Summary of Methodological Options offers a full range of qualitative research methodological options. For the newcomer to qualitative research, a brief summary of these different methodologies follows.

Focus Groups

Considered a staple of qualitative research, focus groups typically consist of 8-10 pre-recruited individuals who meet particular screening criteria. A trained moderator guides participants through the discussion. The discussions are often held in specially designed facilities that permit unobtrusive and comfortable observation by clients. Focus groups are almost always audio taped and are frequently videotaped.


Mini-groups are basically focus groups conducted with fewer respondents (typically 4-6) in each group. Mini-groups are useful in low incidence categories where it may be unfeasible to attract 8-10 individuals to a particular group. Mini-groups are also recommended when there are too many issues to discuss; fewer respondents in such situations allows each to contribute fully to the discussion.

Dyads and Triads

Dyads (two respondents) and triads (three respondents) can be useful in understanding the differing roles and views of household members or decision-makers within a business organization (e.g., husband, wife, and teen evaluating a new home entertainment concept).

In-Depth Interviews

Also called IDIs or one-on-one interviews. Good for sensitive subjects (regarding products and services that are infrequently discussed by consumers with each other), high level executive interviews or low incidence groups (where we must be flexible and cater to the respondent's schedule).


Comparison of Media Options

Historically, all qualitative research was conducted in-person. Conducting qualitative research via telephone began in the 1980s. And in the late 1990's, the Internet has become another option. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.

Sometimes a situation will dictate which medium to use. For example, actual product prototype evaluations would most likely require an in-person approach, or a study among MIS Directors might cry to be conducted online. In other instances, budget restrictions may force us to utilize a less expensive approach like phone.

The table below provides some basic criteria that can be used to determine which options would be viable in a given situation. For comparison purposes, we also include online methodologies in this analysis. If you would like more information, please contact us.





  • The standard against which other options are compared.
  • We can take advantage of body language in understanding what respondents are trying to say.
  • Easiest to control all stimuli.
  • More expensive, requiring facility rental, possibly higher incentives, and travel expenses for the moderator and the client team
  • Limited number of markets covered.


  • Convenient for respondents - can participate from home or office, making recruitment easier (less costly).
  • No geographic limitations.
  • Less expensive.
  • Greater respondent anonymity allows them to be more open and honest.
  • We lose body language (but not voice inflection, tone, etc.).
  • Difficult to control stimuli presentation.
  • Respondents may get distracted (by TV, other family members, colleagues if at office)


  • More viable option as more people become comfortable using the Internet as a communication medium.
  • Because all communications are written, we have a complete and instant record of all data collected.
  • No geographic limitations.
  • Maximum anonymity and honesty.
  • Least expensive.
  • We lose body language, putting more responsibility on the moderator to cull real feelings from respondents.
  • Difficult to control stimuli presentation.
  • Respondents may get distracted (e.g., TV or other family members at home, colleagues or phone calls at work).

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