There’s a common misperception that qualitative research is faster, cheaper and easier than quantitative research. There’s a vast range of methodologies within each type, so in some cases that is true, but when each is done correctly, quantitative can actually be significantly faster and cheaper than qualitative for many types of research objectives. To know which is appropriate, check your objectives against the “3 Cs”: confirmatory, checkbox, and counts.
- Confirmatory: if you absolutely must do confirmatory research (meaning, research done just to validate something you already are planning to do), a quick quantitative screener will give you an answer much more efficiently than qual.
- Checkbox: if your discussion guide looks more like a survey, it probably should be. Don’t use qualitative research just to ask respondents which one they prefer or pick the best option. At the risk of over-simplification, if you want to know “what” or “which one”, use quant. If you want to more deeply understand the “why” (and sometimes “how”) use qual.
- Counts: if you need percentages, tallies, or any numerical data at all, you need quantitative research. Don’t let anyone cheat by talking about or reporting any statistics from qualitative data—it’s just incorrect, misleading and dangerous for decision making.
Discussion or interview guides should be just that—guides. A discussion guide should be an outline of topics to be covered in an approximate order. Professional moderators should be expert at guiding discussions organically so you get a more authentic view of your consumer while still getting all the research questions answered. If you’re doing self or team-moderation, first ensure that everyone is trained on interviewing basics. This is not a survey checkbox exercise, this is a conversation.
Try putting yourself in the respondents’ shoes. How interesting would it be to answer a series of closed-ended questions for an hour? Now back to our researchers’ shoes: how much more can we learn by asking for stories, examples and analogies? Not to mention, designing creative exercises that access the unconscious mind and observing actual consumer experiences in real life context.
By choosing the appropriate methodology based on the business questions and learning objectives, you can save both time and money. When qualitative research is the right approach, structure the discussion guide and activities to take full advantage of the depth and richness of learning available from the interpersonal and interactive communication inherent in this technique.