Qualitative research has been developed in Ireland to a high standard for over 30 years. Proximity to the UK and Europe together with an apparently natural instinct to travel have worked in favour of indigenous research.
Operationally, qualitative research in Ireland is similar to that elsewhere, with an emphasis on group discussions and unstructured interviews. There are differences,however, which any visiting researchers should recognise.
Assuming, for example, that Ireland is, for practical purposes, a UK mainland offshoot is an error which will affect analysis and results. To illustrate: there is a strong affiliation with proprietary brands and stores' own-brands are not as prevalent nor as successful as in the UK; in the cigarette market, an economy sector does not exist. Many indigenous brands are robust.
One stereotype will be validated: Irish people talk an awful lot and groups will typically have a high energy verbal level. Vocabulary can be rich and even romantic, giving a surface veneer of juicy verbatims. Be warned: the language, although nominally English, can have twists and turns unusual in the UK. Verbal pyrotechnics often function as a smokescreen.
The evidence of current prosperity can come as a surprise to new visitors. Yet it is necessary to dig below this surface materialism: cultural factors are of major significance in Ireland, and attach themselves to products and brands and such issues often lie below the current horizon.
It is also helpful to reflect on the fact that Ireland completely missed the Industrial Revolution. As an outcome, products and brands have different 'histories' in the consumer mind than in other Western countries.
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, September 1999
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 1999