One of the most common mistakes non-researchers make is not understanding when to use Qualitative vs. Quantitative Research methods. This article briefly defines each technique and explains where each technique is appropriate.
Qualitative research is the “collection of in-depth, non-numeric data, traditionally collected face-to-face in an unstructured manner.” This form of research is primarily concerned with obtaining and understanding consumer attitudes and motivations.
The most common forms of qualitative research include:
- Focus groups
- Mini groups
- One-on-one in-depth interviews
- Laddering (in-depth probing technique)
- In-depth telephone interviews
Quantitative research is the “systematic collection of numeric data.” This form of data collection usually involves sampling techniques and sizes that enable the analyst to make projectable conclusions. Data can be collected via phone, mail, fax, or in-person.
Some common forms of quantitative research include:
- Concept testing
- Positioning testing
- Advertising/awareness/attitude tracking
- Optimization studies
- Name/logo testing
- Acquisition/goodwill testing
- Client/relationship satisfaction
- Price sensitivity models
- Market segmentation
Marketing research purchasers and research users often ask which technique will be better for a specific purpose. The following guidelines may help the next time you wonder which data collection method is best suited for your needs.
Characteristics of Qualitative and Quantitative Research
|Purpose:||To describe, explore or generate ideas, thoughts, or
feelings; to form hypotheses to be tested quantitatively
|To predict or to measure; to quantify
hypothesis generated qualitatively
|Form:||No predetermined categories of analysis||Standardized measures and predetermined
|Scale:||Small-scale; small number of observations or
respondents; small groups of people generating a large amount of in-depth, exploratory
|Large-scale; larger numbers of observations
(at least n=100); limited number of questions yielding broad, generalized, projectable
|Optimal result:||Greater understanding of individual
|Greater understanding of group similarities|
|Outcome:||Longer and more detailed. Variable in content||Succinct, easily aggregated for analysis|
|Negatives:||Over complicated thinking; some respondent
bias may occur
|Process:||Illustrative explanation, responses can be
|Numerical aggregation, responses can be
|Approach:||Supposedly subjective||Supposedly objective|
|Description:||Interpretive—how? why?||Statistical—how many? how often? how
|Sampling:||Convenience||Projectable, random, quota, structured|
|Strength:||Face validity||Statistical reliability|
|Cost & Timing||Less expensive. Usually quick for groups;
longer for in-depth interviews
|More expensive, usually takes longer in field
Uses of Qualitative and Quantitative Research
When should qualitative research be recommended?
- When you want to “explore” a topic, generate ideas and hypothesis
- As a primary screening tool for concepts, products, services, etc.
- To obtain an in-depth understanding of market segments
- To learn why people think, feel, or behave in a certain way
- To assist in the design of quantitative studies (learning appropriate language or ensuring all-inclusive lists)
- When the value of the decision to be made is very low, or the budget is very limited (knowing the data is not projectable)
When should quantitative research be recommended?
- To obtain definitive statistics on a topic
- As the final test for concepts, products, services, etc., prior to market entry or other large investment
- To define and determine the size of market segments
- To determine how many people think, feel, or behave a certain way
- To determine the percentages of people who hold each of the opinions which were previously expressed in qualitative research
- When the cost of the decision to be made is high
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