Industry Insights

A Beginner’s Guide to Qualitative Research


What is qualitative research and what makes it different from quantitative research? More importantly, how do you successfully execute qualitative research? In the beginning, it can sometimes be challenging to effectively leverage qualitative methods in research. This article is an introductory guide to the different methods of qualitative research along with how qualitative research can benefit you and your clients.

What is Qualitative Research?

Qualitative research is a market research method where individuals are observed and interviewed in their natural setting in order to get more in-depth insights pertaining to a hypothesis. This method finds the “why” about the target audience and dives deeper into their preferences and decision making.

For example, a qualitative research study uncovered why young retail shoppers favored certain retail shops over others. From extensive interviews with the young retail shoppers, the study found that they cared most about the quality of products and the innovative products that surprised them. Making retail shops with these two qualities their favorites. This could only be discovered through personally asking them open-ended questions to uncover why they favor the shops the most often frequent. 

Types of Qualitative Research

Qualitative research can require fewer respondents than quantitative, but researchers must ensure that the specific target audience are open to exploring their thoughts or ideas in depth. The data collected through qualitative research allows you to grasp the motivations, feelings, and behaviors of your audience, and implement them into effectively your customer experience. 

Here are a few types of qualitative research methods that can be conducted to gain these insights:

Observations: This is the original and most fundamental form of qualitative research where data is collected through observing an individual’s behavior, five senses, reactions, and mood. The main ways to execute observations are through direct observations, case studies, and group interviews. These each entail a researcher asking participants questions knowing that they are being studied. 

Interviews: In this form of research, individuals are asked open-ended questions over the phone, in a video call, or in-person to further explore their opinions and experiences as it applies to the questions at hand. 

Focus Groups: This type of qualitative research investigates the observations of a group’s dynamic including their answers to discussion-based questions and their body language to discover what their future decisions may entail.

Surveys with Open Ended Questions: This form of research is where subjects answer questions with long-form answers that are written or typed to uncover their experiences, opinions, and help researchers discover themes in their responses. Today, these can often be found within quantitative online surveys.

Qualitative Research vs. Quantitative Research – Hybrid Research

Today, researchers must gather statistical and reliable data via quantitative surveys but are also tasked with providing additional color through deeper qualitative interviewing. Qualitative research paired with quantitative research enables an even closer look at your target profile. 

The best way to describe the difference between qualitative and quantitative research is the way in which they are expressed, interpreted, analyzed, and used to draw business conclusions. Qualitative research is expressed through words instead of multiple-choice data, such as someone’s feelings on a given topic or a detailed account of their experiences. This type of research requires in-depth information about an individual’s experience, most often collected through in-depth interviews, focus groups, events, or roundtables. 

Overall, qualitative research uses multiple systems to ensure the data gathered is of high quality and reliable. It is analyzed by summary, categorizing, and inferring while quantitative research is analyzed through math and numerical analysis. Due to the complexity and depth of qualitative research, it often requires fewer respondents than quantitative research. Qualitative research results can also often open the door to exploring more concepts and express key data in more detail. 

Quantitative research is expressed through numeric, measurable data and concentrates on the “what.” The insights gathered by close-ended questions from quantitative research can be gathered at scale, but qualitative interviews provide more in-depth and personal answers that can be beneficial to a well-rounded research strategy. By pairing together qualitative and quantitative research you can get a more accurate and holistic picture of your target audience.

Common Mistakes When Performing Qualitative Research

Just like in any research, mistakes can be made that can cause set backs or even inaccurate data. To avoid this, look out for common mistakes that are avoidable. Vetting individuals carefully is essential as a common mistake can be getting to the interview process with someone who has less qualifications than you think. For example, you may have a study where you need to interview CEOs, but a VP slipped through the cracks – ensure that you vet your participants thoroughly to avoid this. Another common mistake is interviewing too many people with too little time. While it is great to garner a ton of insights on a ton of people, qualitative research takes time. In order to tap into the advantage of qualitative research, which is to go deep with participants in order to understand their point of views, you must take a step back and be realistic with how much time you have. It is always better to have deeper insights with less participants than surface level insights for thousands of participants. Keep a close eye on these common mistakes when performing qualitative research to ensure you stay on a track to success. 

Leveraging Expert Networks

One of the most challenging hurdles of qualitative research is gathering vetted subjects who can provide quality insights to further gather reliable decision-making data. Through Ivy Exec, InnovateMR offers access to rich, qualitative insights via a highly engaged and resume verified B2B community of 3 million professionals including industry experts for a broad variety of research projects and qualitative methodologies. This professional community works as a rich source for niche B2B audiences that are needed for effective qualitative research. This expert network opens the doors for our clients to utilize the knowledge, experience, and opinions of these well-versed professionals to collect quality insights. Healthcare, fintech, venture capital, and private equity are just a few of the key industries that InnovateMR and Ivy Exec can tap into for our clients seeking qualitative research. 

More about our B2B Qualitative Reach:

  • 3M+ Members
  • 191 Countries
  • 800K+ Women in Business
  • 80% Director and Above
  • 70% Members with Advanced Degrees 


Qualitative research stands as an important part of a market research strategy and can be utilized in a multitude of ways. It uncovers extremely different insights from quantitative alone, which is why in some cases it is best to use both when conducting research. Additionally, the many different types of qualitative research methodologies can greatly affect the results of your study. Ensure that you are using the appropriate type to capture all necessary data to improve your relationship with your target audience. InnovateMR proudly provides a combined offering of qualitative and quantitative research and recognizes the strengths of both when it comes to researching the market.

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About InnovateMR – InnovateMR is a full-service sampling and ResTech company that delivers faster, quality insights from business and consumer audiences utilizing cutting-edge technologies to support agile research. As industry pioneers, InnovateMR provides world-class end-to-end survey programming, targeted international sampling, qualitative and quantitative insights, and customized consultation services to support informed, data-driven strategies, and identify growth opportunities. Known for their celebrated status in customer service and results, InnovateMR combines boutique-level service with extensive global reach to achieve partner success.