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Blog: The Qualitative Quantitative Conundrum

The Qualitative Quantitative Conundrum

Sometimes deciding between conducting a qualitative study or a quantitative survey to meet your research goals can be tricky. It is best explained by describing their meeting point within the context of a research program.

Enter a problem, query, or hypothesis.

Let’s say an association wants to create a new content area for its annual conference. This is a two-pronged ask and may start with a qualitative study and then be solidified with a quantitative survey. Here’s one approach we may take with our partners:

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  1. Generate a study that promotes a conversation about content areas of interest. This type of qualitative study is essentially a discussion with the membership conducted in a focus group or one-on-one interviews.
  2. Review results of the qualitative study, which will likely reveal a few content areas of interest. Our consultants will synthesize the responses and present tightened-up summaries with infographics or other visual media for efficient interpretation.
  3. Generate a questionnaire with closed questions to quantify interest in each content area. This type of quantitative survey can be released to a larger audience, such as members, former members, or potential members.
  4.  Review the results and reveal which content area is most favorable.

Closed-ended questions can only be answered from a predefined set of responses, such as ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, rating scales, or selecting from a series of response options. Quantifying the initial qualitative responses will determine the highest-ranking content area that is the most suitable for the said association’s next annual conference.

Quantifying feedback from a qualitative study can be essential to confirm that an offering or an idea resonates with the membership as a whole and not just with a subset of vocal members.

However, not all organizations have the same starting point. Some clients have a ‘gut feeling’ and want to make decisions immediately after a qualitative study. 

These studies are based on potential solutions that clients have been mulling over for quite some time and want to get a gut check that it is good to go down that path. For example, an association seeks to create a new content area for its annual conference with a preconceived notion of what its members are looking for.

Alternatively, some clients start with quantitative surveys, then want to penetrate the surface beneath one or two questions and take a deep dive. In this case, a qualitative study could follow a quantitative survey

There is no ‘this or that.’ 

Sometimes, there are grey areas that need to be tailored to meet research goals. Organizations do not have to know which type of research they need before contacting a Vault consultant. Although some organizations may know what type of research they want, it is ok to be curious about the best approach to take to satisfy the end goal.

Sometimes, quality is king; other times, quantity takes the casting vote, and sometimes, you just need two to tango.

For more information and insight, feel free to contact Vault Consulting.

Laura Clark, IPC
Laura Clark, IPC
Laura leverages nearly 20 years of market research experience to design custom market research for each client. Clients come to rely on Laura as she places them first and never fails to deliver...
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