This type of research goes by many names: ethnography, cognitive anthropology, etc. A good way to understand qualitative research is to examine it in terms of the research parameters we've already discussed:
First, qualitative research tends to be synthetic rather than analytic. It attempts to capture "the big picture" and see how a multitude of variables work together in the real world.
Another characteristic of qualitative research is that it is generally heuristic or hypothesis generating. Unlike deductive research, it does not start with preconceived notions or hypotheses, attempting to discover, understand, and interpret what is happening in the research context.
In addition, the degree of control over the research context is low. Qualitative research examines naturally occurring behavior, so the investigative methods are as non-intrusive as possible. Therefore, the researcher's effect on the subjects and the data is minimal.
The level of explicitness in data collection procedures is also low. The data are more impressionistic and interpretive than numerical.