Qualitative Research

“I have a quantitative background, but really, derivatives appealed to me because they require so much creativity” – Blythe Masters

Qualitative research is a type of social science research that collects and works with non-numerical data and that seeks to interpret meaning from these data that help us understand social life through the study of targeted populations or places. People often frame it in opposition to quantitative research, which uses numerical data to identify large-scale trends and employs statistical operations to determine causal and correlative relationships between variables.

Within sociology, qualitative research is typically focused on the micro-level of social interaction that composes everyday life, whereas quantitative research typically focuses on macro-level trends and phenomena.

Like all scientific research, qualitative research aims at the systematic application of a predetermined set of procedures, to collect and analyse evidence, and present findings that resolve issues. Qualitative research however aims to gain an understanding only on the particular case studied rather than to generalize, or to use the data to support hypothesis. For instance, in a qualitative study on organizational behaviour, the focus is on understanding the behaviour of the employees and the reasons for such behaviour rather than using the sample to predict the personality types of the workforce.

Major methods of qualitative research are

  • Interviews, to elicit people’s view and perspectives in a detailed and comprehensive manner
  • Case studies or detailed investigations to analyse the variables relevant to the subject under study in its own natural settings
  • Participant observation or collecting data by observing the sample in their natural environment
  • Action research, or collaborative inquiry that entails interactive inquiry about the subject including review of records and data driven analysis and identification of underlying causes of the phenomenon by active enquiry
  • Historical research, or studying documents, artifacts, and other materials to gain insight into the group’s behaviours, actions, and other characteristics over a period
  • Phenomenology, or the theoretical study of a phenomenon to describe the “subjective reality” of an event
  • Philosophical research, or intellectual analysis, which involves clarification of definitions, ethical values and norms, and other percepts for the specific field of study

Qualitative research requires small focus groups rather than large diffused samples. Such focus groups provide broad overviews of the population they represent.

Qualitative research provides complex descriptions of how people experience a given research issue. It provides an overview of

  1. the “human” side of an issue in terms of behaviours, beliefs, opinions, emotions, and relationships, and
  2. Intangible factors, such as social norms, socioeconomic status, gender roles, ethnicity, and religion.

Very often, a single research project contains both qualitative and quantitative components.

The Purpose of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research has a long history in sociology and has been used within it for as long as the field itself has existed. This type of research has long appealed to social scientists because it allows the research to investigate the meanings that people attribute to their behaviour, actions, and interactions with others. While quantitative research is useful for identifying relationships between variables, like, for example, the connection between poverty and racial hate, it is qualitative research that can illuminate why this connection exists by going directly to the source — the people themselves.

Qualitative research is designed to reveal the meaning that informs the action or outcomes that are typically measured by quantitative research. Therefore, qualitative researchers investigate meanings, interpretations, symbols, and the processes and relations of social life. What this type of research produces is descriptive data that the researcher must then interpret using rigorous and systematic methods of transcribing, coding, and analysis of trends and themes.

Because its focus is everyday life and people’s experiences, qualitative research lends itself well to creating new theories using the inductive method, which can then be tested with further research.

     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.

How to Use Qualitative Research to Expand on Your Marketing Personas

The marketing persona is a tried-and-true customer segmentation strategy that many companies rely on to get the big picture about the people they serve. At the same time, these marketers and their teams are gathering copious amounts of data from and about those customers.

Because there is so much data out there, it can be difficult to tie all that information to specific segments. However, that does not mean it has to go to waste. In fact, with the data you are collecting right now, you can make some impressive leaps in better understanding and serving your customers. Here is how to do it.

Keep in mind that the Aristocrat Market Research  can help you increase your knowledge of specific market sectors. We have wide-ranging data sources ready for you to use on-site to better understand everything from key legislation affecting your industry and emerging technologies through to potential opportunities created by economic, cultural or social changes. Our workshop ‘Introduction to using the Business & IP Centre’ equips you with all the tools you need to carry out free market research and browse national and international property databases.

“I have a quantitative background, but really, derivatives appealed to me because they require so much creativity” – Blythe Masters

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