Qualitative research from the inside

Date of publication: June 15, 1993


One of the most significant changes in the market research industry over the past few years has been the dramatic growth in international research. The growth has accelerated over the past five years and has been fed by such phenomena as the Common European market, the increasing number of companies moving to global marketing and the development of new markets. The Pacific Rim and South America are good examples of regions which have seen a tremendous expansion in research expenditure, whilst in Europe, the most recent 'new' markets are undoubtedly the emerging economies of Central and Eastern Europe. Quantitative research results from other countries are often taken at face value, on the assumption that, if sampling and fieldwork has been conducted and controlled satisfactorily by a 'reputable' agency, then the results are likely to be 'correct'. However, many large multinational companies and agencies are increasingly running basic research programmes, in an attempt to understand the effect cultural differences can have on responses to quantitative questions. The issue of qualitative research is infinitely more complex to research, since by its very nature, qualitative is an open and interpretative methodology which is very difficult to standardise. It is possible to hypothesise that responses are far more likely to be influenced by cultural differences such as the patterns and norms of group behaviours and individual social interaction. The authors believe that it is just as important to establish clear guidelines for the interpretation of qualitative research as it is for quantitative research; too often, differences are explained away by reverting to anecdotal evidence and knowledge. The question the paper will attempt to answer, is in the authors' view, one of the most important aspects of qualitative research: Are the expectations, pre-conceptions and reactions of people attending focus groups in the East of Europe different to those in the West?

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