Qualitative Research


Exhibit 4.0   Focus group discussion (Photo courtesy of Republic Polytechnic).

Qualitative research (qual) reveals what people think and feel, and explores issues by understanding how people’s attitudes and motivations influence their behaviour. It relies on implicit models of analysis of the participants’ verbal and non-verbal communication, their actions and reactions to interpret why people feel the way they do.

The distinguishing characteristic of qual is that it is primarily concerned with “how” and “why”; while it serves to explore and investigate, qual does not attempt to measure.

Group discussions and depth interviews, the two commonly used modes of qual are moderated by trained qual researchers. The researchers make use of open-ended interviewing techniques to explore participants’ feelings and bring forth emotions into the open in a way that they feel comfortable with. 

As shown in Exhibit 4.0, which depicts a focus group in progress, the setting is controlled and the proceedings are recorded. Note also the use of the one way mirror to unobtrusively observe the group discussion.

Related topics in this section highlight the difference between qual and quant research, discuss the use of user-generated content, and clarify what type of marketing problem each of these methods is best suited to resolve.

The section also covers other aspects of qual including group discussions, interviews, observation, online qual, the design and preparation of a qual study, projective and enabling techniques, body language, and guidelines for moderating groups.


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