Voice, not numbers

Qualitative methods seek out and make sense of voice, not numbers.




Using these methods, we discover what is normally invisible in everyday life. We access the knowledge that respondents take for granted. And we describe the web of interactions between people, events and ideas.

Qualitative methods are particularly useful to:

  • Explore the experiences, attitudes, perceptions and opinions held by individuals or groups;
  • Diagnose complex problems in depth, such as why and how behaviours happen;
  • Explain what underpins consumer satisfaction, needs or barriers to access;
  • Connect to other people’s viewpoint, especially where there is disagreement;
  • Be surprised by answers to questions that may not have been asked before.

Qualitative methods can also be used in conjunction with quantitative methods:

  • Before, to scope out and assess research questions in a new field;
  • Alongside, to add richness and contextual depth to the numbers; and
  • After, to better understand the social processes that underpin the numbers.

However, a range of questions are best answered with numbers. Examples include projects that require precise measurements, large, representative samples or comparison between groups. We can advise whether a project is most suited to qualitative or quantitative methods.

For a broad overview and comparison of qualitative and quantitative research methods, we recommend the following: