Primer on Social Research Methods

As far as information collection is concerned, most customers are fairly satisfied with the idea of depth interviews or focus groups, as an example, yet with regards to the investigation, they tend to request the figures. This may often lead a good deal of head scratching along with furrowed brows, along with remarks, for example, Well, it is only hearsay or even How does that tell us anything? Therefore, what’s the point of qualitative investigation, and what can it tell us? To start with, what it can’t tell us is how far, how many, who when, that’s statistical data derived from qualitative data collection and evaluation, like surveys and audits.

What qualitative information tell us is why, what and how the specific research object means to the respondent. The strongest use of qualitative approaches on commercial social study is applying qualitative techniques, or when the statistical proof is already known. In case the quantitative information reflects the skeleton of a response into the research questions, qualitative information provides it flesh. After we’ve established with the customer the figures come from another origin along with of the focus group or of the interviews are on the meaning of the research object, another question is how can you know they’re telling the truth, or if they’ve made a mistake? That’s the largest question of all and the response is I do not know.

Although there are obviously standard formats and practices for conducting this sort of research, sometimes you’ll have to be flexible in your approach.  Data obtained from face to face interviews can be much more accurate than if you are relying on postal or online methods.  For example, marketing reports prepared for a company developing UK TV overseas for the domestic market have to be careful about their target audience.   There is little point in including people who are never likely to form part of your customer base e.g. non-English speakers as at best they will skew the data and at worst completely invalidate it.

Without exclusive access to the head of another person it’s impossible to know if they’re telling the truth. More prosaically, they might be merely repeating the facts as they see it, but be mistaken. This leads customers to then question the value of qualitative research, feeling that there’s no scientific component to it. Qualitative study can easily be as rigorous as qualitative research if done properly. The research uses a basic script or even aide memoire to make sure that all the relevant tissues are all discussed with of the respondent, but of the respondent is allowed to digress to a limited extent as she or he might then introduce other relevant problems that the researcher hadn’t thought of.

These topics then enter of the script and are used any time procuring the next respondent. This tends to ensure that issues are dealt with in the information collection. The analysis of the data starts instantly upon completion of the first interview. The researcher develops a series of themes along with viewpoints that may be best thought of as mini theories about of the topics being researched. After each interview she or he reviews and modifies these themes and viewpoints, and possibly adds new ones. If there are geographical components it may be a good idea to split these up and identify them.  For example if you’re researching across the European Union, then you could classify your data by country – grouping those UK TV watchers from Ireland, separately from those in France and so on.  This can add much more value to both your data but also a depth to the report and conclusions too.