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Peter Mouncey Blog

Our commitment to qualitative research: past, present and future

05-11-2013
In the past, IJMR has been criticised for paying insufficient attention to qualitative research methods. 

This view has two strands. Firstly, practitioners have felt that we are primarily interested in quantitative methodologies and case studies based on hard data. 

Secondly, academics think that IJMR is only really interested in empirically based research, as is the case for many journals. For more on this read our Landmark Paper 'Improving the interface between the profession and the university'.

This view is a total myth – IJMR has always been keen to publish content devoted to qualitative methods and applications, and I hope that the stream of papers we’ve published in recent times, written by the likes of Wendy Gordon, Chris Barnham, Martyn Richards, Roy Langmaid and Alan Branthwaite/Simon Patterson (discussing the legacy of Peter Cooper) demonstrates our commitment to this field of research. 

In the latest issue (55/5) you will find a further submission by Jon Chandler. 

Finally, we will be publishing as early as possible next year a history of qualitative, and it’s contribution to market research, by Lawrence Bailey, who also refers to the contribution of a further leader in this field, Bill Schlackman (now living back in the USA). Both Cooper & Schlackman personally provided me with new perspectives on old challenges, as I know they did for many clients, as well as providing training grounds for the subsequent generation of qualitative researchers.

I think this is an impressive list of contributions from leading practitioners in the field of qualitative methods, hopefully sending out a clear signal that these methodologies are of more than passing interest to IJMR, and our readers.

However, qualitative methods are evolving into the virtual space as the internet becomes increasingly important for market research. Our Special Issue on Social Media and Market Research, to be published later this month (55/6), includes papers that describe and discuss the transition to this new world and the opportunities available for new qualitative, social media, based methods. 

Chris Barnham argued in his Viewpoint in 54/6 'Separating methodologies?' that this creates a very different experience for participants as the ‘social’ dimension is virtual, rather than the true social contact of a focus group. The interaction is of a totally different nature – for participants, and with the researcher. 

Barnham also believes that the move to online creates different results, where the findings from traditional qualitative methods are not mirrored in subsequent online quantitative research. Maybe this also applies to traditional qualitative versus research in MROCS and BBFGs. 

We need publishable evidence on this, and other developments, such as the impact of gamification based methods. So, the purpose of this blog is not just to underline that we take qualitative methods seriously and to remind you of the different, wide ranging, perspectives we’ve published. 

It is also a call to action, to encourage more submissions and debate on this vitally important and dynamic sub-sector of market research, here, and within the pages of IJMR.

Agree? Disagree? Have an entirely different perspective? I welcome your comments below.

Comments (2)

  • Lawrence Bailey | December 11, 2013 4:59 pm

    All of the "three areas of potential interest" mentioned by Chris Barnham are indeed important, but I would respectfully add a fourth, which is perhaps the most important of all. It is (4) how we interpret the findings derived from the qualitative data. My 14 months' investigation into the origin, and success, of qualitative research (see above) have convinced me that good qualitative research has always depended on offering more than mere 'reportage'. Without an interpretative model - not just a personalised subjective impression - there is nothing special provided. With sound interpretation, the label "insight" may really mean something.
  • Chris Barnham | November 16, 2013 11:43 am

    Just to add to Peter's comments above, there is a profound need in the market research industry for more papers on the theoretical and practical issues around qualitative research. In the 1980's qualitative research was at the forefront of methodologocal innovation, but it has somehow lost its mojo in the past decade or so. The theoretical high ground seems often to be taken by semiotics, whilst qualitative researchers seem content to focus on more and more quirky ways to make videos. The latter might possibly be described as 'innovation' - but it is not methodologocal innovation if its only purpoese is to liven up a debrief. There seem to me to be three areas of potential interest at a methodological level: 1) How we collect data - the process and format in which it is collected 2) What we do with respondents to elicit their underlying meanings and atttitudes (this is the area of projectove techniques) 3) How we analyse the subsequent qualititive data. In the 19080's the major areas of innovation were in the first and second areas with the invention of ECT's and the developmnet of projective techniques etc. Commercial qualitative researchers often led the way over the academics here. In the last ten years or so we have only witnessed the developmnet of mobile and online technologies which have simply extended the data collection process into different modes. The burning question is, of course, why we have not developed anything that addresses the third area highlighted above. This is the black box, (indeed, the black hole?) of qualitative research. We seem to have no equivalent to statistics.... Isn't it about time that we tried to fill that hole and consequently raised the status of qualitative research? The IJMR seems a very good place to try and do this.

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