It’s the age-old question in market research: Qualitative research or quantitative research? Each has its own unique advantages and disadvantages. The most common forms of qualitative research are focus groups and in-depth interviews (IDIs) while quantitative research usually involves a survey. Although both provide a client good insight, depending on the expertise and experience of a market research firm and/or moderator, the qualitative research process can be quite subjective. I personally believe this to be the Achilles heel of qualitative sessions. Therefore, it’s extremely important to partner with a market research firm who can mitigate the following biases (listed below) and provide your business with the most accurate and representative feedback from your qualitative research sessions.

qualitative vs. quantitative research

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1) Interviewer bias – this points to the need of the interviewer or moderator to remain detached from personal beliefs and eliminate influence in the participants’ answers. There is often an aim of the interviewee to please the person in charge so moderators must learn to challenge participant thoughts and go in-depth to garner the reasoning behind answers. What are the skills of a good in-depth interviewer? Click here to find out.

2) Low sample size – this was something the Bunker touched upon in a prior blog post about quotas and qualitative research. Although market research firms and recruiting centers need to do the best job possible to recruit a representative group, you should temper your expectations a bit.  A focus group of eight to 12 people does not represent a high statistical significance when you are looking at the group representing an area of 250,000 people or more. That’s why it’s always important to conduct multiple groups and sessions and not put all of your stock in one group or a few person’s answers. It’s the Law of Small Numbers.

3) Forced response – in some cases, depending on how the moderator’s guide is written, specific lines of questions can overstate the importance of factors in research. For example, if it is preconceived that color is the main determining factor in buying a car, the guide may be written to probe extensively in color choices, color options, etc. So, with much of the interviews being focused on color, it limits the ability to explore other decision-making factors. It’s important to have a moderator that can interview “off-the-cuff” and probe on new topics that develop outside of the scope of the guide.

4) Interpretation – because anecdotal feedback is up to interpretation, what one person views one way is not necessarily the majority opinion. It’s important to talk with your market research consultant to truly understand reasons “why” behind each finding in the report and ask questions. Ultimately, you don’t have to agree and you can contest points-of-view in qualitative research if you have evidence to back up your statement.

If you would like to discuss whether qualitative or quantitative research is a better fit for your market research project, give us a call at Research & Marketing Strategies (RMS). Contact our Business Development Director, Sandy Baker at or call her at (315) 635-9802. You can also visit the RMS website by clicking here.