Knowledge frameworks in qual: Jon Chandler’s seven pillars of wisdom (IMJR 55/5)

shutterstock_123917302Jon 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.

About Simon Shaw

I'm a Director at an insight consultancy. I'm interested in marketing, market research & consumer psychology. The views expressed are not necessarily those of my employer.
This entry was posted in Market Research, Marketing Research, Methods, Qualitative research and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Knowledge frameworks in qual: Jon Chandler’s seven pillars of wisdom (IMJR 55/5)

  1. Simon Riley says:

    Reblogged this on Strangers on the Shore and commented:
    This from Simon Shaw’s blog, “Changing My Mind” – a wonderfully simple but comprehensive table summarising John Chandler’s “7 Pillars of Qual”. It would be great if everyone commissioning or using qual had this one-pager on their wall. My one amendment would be on the final column to ask “Are all responses equally useful” (rather than equally valid), as you could argue that all responses are equally valid if recruitment is right, it’s just that some give you more useful meaning and insight than others. But overall, the table is a really useful contribution to practical qual. I know I’ve already come back to it for reference several times.

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