizations, or communities. Examples include field study, ethnography, and historiography" (Barker, 2003).


The best answer here is C. C is correct because it better describes a quantitative research study where measurable data is being collected and analyzed. As I mentioned earlier quantitative research uses numerical data and tries to quantify something that is observable.

Coming up next week: Reframing

Think our straightforward, sensible approach could help you PASS your LMSW exam? If you're preparing for the social work exam, check out our LMSW Study Materials. Learn more about our exam prep at the The Therapist Development Center home page.

Looking for more practice questions and some study tips? Check out our new Social Work Exam Study Guide:

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