What is qualitative research?
Qualitative research is the exploration of the range of opinions that exist in the market place. It seeks to understand why people perceive what they do and the factors that influence the range of their opinions.
Qualitative interviews are done in small focus groups (usually fewer than 10 respondents), triads (groups of 3), dyads (groups of 2) or one-on-one interviews. These discussions are exploratory in nature, allowing researchers the flexibility to uncover and examine issues that arise during the collection process.
Qualitative research can be done face-to-face, over the telephone and online.
Qualitative research should never attempt to quantify an opinion as sample sizes are too small to provide statistically reliable information.
How much time should I plan for when conducting qualitative research?
The time it will take to complete your project depends on many factors. Keep in mind the following milestones when planning:
- Recruiting respondents: we like to have a minimum of two weeks to recruit for any qualitative research project.
- Approval lead time: you have the opportunity to review and approve the research project at each milestone (recruitment specifications, development of discussion agenda, written report). Depending upon the size of your organization and the number of people involved, please allow sufficient time for approval processes as you are building your schedule.
- Analysis and reporting: a verbal debrief will happen immediately after the conclusion of the qualitative data gathering. The preparation of the written report can take between one and two weeks depending upon the size of the project and the complexity of the topic.
What information do I need to start a research project?
The most important thing we will ask you when designing a research project is “How will you use the research results?” If you have a good idea of these research objectives, you are ready to start the process.
Click here for a more complete summary of what you need to start your research project.
How do you find the people to participate in a research project?
This is a critical step in the research process. As a matter of fact, we at Johnston Research believe the success of the research rests in ensuring we have the right people at the table (whether that is a real or virtual table).
The first step in recruiting respondents is writing an effective recruitment screener. This is the script that is used to interview potential respondents. In the screener, questions are written to identify respondents that fit the desired audience.
To recruit respondents, we use professional recruiting services. Here in Edmonton, we usually work with Trend Research. These are professionally trained individuals who are skilled at ensuring recruited participants closely match our specifications.
Professional recruiting firms will have an extensive database of individuals who have agreed to participate in research. The database holds some basic demographic information that helps recruiters to narrow down the search. We can also use your customer lists, stakeholder contact lists or employee directories.
Sometimes we will arrange to do intercept surveys (go where we know our target audience will be located and approach people asking them to participate in research). Although it is the least preferred method, sometimes we just need to do cold calling.
When should I use one-on-one interviews? Focus groups?
Don’t think of focus groups and one-on-one (in-depth) interviews as an either/or approach. They can be complementary processes and Johnston Research will often use both in the same project.
While there are no hard and fast rules, focus groups tend to be the method of choice when:
- The discussion will benefit from the back and forth sharing of ideas
- It is important to see how opinions change or can be influenced by the opinions of others
- Clients want to be able to observe the research proceedings
- The subject matter isn’t sensitive or proprietary
One-on-one interviews are most effective when:
- The subject matter is sensitive or proprietary, making it difficult for respondents to speak candidly in front of others
- The topic is complex and nuanced and a one-on-one conversation allows the researcher to dig deeper into the perceptions and opinions of the respondent
- The respondent population is made up of senior level staff/professionals. These individuals tend to be most open and candid in one-on-one conversations
- You don’t want respondents to be influenced by or responding to others' opinions
- Respondent schedules make it difficult to find a common time to schedule a group discussion
- Respondents are from geographically disparate areas (although this can also be addressed through the use of different online technologies)
What is the purpose of incentives and how much should be offered?
Incentives are the compensation paid to research respondents and can be in the form of cash or gifts.
Incentives are a way to thank research respondents for both their time and their opinions. They should also reimburse respondents for any costs of participating in the research project (travel, parking, child care).
The value of the incentive should be set high enough that it will be enticing during the recruitment process and it will encourage people to attend the research at the scheduled time (when they would prefer just to go home, have dinner and put their feet up).
Incentive amounts range based on the length of the discussion, location of focus groups, technology being used, the skills or specific experience needed from the respondent groups and the size of the respondent population.
How long does a focus group normally last?
Depending on your research objectives, the length of a focus group will usually range between 90 minutes and two hours. One-on-one interviews can last anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour or more.
Can we watch the focus groups?
Absolutely! We strongly encourage our partners to observe focus groups, listen to telephone interviews and log into online sessions. There really is no substitute for being able to hear opinions directly from your customer or your target audience.
What if not all members of our team can attend the focus group?
Video and/or audio recordings are made for most research projects. These recordings can be made available for members of your team. To ensure client confidentiality however, copies of these recordings can only be used for review by members of your team. They cannot be shared publically in any way.
How much does a qualitative research project cost?
Because of the number of variables involved in a research process we cannot give you a “standard” cost. Please contact us about your research needs and we will be happy to provide you with a customized quote.
Have we answered the right questions for you? If not, please don't hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to answer any other questions you might have.