What are quantitative interviewing, qualitative interviewing, and focus groups?

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kjtracy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary difference between qualitative and quantitative interviewing is that qualitative interviews are exploratory and focus on opinions and motivations while quantitative interviews focus on measurable data and facts. A focus group is a type of qualitative interview that is used to gather opinions and other qualitative information from a group.

Qualitative interviewing is used to gain understanding of the motivations behind human behavior and to develop hypotheses that can be used as the basis for experimental research. Qualitative research focuses on thoughts and opinions, giving people the chance to voice subjective concerns. Focus groups are a common type of qualitative interview that involves multiple participants.

In a standard focus group, participants are chosen either because they have a particular trait in common or because they represent the diversity of a broader group. Companies often hire researchers to conduct focus groups in order to test the effectiveness of their advertising campaigns. For example, a focus group may be conducted to gain insight into how the target demographic of a company will respond to a new line of products.

Quantitative research is focused on numerical data that can be turned into statistics for analysis. Quantitative data may be used to measure subjective reactions, such as opinions, or to analyze facts, such as demographic information. In a quantitative interview, the participant is typically asked a series of questions or given a form to fill out. These questions are translated into answers that yield patterns that can be used in research. Face-to-face interviews are common in quantitative research, as are phone- and paper-based surveys.

It is important to remember that there can be significant overlap in quantitative and qualitative interviews. Many researchers use a combination of the two approaches to gain qualitative data that can be used to expand research as well as statistical data that is easy to analyze. Focus groups are generally qualitative, but they may feature quantitative elements as well.