Jon Chandler’s article Seven pillars of wisdom: the idea of qualitative research made me pick up a copy of the IMJR for the first time. In a few thousand words Chandler defines and delineates seven different ‘knowledge frameworks’ within qualitative research. He articulates the underlying assumptions inherent in day-to-day quallie practice – teasing out how what we’re doing fits into what framework, what the benefits and limitations are. It’s one to ponder, ruminate. I can see it coming in useful come proposal time.
Chandler applies three comparisons to help define the frameworks:
- Is ‘accessing data’ straightforward? Does the model assume people are self-aware, that they have easy access to their own motivations and drives?
- Is the ‘meaning’ of the data unproblematic? Does the model assume people say what they mean and mean what they say?
- Are all responses equally valid? Does the model assume all respondents are equally valuable and their responses equally valid, is representivity worthwhile?
These help define and delineate the seven frameworks. I’ve simplified them below:
Chandler doesn’t mention new methods like eyetracking or EEG, but these could fit into the behavioural framework… Seven’s a nice number after all.
All this helps to justify the way which research is used as an input for decision-making. Critics of market research often assume we’re all working in a reportage based, ask-answer world, but the truth is a little more complex. Interpretation is at the heart of what quallies are paid for, and why clients are loyal to their chosen agencies. The article serves as a timely reminder for users and doers of research why we use the methods we do, and is definitely worth a read.