The boxed set I was given to review consists of seven volumes providing comprehensive ­ and, if the phrase isn't too worn out, 'it does what it says on the tin' ­ coverage of 'Qualitative Market Research (QMR) Principle and Practice'. The credentials of the authors ­ nine in all ­ are impeccable and, in the main, the series and the individual contributions live up to and, more than occasionally, exceed expectations.

First, the editorial introduction. While the box cover for the set does not identify users of qualitative research as a potential audience for the series, somewhat mysteriously and, in my view inappropriately, the editorial introduction does.

The editors suggest that the research user will find help within the covers in assessing 'the quality of qualitative market research provided by their agencies and recognise good qualitative research', i.e. a stick to beat us with (as if they needed another one!). One has to wonder whether perhaps this suggested target audience should have been covered off with number 8 in the series, in the form of, say, a users' guide?

Having said this, there is a potential audience that seems to have been overlooked, namely practitioners of quantitative research. In my view they would gain a lot from giving the set a read, and it might also encourage more cross-silo cooperation and learning!

Book 1: An Introduction to Qualitative Market Research, Mike Imms & Gill Ereaut
Being a self-declared know-it-all, I prepared myself to skim read the first book in the series. Then I got blown away by the discovery of the 'Jahora Window' and was persuaded to see the world through clients' eyes in the section discussing the 'Knowledge Management Perspective'. If nothing else, these sections just have to be read by every qualitative practitioner.

Books 2, 3, 4 & 7describe the key processes of commercial qualitative research and the one that really stands out is Book 3 (by Philly Desai), which explores 'Methods Beyond Interviewing in Qualitative Research'.

Don't miss the Conclusions Chapter (7); this not only provides an insightful guide to current practices and future horizons in terms of how we go about our jobs but also devotes valuable space to the subject of how we can make ourselves even more useful, if not indispensable, to the current generation of insight managers. Great stuff!

Books 5 and 6, finally discuss the applications of QMR to brand and advertising development. No surprises in Judith Wardle's book on advertising, although some slight disappointment to be reminded that we have still to recapture the advertising research high ground from the planning community.

Contrast this with book 5's authority and breadth of perspective. Co-authored by Jon Chandler and Mike Owen, this deals with the subject of QMR's contribution to Brand Development. Aside for Giep Franzen's Mental World of Brands (also recommended by the authors), this is the best book on the subject I've read in a long time and is on my 'must buy' list for TRBI's library and training team!

There is no doubt that the aim of providing 'complete coverage of qualitative research practiceŠ for both a commercial and academic audience' is ambitious. Having said this, from a practitioner's standpoint, and as one of the greybeards of the MR world, this is one of the best texts on the subject I've come across and I did find some of the content truly inspirational.

The set also, quite rightly, aims to fill two obvious market gaps. One objective is to provide an authoritative source text for training and development. The other is to provide, at least from my viewpoint, a useful account of theory and practice for academic students and researchers.

Qualitative Market Research: Principle and Practice

Edited by Gill Ereaut, Mike Imms & Martin Callingham
Sage Publications, London, 2002