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Qualitative research is the method in which researchers find out about how man behaves and the reasons behind those behaviors. Qualitative research usually involves a smaller sample of individuals. However, the sample is usually focused. Collection of data (primary research) for a qualitative study may be done through various methods including carrying out in-depth interviews, carrying out focus groups or through observations (Mason, 2002).
The primary research conducted involved conducting two in-depth interviews and a focus group that were conducted online through Facebook. The main aim was to find out people’s views on the packaging of chocolate ‘Twix’ and its effect on health. This paper focuses on comparing the different types of research used and it will show how observation and diary research would be more effective.
Comparison between the different types of research methods used
Both in-depth interviews and focus groups are used in qualitative study but both have differences and are applicable in different situations. An in-depth interview involves the asking of open-ended questions by the researcher. The questions aim at retrieving rich information. The interviewer gets the opportunity to explore the interviewee’s perceptions and attitudes.
Focus groups, on the other hand, involve an interviewer asking a group of people some questions about the subject of discussion. The interviewer also seeks to get their opinions, attitudes and perception about the particular object of discussion. In the current research, the people’s perceptions about the packaging and effects of chocolate on their health were recorded.
The advantage of using in-depth interviews is that the interviewer may record the conversation, which would be used later to complement the notes taken (Mason, 2002). It is also advantageous in that the interviewer (while taking notes) gets to record both verbal and non-verbal responses from respondents.
In the current research, in-depth interviews were conducted online (Facebook), therefore, it had the advantage of being quite cheap. However, there are difficulties experienced in in-depth interviews. Firstly, it requires a skilled interviewer. Secondly, the lack of a structure may make the study biased since it might be susceptible to interviewer interpretation. The data is also difficult to analyze (Kvale, 1996).
Focus groups are advantageous in that more information is retrieved from a group situation than from interviews, which involve individuals (Nachmais and Frankfort, 2008). Groups also give a voice to certain individuals who would feel shy to disclose information while alone.
The disadvantage is that it could be subject to observer dependency. Another disadvantage was that conducting focus groups through Facebook was less effective in that it was difficult to judge the reactions since it was not a face to face conversation. The setting of the focus group also matters since the people’s responses may vary with the setting.
How observation and diary research may be more effective
Observation and diary research involves the participants recording their consumption of a product after they have consumed it. They also record about how they have used it. In the current research, it would have been appropriate and more effective because the participants would have recorded the fine details of their consumption. The fine details would put the researcher in a better position to assess and analyze the data.
The advantage of this type of study is that the participants would not require relying on memory when answering questions since they would be recording the events immediately they have taken place. This also means that the information would be more accurate and less biased. This method would also have been more effective since it would have saved on time since the participants would have recorded the information already and the researcher would only require collecting them.
In-depth interviews and focus groups are methods used in collecting data during qualitative research. These methods have advantages and shortcoming and are both applicable in different situations. Different kinds of information, in terms of quality and quantity, are collected using the different methods. However, the use of observation and diary research is more effective in getting more accurate information from the participants.
Kvale, S 1996, Interviews: An introduction to Qualitative research interviewing, Sage, Thousand Oaks.
Mason, J 2002, Qualitative researching, Sage, London.
Nachmais, C & Frankfort, D 2008, Research methods in the social sciences, Worth Publishers, New York.