The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Excellence

Qualitative research books and recommended reading list

Find the recommended reading and definitive texts on qualitative research, the books suggested by your fellow qualitative researchers.

We have scoured the bookshelves for the best books on Qualitative Research and associated subjects, books which are essential reading for both the newcomer to the industry and the established professionals:

Qualitative Research Reading List

Moderating to the max (paperback)
A full-tilt guide to in-depth to creative, insightful focus groups and depth interviews.

Stir it up
Recipes for robust insights and red hot ideas.

Refocusing Focus Groups: A Practical Guide
A quick, but seriously helpful guide to the best practices for planning, designing, conducting, and interpreting focus groups that draws upon techniques from psychology and anthropology.

Qualitative Research
Subtitled "Good Decision Making Through Understanding People, Cultures and Markets", this compelling new title by Sheila Keegan provides an introduction to market research in general and the position of qualitative research within it, and goes on to give an overview of different philosophies of qualitative research and how they impinge on practice. The book also considers qualitative research from the client's perspective, and looks at the type of research issues which qualitative research can be useful for. It also includes many international case studies. Published by Kogan Page in conjunction with the Market Research Society. (272 pages)

Qualitative Research in Context
Edited by Laura Marks, WARC Publications. This book represents a new and fresh approach to the subject of Qualitative Research and its practical application in both commercial and non-commercial worlds. It explains how industries have had to face up to the need to understand their public and how QR is being used effectively to move those industries forward. (285 pages)

Computer Analysis and Qualitative Research
Nigel G Fielding and Raymond M Lee, Sage Publications, March 1998.

Focus Groups as Qualitative Research
David Morgan, Sage Publications, 2nd Edition 1994.

Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research
Richard Krueger, Sage Publications, 2nd Edition 1994. A good nuts and bolts guide to qual from a respected American practitioner, covering social as well as marketing issues.

Goodthinking: A Guide to Qualitative Research
Wendy Gordon, NTC Publications Ltd 1999. A comprehensive, must-read book by the one of the UK's most respected and experienced qualitative researchers.

Handbook of Qualitative Research
Norman K. Denzin (Editor), Yvonna S. Lincoln (Editor), Sage Publications Ltd; 2nd Ed (May 2000).

Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods for Psychology and the Social Sciences
John T E Richardson (Editor), BPS Books (The British Psychological Society), March 1996.

Interpreting Qualitative Data
David Silverman, Sage, Oct 1993. An accessible account of sociological perspectives on qualitative research, with useful discussions of methods and theoretical issues such as reliability and validity.

Paul Hague, Kogan Page, May 1993. Examines the process of interviewing as a core area of market research, discussing the necessary skills and the importance of precise communication.

Qualitative Market Research, A Comprehesive Guide
Dr Hy Mariampolski, Sage Publications, Paperback and Hardcover versions available. "It is all there and I wish that I'd had this book to draw on when I first set up my shingle as a qualitative researcher." Anne Ward.

Qualitative Market Research: A Practitioners' and Buyers' Guide
Wendy Gordon & Roy Langmaid, Gower reprint 1988. A very practical book, grounded in qual experience from two of the UK's best known researchers.

Qualitative Market Research: Principle and Practice
Gill Ereaut, Mike Imms and Martin Callingham (eds.), Sage Publications 2002. A seven-book set, written by experienced British practitioners. Offers comprehensive coverage of the theory and practice of qualitative market research, both for those within and those outside the industry.

Qualitative Methods in Management Research
Evert Gummesson, Sage Publications Ltd, Jan 2000. Gummesson seems to believe that research and consultancy are mutually exclusive. Some would disagree with this basic premise and believe that we inevitably do both at the same time and cannot do otherwise, but interesting to read a very different perspective on qual.

Mindframes: 6 Enduring Principles from 50 Years of Market Research
Wendy Gordon, Acacia Avenue International, 2016. Mindframes provides any qualitative researcher with the most useful principles and models for understanding people and their relationships with brands and businesses. It makes sense of why people respond as they do to what they hear and experience from brands. It is an essential handbook and an eye-opener about ourselves.

Qualitative Research Methods for the Social Sciences
Bruce Lawrence Berg, Allyn & Bacon; 4th Ed (11 September, 2000).

Books about Advertising

Decoding Advertisements: Ideology and Meaning in Advertising
Judith Williamson, Maryon Boyars Publishing, Reissued Feb 78. Good, research-fascinating stuff on ideology and meaning.

Excellence in Advertising
Edited by Lesley Butterfield, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2nd Ed, Sept 99. Thorough DIY guide, including the context and role for research.

Ogilvy on Advertising
David Ogilvy, Prion, New Ed. Sep. 95. A famous book by a famous creative? but curiously dated.

Tantrums and Talents
Winston Fletcher, Admap, 2nd Rev. Ed. Dec 99. Insights into motivating and managing creative talents (including why creatives hate our debriefs)

Books about Consumer Behaviour

Consumer Behaviour
Peter Chisnall, McGraw Hill, 3rd Ed. Nov 94. Not specifically about qualitative research, but a good bridge to the consumer and marketing theory that underpins why we do what we do.

Consumer Behaviour Advances and Applications in Marketing
Robert East, Hodder & Stoughton, 1997.

Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature
Mark Earls.

How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market
Gerald Zaltman, February 2003, Harvard Business School Press, Hardback. This book rather over-promises, but is interesting nevertheless. He was heavily involved in neuroscience but has gone quiet on that front. It is hugely critical of the US focus group system, and proudly describes his new ZMet technique which is a sophisticated version of collages with a lot of open-ended probing.

Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less
Barry Schwartz. A populist look at how consumerism and choice can become detrimental to our psychological and emotional well being.

Pattern Recognition
Paperback, June 2004, Penguin Books Ltd. A fictional tale of a cool hunter who is allergic to brands. It's easy to identify with this woman; I cringe every time I see a Tommy Hilfiger shirt stretched over a fat paunch. Story includes viral marketing, and I think a lot of researchers would enjoy it, but it is fiction.

The Psychology of Interpersonal Behaviour
M Argyle, Penguin, ed. 1994.

The Strategy of Desire
Ernest Dichter, 1960, revised 2002, Transaction Publishers, London. The Dichter book has me gobsmacked with the huge amount of insights into consumer behaviour he gathered. Puts a lot of contemporary research to shame.

Understanding the Consumer: A Psychological Approach
David A Statt, Palgrave, formerly Macmillan Press, 97.

Why we buy
Paco Underhill, Texere Publishing, new edition 2 November 2000. An illuminating and enjoyable read describing how observational methods are essential for anyone working in retail.

Books about General Business Theory

Blog Marketing
Jeremy Wright. Explores how to maximise the opportunities of blogging in marketing, building customer relationships, advertising, and increasing sales.

Blog! How the Newest Media Revolution Is Changing Politics, Business, and Culture
David Kline. Overview of the impact of blogs in different realms of our society.

Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That's Changing Your World
Hugh Hewitt. An introduction to blogs, explaining the role they play in balancing the main stream media.

Eating The Big Fish: How Challenger Brands Can Compete Against Brand Leaders
Adam Morgan, John Wiley & Sons, April 99. A valuable, rare study and new ideas for an issue many of us are asked to address ? how to compete with established brand leaders.

Inside Organisations: Anthropologists at work
Edited by Eric Hirsch and David N. Gellner, May 2001, Berg Publishers. Most of us work in or for one, but there are surprisingly few sustained analyses of the problems and peculiarities of organizations. This is a signal, and essential, contribution to the literature of social theory and research. Slightly patchy, but quite interesting.

Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers
Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. A look at business blogs as a way for companies to communicate with consumers.

No Logo
Naomi Klein, Harper Collins, Jan 2000. Klein patiently demonstrates, step by step, how brands have become ubiquitous, not just in the media and on the street, but increasingly in schools as well. Gradually, a new generation is beginning to fight consumerism with its own best weapons and the first skirmishes are documented here.

The Fifth Discipline
Peter Senge, Random House, new ed. May 93. The art and practice of the learning organisation? if our information is the learning fodder of such organisations, we ought to know about this.

The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People
Steven Covey, Simon & Schuster, audio Jan 94. These habits probably seem unexceptional to researchers, but the significance of the book is its influence on management thinking, which has been considerable.

The Tipping Point
Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown & Co, May 2000. A fascinating book about social trends and the spread of ideas.

The Trusted Adviser
David Maister, Rob Galford and Charles Green, January 2002, Free Press. Recommended by London Business School, this book explores consulting skills. It is a bit Californian and not especially new but it fits with the qual researcher holy grail of wanting different/closer/longer term relationships with clients.

Unpopular Culture: The Ritual of Complaint in a British Bank
John R Weeks, December 2003, University of Chicago Press. John R Weeks based his study on long-term observations made at the British Armstrong Bank in the UK. Not one person, from the CEOs to the junior clerks had anything good to say about its corporate culture, yet the way things were done never seemed to alter.

Books about General Market Research

Inside Information: Making Sense of Marketing Data
David Smith.

Marketing Research
Peter Chisnall, McGraw-Hill, 6th Ed. Feb 2001.

Researching Society and Culture
Edited by Clive Seale, Sage, 1998. A good collection of basic essays on key methods and theories, including chapters on ethnography, interviewing and semiotics.

Teach Yourself Successful Market Research in a Week
Written by Judy Bartkowiak, a leading expert on market research as both a coach and a practitioner, this book quickly teaches you the insider secrets you need to know to in order understand your consumers.

The Practice of Market and Social Research: An Introduction
Yvonne McGivern, FT Prentice Hall, 2002. This is the recommended text for the MRS Advanced Certificate in Market Research Practice. There is a companion website ( and an Instructor's Manual with additional case studies and slides for tutors adopting the book.

The Industrial Market Research Handbook
Paul N Hague, Kogan Page, 3rd ed., Oct 92. Provides a practical and comprehensive guide to the techniques and applications of industrial market research in a variety of business contexts.

Books about Marketing

Brand It Like Beckham: The story of how Brand Beckham was built
Andy Milligan.

Brand Leadership
David A. Aaker. Building and managing brands.

Building Brands and Believers: How to Connect with Consumers using Archetypes
Kent Wertime, 2002, Wiley Eastern. Covers a question of constant interest to clients, what are archetypes in marketing?

Communities Dominate Brands: Business and Marketing Challenges for the 21st Century
Tomi Ahonen. How digitally connected customers, using blogs, videogaming and mobile phones are creating new communities, leading to a revolution in how businesses interact with their customers. It explores new technology and its impact on marketing techniques.

Creating Passionbrands: Getting to the Heart of Branding
Helen Edwards and Derek Day.

Creating Powerful Brands
Leslie de Chernatony & Malcolm H B McDonald, Butterworth-Heinemann, 2nd Ed. April 98. The only effective book on brands and branding that I've come across.

Customers That Count
Tony Cram. How to Build Living Relationships with Your Most Valuable Customers.

Emotional Branding: How Successful Brands Gain the Irrational Edge
Daryl Travis. Looks at brands from the perspective of emotional response, instead of corporate rationality.

Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People
Marc Gobe. A practical approach to emotional branding, using case studies.

Even More Offensive Marketing
Hugh Davidson, Penguin, Oct 97. A useful antidote to academic texts, this is a thorough, practical how-to book for practitioners.

Everything You Want: Reinventing Consumers, Brands and Communications
Jennifer Wood and Barney Allan, 2003.. Wood and Allen are two disillusioned copywriters assessing the state of the industry and brands.

From Brand Vision to Brand Evaluation: The Strategic Process of Growing and Strengthening Brands
Leslie de Chernatony.

How Brands Become Icons: The Principles of Cultural Branding
Douglas Holt.

Marketing Genius
Peter Fisk. A contemporary manual of marketing, referring to current brands including Google and Innocent.

Marketing Management
Philip Kotler, Prentice Hall, Tenth Ed. Aug 99. The definitive (American) business school text on marketing. Thorough, but surprisingly little about brands.

Marketing Management and Strategy
Peter Doyle, Prentice Hall, Second Ed. Oct 97. A very accessible book by one of the UK's most respected marketing academics.

Secrets of Success in Brand Licensing
Andrew Levy and Judy Bartkowiak. Licensing takes many forms and can be highly complex. This book steers us through what could be a potential minefield.

The Brand Innovation Manifesto: How to Build Brands, Redefine Markets, and Defy Conventions
John Grant. A contemporary look at branding models, focuses on the concept of the brand molecule.

The Guru Guide
Joseph H Boyett & Jimmie T Boyett, John Wiley & Sons, 2nd Ed. June 98. A useful description and critique of virtually all the important management thinking.

The Marketing Book
Michael J. Baker.

The Marketing Director's Handbook
Tim Arnold and Guy Tomlinson, The Marketing Directors Ltd, Hardback, 416 pages, published September 2008. A comprehensive and practical guide for anyone managing or aspiring to manage a marketing function at board level. The book is structured to help you lead a marketing department, undertake key marketing activities and solve marketing problems.

The Mental World of Brands
Giep Frannzen and Margaret Bouwman, NTC Publications, Paperback, 499 pages, April 2001. The Mental World of Brands provides a compelling new startpoint for developing new and better relationships between brand and consumer. It asks: how does the brain work? How does it form memories and associations, and how can we make best use of this knowledge to leverage brands and protect and expand market share?

The Pirate Inside: Building a Challenger Brand Culture Within Yourself and Your Organizations
Adam Morgan. An updated look at challenger brands.

Understanding Brands by 10 People Who Do
Edited by Don Cowley, Kogan Page, new ed. Sept 96. Each chapter, written by a leading expert in the field, deals with a different aspect of branding research, advertising, media planning, marketing, packaging, creativity, evaluation, international.

Books about Presenting and Presentation Skills

Lend Me Your Ears: All You Need to Know About Making Speeches and Presentations
This book by Prof Max Atkinson is more about the word side of presentations and has some great stuff about audiences, rhetorical devices etc.

slide:ology: The Art and Science of Creating Great Presentations
Nancy Duarte's book is more about the image side of things, designing, image systems, colour wheels, elements etc

Beyond Bullet Points
Cliff Atkinson's book is about using classical story structures to inform, motivate and inspire. There is also a PowerPoint add-in you can download to help you build your stories using his structure.

Have we missed something off the Qualitative Research Reading List?

Have we missed out an important book? If you would like to suggest other titles to add to the bookshop, or add to the information about books we have already listed, please contact us. Please remember to tell us the Title, Author, Publisher and ISBN numbers of any books you suggest so we can track them down.