Article Synopsis: Quantitative or Qualitative Research Methods, Let’s Go Back to the Basics

Quirk’s October 2014
“Quant or qual, let’s go back to the basics”
By Kevin Gray

Kevin Gray’s article is chock full of tips, reminding market researchers to pay as much attention to “how they think” as they do to what research methods they use. He offers his thoughts on what he calls “research thinking.”

Gray breaks research thinking into specific parts: verifying data, defining relationships, understanding and avoiding data interpretation traps, and probabilities versus categories.  In verifying data, not only must researchers be sure to uncover flaws in the raw data, but also be aware of inferring cause and effect relationships. Additionally, when investigating relationships within data, different statistical methods and models can give different readings.  Gray states, “Causation requires correlation of some kind but correlation and causation are not the same.”

When looking at probabilities and categories, Gray cautions the researcher to, “Avoid confusing the possible with the plausible and the plausible with fact. It’s also not difficult, though, to miss something of genuine practical significance that lies hidden beneath the surface of our data.”

Additional tips from the author:

  • Do your homework. Many phenomena have more than one cause.
  • When designing research, first consider who will be using the results, how the results will be used and when they will be used, and then work backward into the methodology. Don’t let the tools be the boss. 
    • This point really resonates; in today’s world, researchers can get distracted by technology that may or may not have merit.  So it is easy to select the shiny new tool even if it is not the right fit.

Two more great tips:

  • Develop hypotheses, even rough ones, to help clarify your thinking when designing research.
    • This  may sound obvious but it is often overlooked. As a result, we have all seen cases of muddy thinking resulting in weak research.
  • Take care not to over-interpret data.
    • Or, as some researchers say, “don’t beat your data to death.”

Gray’s tips are a good reminder to market researchers to be aware of their “research thinking.”

This synopsis was written by Lynn Croft, independent marketing and market research consultant. With 15 years of experience at companies such as Genzyme, Bayer Corporation, Shire, and Eli Lilly, Lynn has expertise in market research and market analysis regarding product launches, pricing and lifecycle management. 

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