Do you know your qual from your quant?

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So much about the research industry is confusing, not least the terminology and verbiage. It would seem as a client you have to study a course in research terms simply to be able to buy some. How daft! 


This post is about simplifying what research is and what it all means.


Read time: 3.0 minutes

Tl;dr: Shame on you, it’s only a short post. It basically runs your through some of the basic elements of market research with a handy glossary at the end. 


So what is research?

At its most simple, research is seeking greater understanding by getting answers to questions. In doing so, it will help you to make more informed decisions.


It won’t – it absolutely shouldn’t – make decisions for you. See it as another voice in the room.


Research can be super simple, eg. “What did you like about our product?”. It can be more complex, eg. “What are the unmet needs of first time parents?”


It’s about collecting data – gathering answers to questions, observing behaviour, locating existing reports, examining content.


The way you collect your data – your research method – will largely be determined by what your objectives are.


Your research objectives are ideally closely tied to your business objectives.


Know where your business is heading? Know what information you need to get there?


This could be written into a research brief (use my template if you like). This document will be invaluable whether you’re doing your own research or outsourcing it.


Outsourcing to a consultant or agency will likely mean they will create a research design and follow a well tested research process.


(My process is here, take the DIY course here).

Research design will give you:

  • A set of objectives – what does the research need to achieve?
  • Methods and tools – how will the data be collected?
  • Timings – how long is it going to take?
  • Outputs – you want a workshop to work through the data? A report to share with stakeholders? A debrief presentation with key recommendations? Don’t forget getting a copy of the data too.
  • Costs (ahem, the investment). Research should pay back considerable ROI.

What about methods? We’re back to qual and quant.


Methods of collecting data

New, fresh primary data hasn’t been collected before.


Secondary data already exists – so you don’t necessarily need fresh data.


Quantitative data is useful for measuring things like awareness, satisfaction, attitudes and perception.


Quant typically means large samples (ie numbers of people) and uses tools like surveys or online analytics.


Qualitative data is great for getting a deep understanding – maybe a customer journey, identifying unmet needs or revealing the nuance of how new business ideas are received and understood.


Qual typically uses small samples of people (we call them participants) in one-to-one interviews, a group discussion or an online community.


Most often, you’ll need a bit of quant and qual for your research needs. But don’t confuse this will ‘qualiquant’ which is an attempt to capture quant and qual data at the same time and – imho – is total bullshit. Avoid for now.


What is ‘good’ research?

I’d suggest you not to be swayed by those who impress with the size of their research… “We surveyed 10,000 people” or “We carried out 48 focus groups”.


Size doesn’t matter so much – imho good research drives some kind of action, such as a decision, a discussion, stimulates a new idea.


Interesting research becomes powerful research when it prompts action.


So having read this 101, what now?


Decide if you want your research:


If you’re interested in understanding more of the terminology involved, try this glossary of research terms.


Thanks for reading 🙂


Would you like to learn how to run your own research?

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