In 2012, Research Design Review published 10 articles pertaining to qualitative research design. These 10 posts have been compiled into one volume titled, “Qualitative Research Design: Selected articles from Research Design Review published in 2012.” The most popular of these articles among RDR readers are “Designing a Quality In-depth Interview Study: How Many Interviews Are Enough?” published in September and “Insights vs. Metrics: Finding Meaning in Online Qualitative Research” published in June of 2012.
The first of these (i.e., regarding the optimal number of interviews) talks about the “two key moments” when a researcher needs to consider how many interviews to complete – once at the initial design phase and the other while in the field. Consideration at the initial stage of research design centers on very practical matters like the nature of the research topic and the heterogeneity of the target population. However, weighing whether “enough” IDIs have been completed while in the field – in the throes of actually completing interviews – is a more delicate and difficult matter. While the idea of “saturation” or the point in time when responses no longer reveal ‘fresh insights’ is well accepted particularly among researchers dedicated to grounded theory, it is not “good enough” from a quality design perspective. Rather than saturation, this article advises the qualitative researcher to review the IDI completions in the field and answer eight questions concerning their quality. Questions such as, Did every IDI cover every question or issue important to the research? and Can the researcher identify the sources of variations and contradictions in the data?
The second most-popular article – concerning online qualitative research – focused on the distinction between actually gaining new ideas or insights from online qualitative versus simply capturing metrics. The article promotes the belief that offline techniques (such as projective techniques) have their place online and that “the increasingly-loud buzz of social media metrics” or tracking shouldn’t distract qualitative researchers from the business of gaining true, meaningful insights. The article concludes by saying, “All of this tracking has the potential to provide marketers with some idea of what some portion of their target audience is saying or doing at a particular moment in time – insight with a small ‘i’. But let’s not confuse that with the ever-present need to understand how people think – Insight with a big ‘I’.”
These and eight other articles specific to qualitative research design can be found here.