Qualitative research may serve within either framework-positivism or phenomenology. In the latter case, interviews and observation seek in-depth understanding with neither prior theory nor the goal of general laws that go beyond the setting studied.

In this case, qualitative research will not test hypotheses. The researcher may speculate, after collecting and interpreting the data, about the implications for wider segments of the population. However, such a researcher would not proclaim any universal laws.

When research attempts only to portray phenomena without testing for causal patterns, we call it descriptive. Because this text focuses on causal rather than descriptive research, we will have more interest in qualitative research that tests hypotheses in the positivist tradition.