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Qualitative and Quantitative Research

Research carried out by firms ranges from primary and secondary as well as qualitative and quantitative.The thing to remember is that research is primary or secondary, and qualitative or quantitative. This article will help identify qualitative and quantitative research, and the difference between them.

Qualitative Research
Qualitative research is in-depth research into the motivations behind the attitudes and buying habits of consumers.
It does not produce statistics such as ‘52% of chocolate buyers like orange chocolate’; instead it gives clues as to why they like it (e.g. is it really because it’s orange, or because it’s different/a change?). Qualitative research is usually conducted by psychologists, who learn to interpret the way people say things as well as what they say.

Qualitative research takes two main forms:

  1. Group Discussions – (also known as focus groups) free-ranging discussions led by psychologist among groups of 6-8 consumers. The group leader will have a list of topics that need discussion, but will be free to follow up any point made by a group member. Among the advantages of group discussions are that it may reveal a problem or opportunity the company has not anticipated and it reveals consumer psychology, such as the importance of image and peer pressure.
  2. Depth Interviews – these are informal, in-depth interviews between a psychologist and a consumer. They have the same function as group discussions, but avoid the risk that group opinion will be swayed by one influential person.

Here are a few typical questions used in qualitative research:


  • Why do people really buy Nikes?
  • Who in the household really decides which brand of shampoo is bought?
  • What mood makes you feel like buying Haagen-Dazs ice cream?
  • When you buy your children Frosties, how do you feel?

Quantitative Research
Quantitative research asks pre-set questions on a large enough sample of people to provide statistically valid data.
Questionnaires can answer factual questions such as ‘How many 16-20 year olds have heard of Channel 5?’ There are three aspects to quantitative research:

  1. Sampling (i.e. ensuring the research results are typical of the whole population, though  only a samle of the population has been interviewed).
  2. Writing a questionnaire that is unbiased and meets the research objectives.
  3. Assessing the validity of the results

Here are a few typical questions used in quantitative research:


  • Which pack design do you prefer?
  • Have you heard of any of the following brands: Ariel, Daz, Persil…etc?
  • How likely are you to buy this product regularly?
  • How many newspapers have you bought in the past seven days?

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