what is qualitative research
Qualitative research is designed to reveal a target audience’s range of behavior and the perceptions that drive it with reference to specific topics or issues. It uses in-depth studies of small groups of people to guide and support the construction of hypotheses. The results of qualitative research are descriptive rather than predictive.
Qualitative research methods originated in the social and behavioral sciences: sociology, anthropology and psychology. Today, qualitative methods in the field of marketing research include in-depth interviews with individuals, group discussions (from two to ten participants is typical); diary and journal exercises; and in-context observations. Sessions may be conducted in person, by telephone, via videoconferencing and via the Internet.
Why Qualitative Research Works
Several unique aspects of qualitative research contribute to rich, insightful results:
- Synergy among respondents, as they build on each other’s comments and ideas.
- The dynamic nature of the interview or group discussion process, which engages respondents more actively than is possible in more structured survey.
- The opportunity to probe ("Help me understand why you feel that way") enabling the researcher to reach beyond initial responses and rationales.
- The opportunity to observe, record and interpret non-verbal communication (i.e., body language, voice intonation) as part of a respondent’s feedback, which is valuable during interviews or discussions, and during analysis.
- The opportunity to engage respondents in "play" such as projective techniques and exercises, overcoming the self-consciousness that can inhibit spontaneous reactions and comments.