I’ve written before about the decline of qualitative research and positions in qualitative research as big data and quantitative measures continue to rise. A recent article in Quirk’s magazine by Laura Cusumano pressed on this key issue, “Can Quantitative Research Succeed Without Qualitative Support?” The answer seems to be no.

The intertwining of qualitative and quantitative research provides the best results for almost any study. “A researcher must observe and document behaviors, opinions, patterns, needs, pain points, and other types of information without yet fully understanding what data will be meaningful,” according to an intriguing article on “Strengths and Weaknesses of Quantitative and Qualitative Research” by In other words, recognizing that, “We don’t know, what we don’t know” is critical to effective, substantive research. Without qualitative support, your research findings might not be complete or accurate.

Whether it’s a handful of interviews, a few large focus group sessions or open ended questions on a survey, utilizing both ends of the research spectrum is a necessity. As Cusumano discussed in her article in Quirk’s, qualitative research can be looked at as an unneeded expense after quantitative findings have already been reported. This is, unfortunately, not the best viewpoint if your goal is accurate research. Isn’t the point of spending tens of thousands of dollars and months on a research project to get the best results possible? Is it worth it to miss a new or alternative perception based on a gesture, facial expression or an answer that isn’t presented as a strict, singular data point?

There are MANY resources out there specifically tailored to your qualitative needs. Exploring these options and staying open minded by utilizing the flexibility that qualitative research offers in this ever increasing data-driven environment, is critical to doing insightful research. I am dedicated to matching quality talent in all areas of market research to the best career opportunities.

Lindsey Bartlett
Market Research Recruiting Practice Lead
Smith Hanley Associates, 312.589-7586

2 Responses to “Qualitative Research: A Necessity?”

  1. George Brezny

    Haven’t read your prior articles so I may be preaching to the choir. The lack of response to your question is telling, and frightening. Hoping its that you just sent this in, not because people are afraid to comment, fearful of being criticized by Big Data and AI proponents. I have many long term research peers that I hope will also defend the need for Qualitative Research moving forward, at least in terms of voice of the customer.

    Online focus groups can significantly help control costs if that is the main issues. I fear budgets moving to robotics and AI is the main culprit. Robotic moderators in the future? Hmmm….or more interesting, an AI having a permanent seat on the board of directors…Chairman maybe?

    There are many excellent seasoned qualitative specialists that have opened their own businesses. Consider them in your choice set to help optimize cost.


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