Qualitative And Quantitative Often Combined

Qualitative and quantitative data and methods are different, but that doesn�t mean that good marketing researchers can�t use them together to get the information they need to help their clients understand their businesses better.

Essentially, as previously defined by MR Perspectives, quantitative data is numeric in form and qualitative is any data that is not numeric. Quantitative research methods rely primarily on questions whose answers can be recorded in numeric form, while qualitative methods probe to explore feeling, motivations, opinions, behavior, drivers and inhibitors, patterns of thought, opinions, attitudes, assessments or behaviors.

One misconception is that a marketing research manager must choose between quantitative and qualitative methods. On the contrary, the two methods are intertwined, not only at the level of specific data sets (ratings questions mixed with open-ended questions), but also at the levels of study design and analysis (multi-mode and triangulation). Thus, the issue really shouldn�t be quantitative versus qualitative at all. Instead, the thoughtful manager needs to decide if what is desired is a full understanding of a few controlled variables, thus suggesting a more analytic approach. Or perhaps a more systemic approach is warranted by a complex environment in which many variables interact. Often, either approach will demand a study design that calls for both sorts of data and associated methods at certain points to accomplish specific purposes.

Combining qualitative and quantitative data types

With a research project that collects mostly quantitative data, such as a telephone survey filled with customer satisfaction ratings questions, the researcher may want to add some probing questions to find out why the respondent gave the client an excellent or a very poor rating for overall service. The respondents� explanations for the good or bad ratings would be included in the report to the client � likely in an appendix listing all the verbatim responses � adding a qualitative element to a quantitative study.

On the other hand, when a research project consists of a series of focus groups or in-depth executive interviews, the researcher may want to include a few ratings questions for which the collected answers are numerical in format � providing a quantitative bit of data in a basically qualitative study.

Combining qualitative and quantitative data methods

Just as common is the research study that uses both qualitative and quantitative methods. This is particularly true at the beginning of a research program, when someone wants to gather quantitative information for the first time. For example, when a company starts a customer satisfaction research, it�s best to first determine the issues that influence satisfaction levels so that the quantitative part of the study is actually asking the right questions. So before a telephone or Internet survey of a company�s customers can begin, the researcher will first want to talk with employees to see what they think are the issues most important to their customers and then to the customers themselves. These conversations could be held in the form of in-depth interviews or focus groups. Once the issues are clear, then the quantitative ratings questions can be developed for a telephone or Internet survey of the customer data base.

It�s actually a rare research project that doesn�t have some mix of quantitative and qualitative data and methods, although one or the other often is predominant, depending on the information sought.

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