What is qualitative research?

In a nutshell, qualitative research is any data collection method that is non-numerical in nature. It involves collecting and analysing video, audio, text and image data to understand answers to complex questions that cannot easily be distilled into a numerical value.

The list of qualitative methods available to researchers is long and varied. It includes observational studies, ethnographies, experimental designs and more. However, often the most valuable qualitative techniques are the most simple. That's why InsightHub supports video and conversational chat based focus groups and interviews alike. The platform can also be used to facilitate diary studies, smartboard image markup, asynchronous focus groups, video surveys and visual scrapbooks. All of these are open to content, thematic, textual and discourse analysis for full flexibility.

Custom qualitative tasks

Build your own research tasks in a range of formats with our TaskMR data collection tool.

Our unique TaskMR tool, available on the InsightHub platform, is designed to produce interactive pages that can be used to create diary studies, report cards and more. Once published, tasks can be set as a one-off or repeating task depending on research objectives. Common question types include free-form text boxes, multiple choice questions, sliding-scales and media responses. Uploaded media such as images, videos and screenshots add an extra layer of depth that can be used to bring insight to life.

Video and image-based tasks can be added to any task created in the tool, offering rich, emotive feedback to research teams. The best qualitative tasks blend these activities with both qualitative and quantitative questions in order to collect compelling stories

Visual image markup

Dig into stimuli responses with visual heatmaps and in-depth conversations.

Our SmartboardMR tool acts as a visual forum for discussion. Designed to encourage collaborative, creative feedback, participants can pin sentiment tagged comments anywhere on the uploaded stimuli. Visual heatmaps can be generated from this data and supported by qualitative opinion.

But the tool is not just designed to facilitate visual sentiment analysis. Conversations and discussion are actively encouraged. This makes it perfect for creative testing, brand evaluations, perceptual mapping and more. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Public and private task configurations allow for even more flexibility and researchers to probe for detailed understanding.

Common qualitative research methods

Describing a whole category of data collection techniques, it's no surprise that there's a number of common qualitative research methodologies. These can be used to understand complex opinions and behaviours, observe group dynamics in action or investigate the experience of specific journeys. Here are some of the most common qualitative research methods you can run with our InsightHub platform.

Online diary studies

Simple qualitative tasks that repeat on a regular basis build a complete picture of interaction over time.

In-depth interviews

Live one-to-one video conversations with a participant on complex topics and personal experiences.

Video focus groups

Bring participants together in online rooms to discuss important topics and observe group dynamics.

Asynchronous focus groups

Focus groups that take place in a bulletin-board environment for well-reasoned and thoughtful feedback.

Online ethnography

Observe online platform members as they interact with others using in-built community tools.

Image markup smartboards

Conversations that take place on sentiment-tagged images for robust insight into visual reactions.

Video survey research

Add video capture to your online surveys to gather short, emotive clips that support question responses.

Qualitative research software plus service

We don’t believe in maintaining the status quo. We thrive on making insight more relevant, more accessible and more impactful, while overcoming the core challenges that research, product and marketing teams face.

Frequently asked qualitative research questions

It can be tricky to know where to start with online qualitative research. The sheer number of options can initially feel overwhelming. But, once you've got a project plan laid out - online qual is a rewarding experience that can bring you significantly closer to your customers. To help get you started, here are some of the most frequently asked questions about online qual with advice from our team of experts.

When should I use qualitative research?

Qualitative research is a powerful tool, but it can be hard to figure out where, when and how to apply it to a given problem. We always start by considering the objective. Online qual is ideal for developing a hypothesis that can later be tested through quantitative means. It can also be a great way to identify needs, understand attitudes or complex behaviours, generate ideas, and even develop parameters. You may also consider flipping the typical qual to quant process, and instead use online qual to provide additional context to previous findings.

Common scenarios where online qual is typically deployed include: inspiring new product development, open explorations of key market segments, investigating the effects of current marketing strategies, understanding specific paths to purchase and behavioural journeys, and conducting research on complex topics such as politics, societal issues or psychological factors.

How long does online qual take?

This very much depends on the chosen method and research design. However, as a rule of thumb, qualitative research usually takes longer than quantitative studies - especially in the fieldwork and analysis stages. This is because fieldwork and analysis require much more manual human input and judgement when compared with numerical measurements.

A diary study, long-term community or ethnographic project may take anywhere between a few weeks and multiple months, primarily determined by your research design. Focus groups and depth interviews, by contrast, can usually be completed in a matter of days. But it is important to also allow enough time to fully digest, interpret and report the data. A few days is often sufficient, but this can grow rapidly as the volume of data you collect increases. Online technologies, such as our InsightHub platform and VideoMR analysis tool are speeding up traditionally lengthy projects - but it is still vital that qualitative research is given the time it needs in order to produce rich, insightful data.

What are projective techniques?

With roots in the field of clinical psychology, projective techniques are a form of questioning that help research participants articulate motivations and desires that they would otherwise have difficulty expressing, through an indirect means. They are particularly valuable to qualitative research as the objective of such studies is often to understand, analyse and report on the exact attitudes, opinions and beliefs that projective techniques help bring to the surface.

Projective techniques are most commonly used in focus groups or in-depth interviews. However, they can also be applied to other methodologies - such as becoming a recurring question in a diary study. Common projective techniques include word association, imagery association, choice ordering, guided fantasy and brand personifications.

How is online qual analysed?

The analysis of qualitative research poses more challenges than its quantitative counterpart. By definition, online qual cannot be analysed through statistical means or significance tests. Instead, techniques such as content analysis, grounded theory and thematic analysis should be employed. The process for each of these techniques is similar with a few distinguishing factors.

Thematic analysis is one of the most popular forms of analysing qualitative market research. This can be broken down into six simple steps. First, familiarise yourself with the data. This might involve narrative preparation or re-reading responses. Next, prepare a set of initial codes. Codes are ways of notating and categorising mentions of a word, theme or any other data structure you choose. After this, search for and then review themes. Often this means grouping codes together into larger structures, checking integrity and generating a map of the thematic content. Finally, before producing a report - ensure that you have strong working names and definitions for each identified theme. In compiling a report, select compelling and relevant examples from each theme and relate them each back to the initial research questions.

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