Qualitative Research Methods, Reasons for Using and Classifying Qualitative Research Methods, Focus Groups, General Characteristics - Marketing Research

4.2. Qualitative research methods

Reasons for using and classifying qualitative research methods

Qualitative research refers to non-formalized research aimed at identifying information that a respondent can not or does not want to provide to the researcher or even does not realize.

Carrying out quality research is highly desirable for two reasons. As already noted, in the course of quantitative research, people, firstly, do not always want, and secondly, they can not always give exact answers to questions. In the first case, it can be, for example, issues related to the social status of a person. This is, say, the question: "Have you recently bought drugs used for nervous disorders?" In the second case - about type questions: "Why did you buy this sports car?" Answering this question, a person will say, for example, that his old car has become unusable. In fact, he bought it to feel like a well-established man. This type of data is obtained through qualitative research.

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Qualitative research methods include focus groups, in-depth interviews and various projective methods studies: the method of associations, the method for completing phrases, etc.

The goal, which is pursued in the process of marketing research, in some cases is not hidden from the participants, in others - is hiding. Methods of the first type are called direct , and the second type is indirect . From this point of view, focus group methods and in-depth interviews are direct, and projective methods are indirect.

Let's consider each of the qualitative methods in turn.

Focus Groups

General Characteristics

A focus group is a method of research in which a specially trained person (moderator), according to a pre-prepared script, conducts a conversation simultaneously with 8-12 invited people from the research category of the population of interest.

This technique is so common that some consider focus groups a synonym for quality research in general. In the United States, each of the hundreds of firms that provide such services, conducts several focus groups on a weekly basis. Annually in this country there are about 100 thousand focus groups. The cost of each of them is about 4 thousand dollars. Thus, the total cost of focus groups in the US for the year is close to half a billion dollars.

A focus group of fewer than 8 participants does not provide the required conversation dynamism, and more than 12 creates unnecessary noise, in which it is difficult to understand the voice of each participant.

The following requirements are imposed on the composition of focus group participants:

1) it should be as homogeneous as possible on socio-demographic and economic indicators;

2) the life style of the group members should not differ significantly, as this can cause special relationships and even conflicts between some focus group participants, which is unacceptable. Therefore, for example, it is undesirable to include in the same female group simultaneously young unmarried women, married women and divorced or widowed women;

3) focus group participants should have approximately the same experience in the area under discussion;

4) can not be included in the composition of participants of people who have a significant experience of participation in focus groups, as "professional respondents" atypical.

The duration of focus groups can vary from one to three hours. Most often it lasts about an hour and a half. Refreshing drinks, tea, coffee, a small treat are usually served to the conversation. The work process is fixed either with the help of a dictaphone or a video camera. The latter, of course, is more expensive, but allows analyzing the results to distinguish the facial expressions and gestures.

Since the number of participants is small, percentage distributions in the report are usually not shown. Only expressions of the type can be used: & quot; Most participants believe ... & quot; or & quot; The opinions of the participants are divided & quot ;. But the report should contain a detailed interpretation of what was happening in the focus group and related to the adoption of marketing decisions.

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The number of focus groups conducted on the same topic depends also on a number of circumstances:

o of the complexity of the topic being studied;

o number of distinguishable market segments;

o Number of new ideas that have arisen in the previous focus groups;

o available financial opportunities and time.

The general principle is this: focus groups should be held until the moderator can predict in advance what will be said again. This usually happens after three four focus groups on the same topic with people from the same target group. Less than two focus groups are not recommended under any circumstances: the influence of the randomness factor is too large.

Based on the results of focus groups, hypotheses are formulated. So, if the majority of focus group participants agreed with some point of view, it is possible to put forward a hypothesis that the majority of representatives of the studied population (for example, the population as a whole) hold the same opinion.

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