Chapter 8
Observation, Focus Groups,
and Other Qualitative
• Quantitative research: research involving the use
of structured questions in which response
options have been predetermined and a “large”
number of respondents are involved
• Qualitative research: collecting, analyzing, and
interpreting data based on what people do and
say with smaller samples
• Pluralistic research: combination of both
quantitative and qualitative research methods in
order to gain the advantages of both
Observation Techniques
• Observation methods: techniques in which the
researcher relies on his or her powers of
observation rather than communicating with a
person in order to obtain information
• Types of observation (will explain later):
• Direct versus indirect
• Disguised versus undisguised
• Structured versus unstructured
• Human versus mechanical
Observation Techniques…cont.
Direct versus Indirect
• Direct observation: observing behavior as it
• Indirect observation: observing the effects or
results of the behavior rather than the behavior
• Archives (written records)
• Physical traces (erosion or
Observation Techniques…cont.
Disguised versus Undisguised
• Disguised observation: subject is unaware that
he or she is being observed
• Undisguised observation: respondent is aware of
Observation Techniques…cont.
Structured versus Unstructured
• Structured observation: researcher identifies
beforehand which behaviors are to observed and
• Unstructured observation: No restriction is
placed on what the observer would note: all
behavior in the episode under study is monitored
Observation Techniques…cont.
Human versus Mechanical
• Human observation: person or persons observe
behavior (person hired by the researcher, clients,
or perhaps the observer is the researcher)
• Mechanical observation: human observer is
replaced with some form of static observing
device(audio and or visual recording)
Observation Techniques…cont.
Appropriate Conditions for the Use of Observation
• Short duration
• Public
• Faulty recall (difficult for person to remember
accurately what was done) conditions
• Person is unaware of behavior
Observation Techniques…cont.
Advantages of Observational Data
Insight into actual, not reported, behaviors
No chance for recall error
Better accuracy (versus self-reporting)
Less cost
Observation Techniques…cont.
Limitations of Observational Data
• Small number of subjects
• Can only observe short-duration, frequently
occurring events
• Subjective interpretations (by observer)
• Inability to to pry beneath the behavior observed
(why was the behavior carried out - motivations,
attitudes, and other internal conditions are
Focus Groups
• Focus groups: small group (6 – 12 people)
discussions led by a trained moderator;
homogeneous group; tightly bounded topic area
• Objectives:
• Generate ideas
• Understand consumer vocabulary
• Reveal consumer benefits sought, needs,
motives, perceptions, and attitudes on
products and services
• Understand findings from quantitative studies
Focus Groups
Moderator’s Role and Responsibilities
• Focus group moderator: a person who conducts
the session and guides the flow of group
discussion across specific topics
• Moderator characteristics:
• Experienced
• Enthusiastic
• Prepared
• Involving
• Energetic
• Open-minded
Focus Groups
Reporting and Use of Focus Group Results
• Factors to remember when analyzing data:
• Some sense must be made by translating the
qualitative statements of participants into
categories and then reporting the degree of
consensus apparent in the focus groups
• Demographics and buyer behavior characteristics
of focus group participants should be judged
against the target market profile to assess what
degree the group(s) represent(s) the target market
• A focus groups analysis should identify major themes
as well as salient areas of disagreement among the
Focus Groups
Online Focus Groups
• Online focus group: one in which the respondents
and/or moderator (and sometimes clients)
communicate and/or observe by use of the Internet;
group members are at their own pc
• Advantages:
• No physical setup is necessary
• Transcripts are captured on file in real time
• Participants can be in widely separated
geographical areas
• Participants are comfortable in their home or office
• The moderator can exchange private messages
with individual participants
Focus Groups
Online Focus Groups…cont.
• Disadvantages:
• Observation of participants’ body language is
not possible
• Participants cannot physically inspect
products or taste food items
• Participants can lose interest or become
Focus Groups – In General
• Advantages:
• Generation of fresh ideas
• Client interaction
• Versatility (many topics, other research
techniques may be used, product tests, etc.)
• May tap special respondents (drs., lawyers …)
• Disadvantages:
• Representative of the population?
• Interpretation is subjective
• High cost-per-participant ($150 - $200 each)
Other Qualitative Research Techniques
• Depth interview: a set of questions with probes,
posed one-on-one to a subject by a trained
interviewer to gain an idea of what the subject
thinks about something or why he or she behaves
a certain way
• Protocol analysis: involves placing a person in a
decision-making situation and asking him or her
to verbalize everything he or she considers when
making a decision (step-by-step)
Other Qualitative Research
• Projective techniques: involve situations in which
participants are “projected into” another person,
an inanimate object, or a simulated activity, with
the hope that they will divulge things about
themselves that they might not reveal under
direct questioning. Types include:
• Word association test
• Sentence completion
• Picture test (may include “headline” or
• Cartoon or balloon test
• Role-playing activity
Physiological Measurements
• Physiological measurements: monitoring a
respondent’s involuntary responses to marketing
stimuli via the use of eye cameras, salinity
detectors, blood pressure sensors, and other
• Pupilometer (iris dilation/contraction)
• Eye-tracking
• Galvanometer
• Voice Print Analysis (VOPAN)