Qualitative Research

Are Your Qualitative Research Reports Damaged by Researcher Bias?

Writing qualitative research reports is hard work.

I could even argue that writing a report based on qualitative data is more difficult than writing one based on quantitative.  Two primary challenges exist:

Qualitative data is messy. Analyzing qualitative data takes a lot of time, especially for the researcher who hasn’t yet learned about different analysis best practices.

Qualitative data analysis is subjective. The researcher drawing conclusions based on qualitative data can’t point to banner tables and multivariate data analysis for their proof points. They have to look for patterns and themes by reading transcripts and notes. Do some use automated text analysis tools? Yes, but this is still uncommon; many researchers find the “automated” tools are more work than they are worth. For most researchers, the data analysis is “human” and that means it is subjective.

When you have rich qualitative data (from focus groups, in-depth interviews, ethnographic research or other efforts), you have a treasure trove just waiting to be revealed.  You want to make sure you get the most from it. Don’t be the researcher who relies on their personal recall to bang out a report in a couple of hours—that researcher is not leveraging this wonderful resource, and is likely injecting their own biases into the process. Indeed, researcher bias is a very real phenomenon (many articles have been written about it by social scientists and academic researchers). And it can lead to bad conclusions.

Thorough, structured analysis of qualitative data is the most efficient strategy for analyzing messy qualitative data while reducing the risk of researcher bias. Teach your researchers how to plan and conduct structured analysis, and they will be able to take all of that messy data and turn it into a credible research report. One that really shines.


Kathryn Korostoff

Kathryn Korostoff is founder and lead instructor at Research Rockstar. Over the past 25 years, she has personally directed more than 600 primary market research projects and published over 100 bylined articles in magazines. She is also a professor at Boston University, where she teaches grad students how to analyze and report quantitative data.

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