The idea of conducting qualitative “research” by way of simply listening in on conversations posted on various social media venues is, from a research design perspective, curious. It is curious because the business of understanding how people think (i.e., the business of marketing and social research) has never been about just hearing them talk, reading their words, and/or observing their behavior. While capturing this information may prove interesting and in some circumstances useful (e.g., counting the number of mentions of a competitive brand or variations in reactions to a new product introduction), it is not good enough when the intent is to learn about underlying perceptions and motivations.
Greg Allenby, marketing chair at Ohio State’s business school, published an article in the May/June issue of Marketing Insights on heterogeneity or, more specifically, on the idea that 1) accounting for individual differences is essential to understanding the “why” and “how” that lurks within research data and 2) research designs often mask these differences by neglecting the relative nature of the constructs under investigation. For instance, research concerning preference or satisfaction is useful to the extent it helps explain why and how people think differently as it relates to their preferences or levels of satisfaction, yet these are inherently relative constructs that only hold meaning if the researcher understands the standard (the “point of reference”) by which the current question of preference or satisfaction is being weighed – i.e., my preference (or satisfaction) compared to…what? Since the survey researcher is rarely if ever clued-in on respondents’ points of reference, it would be inaccurate to make direct comparisons such as stating that someone’s product preference is two times greater compared to someone else’s.
The embedded “relativeness” associated with responding to constructs such as preference and satisfaction is just one of the pesky problems inherent in designing this type of research. A related but different problem revolves around the personal interpretation given Read Full Text
As qualitative and quantitative researchers who explore the thinking and doing of human beings, we are nothing without the willing cooperation from our research participants. We pool them into a sample, then we contact them, we screen them, we coax them, we adhere to strict reminder protocols to motivate their interest and lure them into submission, and then… And then we are disappointed, bemused, and sometimes a bit angry at participants’ sub-par performance as actors in our research production (be it, for example, a focus group discussion or online survey). Just in the past week, I have read lengthy discussions from researchers who describe their participants as “demons,” “lazy,” “cynics,” or “hostiles” because they have not paid their due respects to our quest for true knowledge but rather undermine our efforts by speaking too much or too critically in a focus group, or speeding through a survey questionnaire.
So, where the research participant was initially cajoled with assurances of their importance – “Your Opinion Counts!” – as well as our endearing gratitude for their cooperation, Read Full Text