The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

FAQ: Running Qual Research projects

These are the answers to some of the questions people frequently ask about running qual research projects and the costs involved. If you cannot find the answers to your question, please ask us.

How much does a typical qualitative research project cost?

This depends on the sample size and the audience researched. A typical 6 group project with consumers, looking at a new product, with reasonably simple recruitment criteria, is likely to be in the region of 12,000 to 18,000, including fieldwork, debrief and all expenses. The lower end of this band might cover in-home groups and modest travel expenses; at the higher end, clients can expect various fieldwork locations, full venue hire, filming etc.

What are the typical steps in a qualitative project?

A qualitative project usually begins with a successful pitch job or a brief sent directly to an agency, who will respond by preparing a proposal which outlines sample structure, cost, and methodology. Pending agreement of recruitment criteria and dates, the agency will start to prepare the project booking out fieldwork, briefing fieldwork managers, etc. Briefing meetings with the client may follow, where more detailed objectives are discussed and stimulus material shown; fieldwork can then take place. When this is finished, the agency will start to prepare their results (or, in some cases, compile a more immediate summary of topline findings), which are presented to the client. This may be the end of the process, or occasionally another wave of research may develop following on from the initial findings.

How long does a typical project take from start to finish?

This will vary according to complexity and nature of the study, so this could be from one or two weeks through to several months, although a typical commercial project of say 6 groups would last for 4 to 6 weeks

What sort of outputs can be expected?

Most qualitative projects tend to result in a PowerPoint document which is then presented at a debrief session. This document may or may not have been cut-down for the presentation itself and then re-submitted post-debrief in a fuller form with respondent verbatims etc. Some agencies will also include video clips of the research in the debrief and supply these on CD/DVD with the final document. Some clients will also expect a management summary document in Word, although social research clients often require a more comprehensive Word document of the complete findings.