What is the difference between Qualitative and Quantitative Research?

[Sorry, this is a really long post, but I have been asked several times to explain the key differences between qual and quant. Here is my attempt to do that, but I would really appreciate comments from others.] Quite often we see references to qual and quant research merging, with larger samples being used for qual and unstructured data (such as pictures or videos) being used for quant. However, the claim that qual and quant are coalescing into a single entity is a mistake based on a lack of understanding about what qual and quant really are. This post highlights the essence of what qual and quant are, why they are different, and why it matters. Very simple definitions of qual and quant For many people a very simple, probably over-simplified, definition of qual and quant research is all they are ever going to need, so it is worth setting that out first – but remember this is not the full picture. Qual: a qual researcher typically uses unstructured information (such as the discussions in a focus group) to gain an understanding of why people do or believe something. Qual does not provide numbers that can be extrapolated to a […]


Why researchers need a good hinterland

The term hinterland was used by the British Politician Dennis Healy to describe somebody who had a life, interests, and knowledge that extended beyond their field of employment/speciality. Denis Healey was a leading Labour Politician from the 1950s to the start of the 1990s – and his hinterland included being Beach Master at Anzio during the Second World War, a degree from Oxford in the Classics (Greek and Latin), loved Opera, spoke French, German and Italian, passionate (and skilled) photographer, and would frequently enliven gatherings by sitting at the piano and dashing out a variety of music hall songs. Healey’s point was that politicians need to know about more than just politics, firstly because they won’t always be politicians and secondly to help them understand people. Researchers need a hinterland too, for the same two reasons. In particular a hinterland helps researchers in the following ways: In research, most of the people you will interact with, as clients, colleagues and friends, will be people like you. They will tend to be graduates, they will tend to be similar ages (in research 25 to 45 seems to be by far the most common), urban living, and with a belief that decision […]

Social Media, Curation and a Personal Brand – 3 hot topics for 2016

In November our thoughts stray to 2016 as we try to guess the key topics we should be following next year. Here are three topics that I think will be big in 2016. Curation As data becomes ever more plentiful the need to organise that data becomes greater. Curation is what turns a junk shop into a collection, it turns random scribblings into an anthology, and it terms disparate strands of data into a resource to help organisations make better decisions. 2016 is going to be a big year for curation. Insight is the flashy and useful product, but curation is the hard work that facilitates insight. Curation is going to be covered further by Martina Olbertova in the NewMR Webinar ‘Embracing the Future’ Social Media Social media as tool for insight has had a bad couple of years, a direct consequence of excessive hype from some vendors and the frequent misconception that listening to social is a) cheap and b) a replacement for most other forms of insight gathering. However, the pendulum is swinging back in favour of social media as an insight tool and 2016 looks set to be a sort of ‘Social Media 2.0’. There are several […]

Nobody can claim to be Cheaper, Faster and Better!

There seems to be have been a rash of new claims by some agencies that they are offering a cheaper, better & faster service. However, in my opinion, this does the agency business a disservice for three key reasons: The agencies making the claim do not typically have a comprehensive knowledge of what all the other agencies are offering. Without knowing what the other agencies are offering you can’t know whether what you have is better, faster, and cheaper, and if you can’t know it you shouldn’t be claiming it. Better is not a single thing. For some people better means more analysis, for some it means being able to conduct the same research in 40 countries with good in-country design and interpretation, for some it means quant, for some it means qual. For a specific research project it might be possible to describe one agency as ‘better’ than all of the available other agencies, but no agency can be better in general, because we do not do research ‘in general’ we do specific projects. In a relatively free and competitive market it is hard for any one supplier to maintain a product/service advantage. Whilst there are often suppliers who […]