QUALITATIVE RESEARCH : Choosing Research Methods for Real World
Imagine you are in a market research agency, or decision resource consultancy.

Choose any of the situations below; given that everyone has agreed that some form of
QUALITATIVE research is necessary, answer the following:

      What method(s) would you suggest – group discussion or individual depth

      Who should the respondents be?

      How many categories of respondents? Why?

      How will your chosen methods help?

      Is there another way of doing it, e.g. a quantitative survey?

      What practical problems might there be, and how could you overcome them?

      What are the advantages and disadvantages of these designs?

      Is there anything else necessary to make good decisions possible?

       Situation 1: A manufacturer of toys for needs new ideas for products that are

       Situation 2: A large firm of solicitors specialising in employment litigation would like
       to increase its business in this field.

       Situation 3: A local authority has a budget to upgrade the facilities and décor in its six
       swimming pools, which are currently very differently provided for, and would like to
       know how best to spend the money.

       Situation 4: A manufacturer of construction kit ornaments has a new range, and
       would like to know what messages to put into advertising, and whether aspects of
       the product need minor changes.

       Situation 5: A private fertility clinic would like to develop its counselling services.

       Situation 6: A policy under consideration is to set up Adult Filter Schools (AFS’s) in
       Leeds, Dundee and Swansea at which Asylum Seekers would be required to attend.
       The ASFs would teach English Language and British History.
Situation 7: A surprisingly large number of people took part in a protest march in
Central London, organised by ‘Victims of Burglary’. They demand immunity from
prosecution for people defending their homes against intruders.

Situation 8: A new option for sentencing is being considered. Judges would be able
to pass an order whereby the convicted person would be required to work alongside
a police officer for a specified period.

Situation 9: The government is considering the launch of cheap, country-specific
passports. These would be valid for one year and would enable holders to visit a
single ‘friendly’ foreign country. The USA and Australia are the first to be considered.

Situation 10: An influential back-bench MP has suggested the creation of mobile
police stations to serve rural areas.
Alternative Research Techniques.

Now list out alternative ways in which qualitative and quantitative research could be carried
out, and against each of these, suggest circumstances where the technique could prove

Self-completion questionnaires (versus interview administered). Ads: Can distribute large
quantities; can often control completion and collection. Eg feedback at the end of a

Postal questionnaires. Ads: Can send very large quantities. Disads: poor response rates; lack
of control over respondent. E.g. survey of members of a large society.

Telephone interviews: Ads: low cost; quick; no geographical problems; Disads, Cant show
stimulus materials; needs to be brief. E.g. Opinion polls.

Mini-group discussion (4-5 respondents; 45-60 mins) Ads: May be practical where full
groups (aroud 8 respondents) are not; group dynamics focus attention on agenda style
format. Disads: Less breadth in responses e.g. professionals.

Mini-friendship groups (who know each other) Ads: Opportunity to speak freely from the
outset; ideal for child/teenage groups; Disads: A bigger programme of fieldwork needed to
capture diverse opinions. Egs exploring views on school matters.

Paired-depth interviews. Ads: Joint decision making; married/cohabiting couples. Disads:
Requires considerable skill to allow for defence mechanisms. Egs. High involvement
projects; some life assurance issues.

Extended groups (2 plus hours) Ads: chance to explore and try specific products. Disads:
needs planned breaks and or task changes. Expensive egs new food product development.

Case studies Ads: Business research, where the firm is the sampling unit. Disads: Usually
difficult to systematise the research process; requires careful pre-planning egs establishing
performance expectations within companies.

Observations Ads: Pure ethnography; reduced researcher-bias effects. Disads: Cannot
impose a topic guide. Egs Public research; young children.

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