A New Direction For Qualitative Research? 4 Points of View From Key Insight Experts

Letitia Oglesby
November, 2018

The research and insight industry is transforming at a rate of knots. It’s been a busy year for acquisitions, mergers, new thinking, new methodologies etc. How is qualitative research being affected by this change?

When we were asked by Louella, who writes for the AQR, for a definition of qualitative research, the answer wasn’t as straightforward as it initially seemed. The technical skills within qualitative research have changed: fewer focus groups, lots more analysing blogs, social media posts and online communities.

1). Kristin Hickey from Kubi Kalloo pointed out:

“The competencies remain the same: the ability/instinct to listen to, observe and understand the consumer.”

Does this mean the definition too remains unchanged?

Qualitative research seems to have become more quantitative. The ESOMAR qualitative research conference last week, ‘Fusion’, examined where qualitative research meets artificial intelligence and big data. Where do things like UX and Behavioural Economics fit in? Today, does qualitative research answer the question ‘why’, regardless of the source of the information?

2). Jeroen Verheggen, from Netfluential, defines qualitative research as:

“For me it is still the ‘what & why’ of research, the thing that has changed for me is that we can now quantify the qualitative and the lines between the two have faded. This means we can do good qual work in larger numbers and analyse at scale, making the findings more robust.”

3). For Steve Phillips at Zappi, the definition also considers the broader role of qualitative research:

“The purpose is to provide depth of insight and enable intuition. Going are the days of clients doing a few groups to help make a quick decision, so I think decision making should be taken out of the remit and therefore leave depth of human insight.”

4). As Stuart Knapman from The Sound puts it:

“Qualitative research is about uncovering meaning and putting the humanity back into research and has changed dramatically from just asking questions.”

All agree that the increasing range of data from which we want to know the ‘why’ puts qualitative research in an increasingly strong position.

As a qualitative researcher, what do you think? Have you seen any changes over the last few years? Let us know in the comments below.

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