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26.05.2014
Sociological researches
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Once again about methods
Many skilled customers and performers too, often suffer with a choice of a method of research as they know that each method has pluses and minuses. And there is no universal remedy. Usually the people, who are responsible for this type of work, weigh a number of parameters among themselves and do certain assumptions, and try to minimize risks. For someone of the customers the important parameter is the price ("the cheaper"), for someone terms are on the first place("we need it yesterday"), and for the most advanced and serious customers the main parameter is  a reliability (objectivity) of data. But reliability usually is more expensive and takes more time. Anyway, it is necessary to do certain calculations, to analyze, compare parameters and to make a final choice, based on a combination of the most various factors and criteria. This resembles the choice of a car: you don't know to make it cheaper, more comfortable at the same time, and quicker, and more reliable … But life is not like it is– it is necessary to pay for something, and to sacrifice something. We want to offer to a professional (and not just professional) public our view of pluses and minuses of various methods both quantitative and qualitative researches in sociology.

I. QUANTITATIVE RESEARCHES

PERSONAL INTERVIEWS (FACE TO FACE) AT THE PLACE OF RESIDENCE

Advantages: it is more difficult for respondent to tell while answering to questions, possibility of displaying additional materials (cards, lists of candidates, advertizing materials, etc.), rather simple and clear procedure of control of data, opportunity to correct errors of interviewers after control.

Shortcomings: research time constraints are longer, than telephone and Internet polls ones, difficulty to achieve of people with the high income and social status.

PERSONAL INTERVIEWS (FACE TO FACE) ON THE STREET / POINTS OF SALE TERMINAL

Advantages: interviews are conveyed under the supervision of the supervisor, possibility of displaying additional materials (cards, lists of candidates, advertizing materials, etc.), rather simple and clear procedure of data control, and opportunity to correct errors of interviewers during the research procedure and right after control.

Shortcomings: interview is conducted "on the run", respondents hurry on affairs, they give wrong t names and nonexistent telephone numbers (which are necessary for control), difficulty to achieve of people with the high income and social status.

TELEPHONE INTERVIEWS

Advantages: possibility of the fast contact, adequate answers of respondents to simple (terse) questions, fast approachability of the remote regions of the Russian Federation, full audio recording of all interviews, simple and clear procedure of data control, opportunity to correct errors of operators quickly right after interview ("wiretap" of records).

Shortcomings: it is easier for respondent to tell lies, than at personal interview (face to face), difficulties for respondents to answers to the questions having a large number of alternatives (more than 5 alternatives are badly perceived aurally in general), impossibility of display additional materials of a poll ( cards, lists of candidates, advertizing materials, etc.).

SELF-PRIMING QUESTIONNAIRES

(THE RESPONDENT FILLS QUESTIONNAIR HIMSELF)

Advantages: saves time for the interviewer, adequacy in filling the questionnaire by conscientious respondent.

Shortcomings: skipped questions, impossibility of proper full data check.

HALL-TEST, CAWI-TEST, CAPI-TEST

Advantages: the submission to control of filling questionnaires (the supervisor, the interviewer), an interview conducted at the research company facility, instead of house of a respondent, relative accuracy in answers, absence of skipped questions, possibility to display additional materials (cards, lists of candidates, advertizing materials, etc.), fast and adequate control of data.

Shortcomings: duration of procedure of a poll, relative high cost of research method for the Customer.

INTERNET POLLS (INTERNET PANELS), INCLUDING. OMI PANEL

Advantage: quick poll, simplicity and availability of questionnaire filling, large potential audience for coverage by a poll (except for rural areas and pensioners), high geographical availability of any cities.

Shortcomings: impossibility to carry out data control adequately, relative high cost of research method for the Customer, since «innovative technologies" are in fashion, the whole crews fo "professional respondents" work on the Internet adjusting data under necessary selection criteria of respondents (remuneration for a participation in one poll makes from 35 to 100 rub, such earnings attracts only poor groups of the population)

II. QUALITATIVE RESEARCHES

FOCUS-GROUPS

Advantages: possibility of direct contact with respondents, opportunity to check various working hypotheses, opportunity to ask unplanned by the conversation scenario questions, relative freedom of communication with respondents.

Shortcomings: group dynamics (respondents following the leader of an opinion), impossibility of definition of exact quantitative data on the basis of judgment of group/groups, decrease in the importance of opinion of one person in "favor" to development of the general opinion.

DEEP INTERVIEWS (DYADS, TRIADS)

Advantages: possibility of direct contact with the respondent, opportunity to check various working hypotheses, opportunity to ask unplanned by the conversation scenario questions, opportunity to get individual perception.

Shortcomings: impossibility of definition of exact quantitative data on the basis of one or several judgments.

EXPERT INTERVIEWS

Advantages: possibility of direct contact with respondents, opportunity to check various working hypotheses, opportunity to ask unplanned by the conversation scenario questions, opportunity to get individual perception, the person who deeply knows a separate subject.

Shortcomings: impossibility of definition of exact quantitative data on the basis of one or several judgments, difficulty of approachability of experts, a high share of refusals of interview.

SHOP-TOUR

Advantages: opportunity to track real consumer behavior of various groups of respondents in points of sale directly, opportunity to check various working hypotheses, opportunity to ask unplanned by the conversation scenario questions, opportunity to get individual perception.

Shortcomings: impossibility of definition of exact quantitative data on the basis of one or several judgments of respondents.

ETHNOGRAPHY

Advantages: possibility of direct contact with respondents in a situation habitual for them (houses, restaurant, stadium, the street, picnic, etc.), opportunity to check various working hypotheses, opportunity to ask unplanned by the conversation scenario questions, freedom of communication with respondents.

Shortcomings: group dynamics (respondents following the informal leader), impossibility of definition of exact quantitative data on the basis of judgment of group/groups, decrease in the importance of opinion of one person in "favor" to development of the general opinion.

We tried to generalize all aforesaid in the summary table within which we estimated the most important parameters of research by standard school five-point system. It is clear that our assessment isn't universal and doesn't apply for the ultimate truth. It is just an opinion on what is important and useful to know before carrying out any research and what methods to apply otherwise.

Data Reliability
Opportunity to ask complex question with many alternatives
Opportunity to use auxiliary materials (colored and black-and-white cards )
Speed of research (time constraints)
Speed of data processing
Opportunity for adequate data control
Cost (expensive -1, Cheap-2)

Personal interview (face to face) at the place of residence

4

5

5

3

3

4

3

Personal interview (face to face) at the point of sale terminals

4

4

5

4

3

3

4

Telephone Interview

4

2

1

5

5

4

3

Self-priming Questionaries

2

4

5

2

2

1

2

Hall-test, Сawi-test, Сapi-test

5

5

5

3

5

5

2

Internet poles, Internet Panels, OMI panels

3

4

5

5

5

1

1

Focus - Groups

4

3

5

4

3

4

3

Deep Interview

4

3

5

4

3

4

3

Expert Interview

5

3

5

4

3

4

2

Shop- tour

4

3

4

4

3

4

2

Ethnography

4

3

2

4

3

4

2

CONCLUSIONS:

Any of methods of research isn't universal and absolutely exact, each method has the shortcomings and the objective restrictions. However, each method has the advantages too.

If time of a poll is limited, the method of telephone interview must be chosen, but then the questionnaire should most correct, alternatives of answers extremely clear and available to perception aurally. The telephone interview shouldn't last more than 30 minutes; the most digestible format for telephone interview is conversation from 5 to 15 minutes. Objective restriction is an impossibility to use additional materials (the test of advertizing, color and black-and-white cards, lists of candidates, etc.).

If you aren't limited rigidly on time and you need the reliable, checked data, it is best of all to use the methods of personal interview (face to face) at the place of the residence of the respondent, or the personal interview, carrying out in the special room (hall-, cawi-, capi-tests) where respondents are invited for an interview.

If you need to correct a course of an advertizing campaign quickly, it is possible to gather focus groups rather quickly and to test advertizing regarding its perception and possibility of positive changes (if those are required).

If you need to study motivation of audience which shops goods mainly in online stores, you obviously need to start Internet poll.

If you need to understand why your remarkable goods are not being sold well, maybe you need to organize shop-tour in order to understand why this happens (to find out motivation of the consumer directly in a point of sales).

If you need to master money stupidly (this happens in life too), it is necessary to order more various and most expensive methods without obvious binding to real research tasks.

Such "if", can be a lot. Integrated indicators don't work here. This is where sociology comes about that allows variability in the solution of problems …

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The inscription on the picture: “Van Helsing is a rotter!»

Evgeny Golubev

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