Qualitative Research

It’s Opening Night for Your Qualitative Data: Is it Ready to be a Star?

marqueeWhat’s your preferred approach to analyzing qualitative information from focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDIs)?

  • An unstructured approach?
  • Or a structured approach?

It’s a reasonable debate.

What’s not a rational position is to say “unstructured” without even knowing what “structured” approaches exist. And they do exist.

Qualitative Research is Important: Let’s Not Blow It

Qualitative research methods are more important today than ever before. As Big Data booms, market research is increasingly turned to for the answers to “why.” For example, Big Data may find a strong correlation between specific types of promotions and sales volume, but can’t tell us why. And the “why” is important so we can replicate success and possibly even optimize it. Where does it come from? “Why” research is often qualitative—not quant.

I know this is true because I increasingly hear from companies that need to raise the bar on qualitative methods and analysis. They want to use current approaches and they want their team members to be able to confidently execute these projects from start to finish. Qualitative research is in the spotlight; market researchers know that now is the time for qual to shine.

And that means that when it comes to the analysis of qualitative information, reliance on recall and gut feelings just don’t cut it.

For qualitative research to gain the respect it deserves, we have to show that the analysis is robust and objective. And that means structured approaches, such as grounded theory and framework analysis.

Why Structured Approaches to Qualitative Analysis are Important

Want a reason? Market researchers are human. And humans are imperfect.

One challenges is inattentional Blindness: an unconscious tendency to miss what we’re not looking for or don’t expect. This is hysterically demonstrated in this famous video.

Structured approaches ensure that we mitigate the risk of various forms of bias. And that makes us better researchers. Is it more work? Yes. But with the spotlight shining brightly on qualitative research, we have a choice: be prepared to become the star, or risk devastating reviews.

[Writing Qualitative Research Reports starts February 4th, and this 4-week Power Program teaches structured approaches to qualitative analysis. Sign up today at Research Rockstar’s Training Store]


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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