By Barb Paszyn and Meredith Morino

Trying to figure out the right research methodology can be stressful, especially when it costs a lot of money. Qualitative research in particular can be strenuous since it only involves a small number of respondents and there are so many ways to approach business issues.

This is why scoping and discussing the best possible research methodologies before the project starts is vital. Every research opportunity must start like this. You should think about the business problem, the target audience, the advantages and limitations of each possible methodology, and then weigh it all out.

When it comes to qualitative research, there are 3 common methods usually considered. These methods are: focus groups, online boards, and one-on-one in-situation research (e.g., shop-alongs and in-homes). Understanding the advantages and limitations of these methods can help you determine what kind of research is needed to successfully shape your business and brand strategy.

So what are the advantages and limitations of these methods? This cheat sheet summarizes this information:

In the past, we’ve applied these guidelines to produce effective projects and ultimately successful outcomes.

For example, focus groups were perfect for one client who liked to see their consumers whenever they could “in-person”, and the stimulus was confidential and difficult to showcase online.

We’ve used an online board for sensitive topics, like medical conditions. We’ve also used it when there were many concepts to evaluate, and we wanted to space out the concepts so respondents had time to assess and evaluate them. We also needed to assess these concepts nationally. An online community was ideal, so we were careful to work with three moderators since our sample size was VERY large.

Hopefully, this cheat sheet and the examples help you narrow down what kind of research you need. If ever in doubt, feel free to reach out to us and we’ll be happy to help you place your bets.