Monday, December 26, 2005

Complementarity of Qualitative and Quantitative Methods

I recently proposed to a prospective client that I do a market study using three research methods:
  1. Market survey
  2. One-on-one interviews
  3. Silent Observation (ethnography)
The first method is quantitative, and the second and third methods are qualitative (at least in the context I proposed). The expense of the study is an issue, so we explored ways of scoping back the project.

I am a firm believer that quantitative and qualitative research methods complement and strengthen each other.

It's hard to conduct a meaningful market survey without the benefit of some one-on-one interviews. It's also hard to understand the relative extent of problems uncovered in one-on-one interviews and ethnographic studies without a survey.

I also think that, if you have conducted sufficient qualitative research, you can draw reliable (yet somewhat subjective) conclusions from surveys even without a "scientifically valid" sample of responses.

Thus, in general, I believe it's important to conduct both quantitative and qualitative research regardless of the scope of a study. When scoping down, instead of eliminating one or the other methods, you're better off doing them all but doing less of each one.

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