Qualitative methods

Qualitative research, such as focus groups and interviews, is based on conversation. The researcher asks open-ended questions, solicits reactions to something, or tries to generate ideas. The respondents give answers and tell stories. Qualitative methods were developed in academic anthropology, sociology, and psychology and have been elaborated by researchers and marketers for decades.

Qualitative research...

  • is good for identifying key issues, understanding processes (such as decision-making), exploring possibilities, and revealing emotional dynamics.
  • can be responsive and exploratory, because it allows participants to answer questions you didn’t think to ask.
  • often precedes and informs the design of quantitative research questionnaires.
  • distinguishes among individuals (rather than populations); one person’s responses can be meaningful, even revelatory.
  • involves a relatively small number of respondents; it values depth over breadth.
  • doesn’t allow you to make statistical inferences or comparisons across audience segments.


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March 14, 2014 | Nicole Baltazar

Multiculturalism is key for creating inclusive arts experiences


Last month, Coca-Cola aired its now-famous Super Bowl ad depicting people from various racial, ethnic, and cultural groups singing “America the Beautiful” together in different languages. Among the instant outpouring of polarized reactions to this ad rang much praise for its depiction of a multicultural America. Yet the ad provoked a slew of negative responses as well. Many of the ad’s detractors questioned whether this multicultural America could ever feel as cohesive as an America whose citizens speak a common language, and therefore have taken great strides toward assimilating into a common culture.

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