Qualitative (discovery) research

We are well-known for our expertise in qualitative research

Qualitative research needs to be designed by people who understand people, as we do. We are trained in anthropology, psychology, sociology, linguistics, semiotics, and marketing and have recently incorporated interaction design into our qualitative research approach. We understand motivations, perceptions, cognitive schemas, and rituals and we appreciate the power of the imagination. 

We have fine-tuned traditional techniques such as projective techniques and laddering, make extensive use of implicit techniques such as tasks and observation, and combine that with a sense of excitement about what technology can bring to research.

Most of our qualitative research is online, but we use face to face methods when we can, and it is appropriate.

Three reasons to use qualitative research

  1. Qualitative research stops you falling into the 'assumptions' trap. It helps you see the world through the eyes of your users, customers and stakeholders, rather than assuming you know what they think. 

    One on one interviews give your users, customers and stakeholders the opportunity to express their thoughts and feelings. That means so much more than observing their behaviour. It means listening - or reading - and then using empathy to actively infer what people mean beyond the words they use. 

    While behavioural science frameworks provide many general frameworks that will help predict some user behaviour - especially the mistakes that people make - unless you talk to people you will not understand what they are thinking and feeling.

  2. Qualitative research reveals behaviour in social context. Surveys are by their very nature individualistic and context-free. In contrast, qualitative research is all about the context in which people live their lives and the people they live it with.  People are social; they copy other people. 

  3.  Qualitative research teaches you the language that your users, customers and stakeholders use. If you know the words and phrases that your users use, you can create content that talks to and about your users in a way that shows you understand them. 

This is what qualitative research experts like us know and do

  • Our research designs are iterative, exploratory and flexible

  • We use activities, projective and elicitation techniques and cultural probes in our research such as drawing, card sorting and diaries.

  • We use conceptual models to drive our thinking, including our sensemaking model of decision-making, jobs to be done, symbolism and ritual models or consumer behaviour.

  • We frequently use a mix of qualitative research methods including semiotics and ethnography.

  • Our researchers are senior, experienced researchers, fluent in qualitative methods.

We also take into account that people:

  • Use symbols to express their emotions

  • Develop rituals to create meaning

  • Have a drive to make sense of their experiences.  

What to use qualitative research for

  • Customer and user experiences and journeys

  • Concept development 

  • Communications development

  • Information journey exploration

  • Product development

  • Sensory qualitative

  • User stories.

Our qualitative research methods:

  • One on one user interviews, online, phone or face to face

  • Contextual interviews, online, phone or face to face
  • Online qualitative communities and diaries

  • Focus groups, online or face to face

  • Ethnography

  • Cultural analysis (semiotics and discourse analysis)

  • Co-creation

Sue is a regular speaker at conferences, workshops and training courses on qualitative research for, for example Research Society, NewMR, QRCA, and Qual360