How to cope with sensitive issues in market research

Date of publication: June 15, 1997

Abstract:

The primary purpose of this paper is to illustrate the implication of sampling, recruitment and respondent interviews when conducting research on ‘sensitive’ topics in the global marketplace. The paper will discuss how cultural understanding and a “sixth sense” help to adapt research methodologies so data can be gathered effectively and still meet the requirements of established research standards. This process can be a challenging task, particularly in developing countries, when the research topic is considered culturally sensitive and delicate. Most case studies gathered here are based on research completed in the emerging markets of Asia, where market changes are taking place at an accelerated rate In addition to the pharmaceutical and healthcare primary research studies conducted in several Asian countries, relevant qualitative and quantitative research projects undertaken in the United States and Europe over the past twenty years are also used as sources, as is secondary research. Research respondents have included physicians, pharmacists, consumers, pharmaceutical distributors, government officials, and consultants. As the actual information obtained from these research projects is proprietary, the paper focuses instead on the methodological implications of market research and a comprehensive discussion of the cultural dynamics that impact the process of recruiting, interviewing and analysis, when the issues are sensitive ones. The methodologies used in each country are compared with the accepted standards used in the West and illustrate the adaptations sometimes required in the East to obtain comparable information.

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