Qualitative research comes from open-ended questions. It collects data in a different way. Instead of providing questions with only specific answers, like a poll, qualitative research allows people to be themselves during the research process. In return, researchers are able to investigate methodologies with greater accuracy. They can search through recordings to find new data.
The principles of qualitative research have been used for quite some time. Media and marketing have often used findings from this research process to create targeted content or offer individualized brand messaging. The goal here is simple: to provide individualized and group-based value propositions simultaneously.
It is a unique data relationship that the advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research are able to provide. One must put the perspectives of the participant together with the perspectives of those collecting the data to create accurate results.
What Are the Advantages of Qualitative Research?
1. It becomes possible to understand attitudes.
Consumer patterns can often change. When that happens suddenly, businesses can be left wondering what happened to them. The processes which are provided by qualitative research provide for a potential understanding as to why an attitude may shift. This may even lead to a definitive explanation, which can allow the business to adapt to the perspective shift. Because qualitative research helps us all understand attitudes better, it becomes easier to maintain consumer relationships.
2. It is a content generator.
Finding new ways to present old content can be very difficult, even to an experienced marketer. The qualitative research approach allows for genuine ideas to be collected from specific socioeconomic demographics. These ideas are then turned into data that can be used to create valuable content which reflects the brand messaging being offered. When this process is performed properly, everyone benefits from a refined and beneficial value proposition.
3. It saves money.
The qualitative research process uses a smaller sample size than other research methods. This is due to the fact that more information is collected from each participant. Smaller sample sizes equate to lower research costs. Not only does this research process save money, but it can also produce faster results. If data is needed quickly for an important decision, this is one of the best research options that is available today.
4. It can provide insights that are specific to an industry.
Relationships and engagement are the two most important factors for customer retention. Modern brands can use qualitative research to find new insights that can further these two needed items so their communication to their core demographics is as accurate and authentic as possible. The insights a business can find may lead them to change their jargon, add value to the products/services being offered, or look for ways to fix a declining reputation. With qualitative research, the risks of experiencing a negative reaction because of miscommunication are greatly reduced.
5. It allows creativity to be a driving force.
Research often wants facts instead of opinions. It wants observations instead of creativity. The qualitative research process goes in a different direction than traditional research. This format eliminates the bias that tends to come through collected data as respondents attempt to answer questions in a way that please the researcher. Respondents are encouraged to be themselves. Their creativity becomes a commodity. In return, the data that can be collected from the respondents tends to have more accuracy to it.
6. It is a process that is always open-ended.
Many people have a trained, superficial response that is built from habit. “Hi. How are you?” someone might ask at the grocery store. “Fine. How are you?” Would be the typical response. The qualitative research process allows researchers to get underneath these habits to mine the actual data that someone can provide. It accesses the emotional data that drives decision-making responses. Because it is an open-ended process, there is no “right” or “wrong” answer, which makes data collection much easier.
7. It incorporates the human experience.
Facts are important. Statistics can identity trends. Yet, the human experience cannot be ignored. The human experience causes two different people to see the same event in two different ways. By using qualitative research, it becomes possible to incorporate the complexity of this type of data into the conclusions that come from the collected research. Every perspective becomes important. That leads to conclusions that have more accuracy, so everyone gets to benefit from the process at the end of the day.
8. It has flexibility.
There isn’t a rigid structure to the qualitative research process. It seeks authentic data and emotional responses instead. Because of this flexibility, trained researchers are permitted to follow-up on any answer they wish to generate more depth and complexity to the data being collected. Unlike research formats that allow for zero deviation, the qualitative research can follow any thought tangent and mine data from the answers provided.
9. It offers predictive qualities.
People who have similar perspectives will have similar thought patterns. They may even purchase similar products. The data which is gathered through qualitative research is perspective-based, which is why it has a predictive quality to it. The trademarks of what make that person unique can be collected and used to identify people with similar preferences or thinking patterns, making it possible for brands to develop messaging, products, and services that have greater value.
10. It allows for human instinct to play a role.
Ever have a “gut feeling” that you should do something? Did you listen to that instinct? Did you see a positive result from it? Many people have, but many research methods discount human instinct in the data collection process. The qualitative research process allows for human instinct to play a role. The subconscious mind offers many secrets that we may not scientifically understand, but we can collect the data it produces. That data often has a higher level of accuracy and authenticity than any other form of data offered.
11. It can be based on available data, incoming data, or other data formats.
The qualitative research method does not require a specific pattern or format for data collection. Information reporting is based on the quality and quantity of information that is collected. If researchers feel like they are not generating useful results from their efforts, they can change their processes immediately. There are more opportunities to gather new data when using this approach.
12. It allows for detail-orientated data to be collected.
Numerous restrictions are part of the data-collection process in most research methods. This is done to help create measureable outcomes in a short time period. Instead of focusing on a specific metric, qualitative research focuses on data subtlety. It wants as many details as possible, whether those details fit into a specific framework or not. It is within those details that genuine insights tend to be found.
What Are the Disadvantages of Qualitative Research?
1. It is not a statistically representative form of data collection.
The qualitative research process does not provide statistical representation. It will only provide research data from perspectives only. Responses with this form of research cannot usually be measured. Only comparisons are possible, and that tends to create data duplication over time. If statistical data is required, qualitative research is not the form of research that should be used.
2. It relies upon the experience of the researcher.
The data collected through qualitative research is dependent upon the experience of the researchers involved in the process. Industry-specific data must be collected by a researcher that is familiar with the industry. Researchers must also have good interviewing skills, have the courage to ask follow-up questions, and be able to form professional bonds with participants to ensure the accuracy of the data.
3. It can lose data.
Data must be recognized by the researchers in qualitative research for it to be collected. That means there is a level of trust present in the data collection process that other forms of research do not require. Researchers that are unable to see necessary data when they observe it will lose it, which lessens the accuracy of the results from the qualitative research efforts. That could even lead some research efforts toward false conclusions.
4. It may require multiple sessions.
The qualitative research may be effective in collecting authentic data, but the small sample size of the research can be problematic. To make an important decision, numerous perspectives are often required to avoid making a costly mistake. That might mean multiple research periods may be required to gather all of the data that is needed to make such a difficult decision. Should that be the case, a larger follow-up sample may create more costs instead of fewer when a fork in the road is reached.
5. It can be difficult to replicate results.
Because qualitative research is based on individual perspectives, it is almost impossible to duplicate the results that are found. Even the same person may have a different perspective tomorrow than they had today. That means the data collected through qualitative research can be difficult to verify, which can lead some to question the conclusions that researchers generate through this process.
6. It can create misleading conclusions.
Although like-minded people tend to think, feel, and act in similar ways, this is not always the case. 80% of Caucasian evangelical Christians may have voted for Donald Trump in the U.S. Presidential election in 2016, but that means 20% did not. A small qualitative research sample that only includes people in the 80% would completely ignore the perspectives of those in the other 20%. There is no absolute way to know if the conclusions generated through qualitative research can apply to an entire demographic.
7. It can be influenced by researcher bias.
The term “fake news” has been used quite often since the beginning of 2017. The term is used to describe a certain bias that seems to be present in media reporting, even though the reporting is said to be unbiased. In qualitative research, the bias of the researcher, whether conscious or subconscious, can affect the data. The conclusions researched can even be influenced by this bias. Controls must be part of the data collection process to prevent researcher bias from influencing results.
8. It may not be accepted.
Even though there is a certain authenticity to qualitative research, there is also a certain subjectivity to it. Because of this nature, the data collected may not be accepted. If similar qualitative research efforts cannot produce similar results, the data originally collected might even be rejected.
9. It creates data that is difficult to present.
Because individuals have different perspectives, the reaction to qualitative research findings can often be at two extremes. There will be those who support the findings and there will be people who do not support the findings. The data being collected will be viewed as valuable by both groups, but how each group chooses to act is based on their own perspective. That means two very different outcomes can be achieved, making the data difficult to present to generalized audiences.
10. It creates data with questionable value.
Even researchers may disagree about the value of data being collected because of their different perspectives. What is included during the qualitative research process or what is excluded relies upon the researcher involved. That is why this data collection process is highly subjective. Detailed data is always possible, but only if the researcher can set aside their bias and perspective to present the data collected in raw form.
11. It can be time consuming.
Because researchers follow numerous tangents when collecting data, it takes more time to gather it. Sorting through all of that extra data takes time as well. Every data point is evaluated subjectively, so the worth of it is always in question. Other research formats have rigid guidelines and expectations for collected data that allow for it to be evaluated and used with greater speed than what is collected through qualitative research.
12. It has no rigidity.
The qualitative research method is based on individual perspectives. Since those perspectives can change, the data gathered is only reliable at the time it is gathered. Human memory tends to prefer remembering good things. We keep close access to fond memories and put bad memories into the back corner of the mind. There is an instinctual desire to seek out the good in what has happened to each of us. Because of this trait, it can be hard for researchers to draw conclusions from the data that can apply over a long-term perspective.
13. It lessens the value of data mining.
Data mining can provide valuable insights to an entire demographic of customers. In qualitative research, data mining is useful for the one person who is providing information in the first place. Imagine that you’re on a friend’s computer for the first time. Cookies and search storage have created advertising for Coca-Cola on almost every site you visit. You prefer Pepsi. Will you be swayed by the advertising? Probably not, even if you and your friend both prefer cola over other soft drink options.
These key advantages and disadvantages of qualitative research show us that gathering unique, personalized data will always be important. It is the best method to understand how certain people, and even certain groups, think on a deeper level. Because of the subjective nature of the data, however, its reliability and veracity will always be questioned by someone.