NEWS7 May 2014

Industry veteran issues ‘rallying cry’ to qual researchers

Features UK

UK — Qualitative research veteran Lawrence Bailey has issued a “rallying cry” to researchers to ensure the future of excellence in qualitative research.

Speaking last night at an International Journal of Market Research event, Bailey gave a presentation on the ‘past, present and future of qualitative research’, including reference to his recently-published IJMR paper. Bailey, who founded Lawrence F Bailey and Associates, explained his view that quality in qualitative research is determined by the era in which it is being assessed.

“It’s at the mercy of the zeitgeist,” Bailey said, explaining that, in his eyes, this encompasses two areas: scientific (what approaches are deemed to be methodologically sound) and political (how practitioners are allowed to conduct research at that time).

Bailey presented a number of potential influences on qualitative work that may come from purchasers of research: limited sampling (based on presumptions made around target audience); sticking closely to a prescriptive discussion guide; over-editing for board-level clients and limiting overly ‘negative’ findings. Bailey believes that these, combined with what he sees as the current emphasis on the qualities of individual qualitative researchers, will result in the future of qualitative research going in one of two directions.

The first of these he described as ‘qualitative enquiry’: small-scale research of limited depth, exploring closely-defined topics and with extensive client participation.

The other, which Bailey believes represents a market gap for “top notch qual”, he called “explanatory research.” This was defined as:

  • Practiced by very senior researchers
  • Secured in expert knowledge, experience, skills and sound method
  • Encompassing a range of research techniques and a sufficiently substantial volume of fieldwork
  • Reporting ‘state of the product’ with context
  • Using an interpretative structure to explain behaviour, beliefs, attitudes and reactions
  • Charging by a daily (rather than hourly) rate
  • Expensive

“This almost amounts as a rallying cry,” said Bailey, who has now retired from research, but urged those in the room to take up the challenge and “define explanatory research as the kind of top notch research that can be done.”