It’s a period of instability, but also one of great opportunity for those who are willing to try something different. Look beneath the surface and there is a huge amount of really interesting new thinking going on, that is thriving in this changing world. That’s why, rather than looking back fondly on 35 years of the AQR, we’ve designed an issue that looks forward to the future.

We’ve chosen six contributors, none of whom have written for AQR before, who are each pushing the boundaries of qualitative research in their own way. We gave them a relatively open brief: how do you see the future of qualitative research? And what we’ve got back is fascinating.

Technology is an obvious place to start. The potential it has been teasing us with for years is finally coming to fruition, but it is throwing up challenging questions around not only how best to utilise these new techniques and media, but also how and whether we even should. Especially if we’re calling it ‘research’, and especially if we’re using it with kids.

New markets are opening up, and arguably none is so exciting as India. It’s a society full of contradictions, but we’ll need to get to grips with it as it’s continuing to grow and evolve as a market for qualitative research.

Another area of focus is the client, and understanding them better in order to give our work its best chance of being understood and acted upon.

And in a world where the march of Big Data continues to progress, enabling unparalleled insight into consumer behaviour, it’s worth taking a step back to ask: what is qual actually for?

We’re hoping that the issues we’ve covered here will spark some fresh thoughts, and maybe even a bit of argument. If you have any comments to make, please address them to @AQRUK and use #InDepth35 on Twitter — let’s have a very 21st Century debate! In the meantime, it’s my pleasure to introduce this issue. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as we’ve enjoyed putting it together.