Qualitative Research in Business and Management
Complex fields of human activity, like business administration, R&D, marketing, corporate culture development, community integration, etc. usually require no less complex tools and methods. One of the important aspects of each of mentioned activities is investigation of new opportunities to use or past strategies that could possibly be improved. This investigation can be conducted by means of quantitative and qualitative research, and while quantitative researches are actively implemented with help of sophisticated software and refined statistical methods, qualitative research in business and marketing is most often represented by focus groups alone (Hall & Rist, 1999). However, one method related to subjective data and open to human interpretation cannot be considered a full-fledged research. Recent studies suggest that qualitative research in business be presented by a complex of methods that validate each other and reduce the possibility of mistakes to a minimum (ibid.). In majority of business fields focus groups, observations and document analysis put together will provide a valuable insight into the problem and ensure that the most was made of a conducted qualitative research.
Qualitative research and its tools are no less important and meaningful in business than quantitative research. While usually marketing and sales analysis rely on large chunks of statistical data and figures, qualitative analysis is necessary to understand what product will be the most popular with the target audience or what audience will most benefit the promoted product. In other words, qualitative research identifies what the business will be about, and quantitative research demonstrates whether the selected concepts and audience are appropriate as measured in sales or consumption level (Ibid.). However, if figures are interpreted quite easily, then subjective data obtained in the process of qualitative research is relative and open to misinterpretation or omissions. So instead of using such traditional approach as focus groups, it is suggested that qualitative research process included three stages: focus groups of individual interviews, observations and document analysis (Hall & Rist, 1999). How it works: in the process of research three different groups of researchers should be involved, thus providing different perspectives on the same issue, and then their findings are combined to get the true and objective map of subjective preferences and patterns demonstrated by target audience in question.
Each of mentioned tools has its strong and weak sides, yet when taken together they can benefit any area of business, be it marketing, human management, sales or others. Interviews that include focus groups allow collecting open and free-flowing opinions, feelings, anxieties and suggestions of people that usually cannot not be obtained via some written tests or samplings. Observations can support or overturn the expressed opinions, preferences and behavior patterns because what people say is not always what they do. Or sometimes people sincerely believe to speak about what they actually do, while they may practice some other approaches being unaware of it. Document analysis provides validation to both interviews and observations because written data accurately pinpoints what observations and reports are a …