We need some qualitative time
Research is like a relationship. For the most part we can gauge opinion through day-to-day indicators, using the balance of play to judge where we stand and how our significant other is feeling. But there comes a time when you just have to sit down and have a chat, or spend some ‘qualitative’ time together.
Focus groups and in-depth interviews are increasingly being utilised by firms wishing to delve a little deeper into consumer opinion. Whilst numbers and figures have several advantages, it is often equally beneficial to put statistics to one side and get into the nitty-gritty of the research before wider audiences are surveyed, which is where qualitative research methods come into play.
Qualitative research has several advantages. Primarily, it allows the interviewee to lead the discussion as well as the interviewer. This makes the results less staged and usually allows a better understanding of the target market to emerge. As a socially-oriented research method, it captures real-life data in a social setting and has a high face validity, meaning that it measures what it is intended to measure.
Researchers often cite the fact that the ‘why’ aspect of qualitative research is the biggest incentive for doing them. Rather than relying on ‘when’, ‘how much’, and ‘what’ questions, which are the cornerstones of quantitative research, the interviewer can rely on the word ‘why’, thus prompting interview subjects to expand on their answers and develop a better understanding of what prompts people to think in a certain way, rather than just ascertaining that they think that way.
There are several research methods that fall into the qualitative side of the research spectrum.
At Atomik Research we arrange both face-to-face and telephone interviews to allow researchers to ask open-ended questions conducted in a less formal way. An advantage of interviewing respondents is that the questions are not locked in stone and can be expanded on or even allowed to run in previously unthought-of directions.
Focus groups have many of the advantages of interviews in that the questions aren’t static, but they have the additional ‘group’ benefit whereby people interact with each other and share opinions more openly. We often arrange focus groups for clients looking for inspiration, as group dynamics often bring out aspects of the topic or reveal information about the subject that may not have been anticipated by the researcher or emerged from individual interviews.