The purpose of this content is to provide a point of view on the ideal sample size for a qualitative market research study, because that’s one of the most common questions even the most seasoned researcher asks us.
Adequate sample sizes have been debated extensively in the market research industry for many years, in part because quantitative sample sizes are statistically easier to measure. Often, quantitative research frameworks get applied to qualitative research because quant norms are concrete (e.g +/- variance), whereas qualitative sample sizes are difficult to prove, mathematically.
A number of studies have been published over the years on the topic of adequate sample sizes for qualitative research. Here are a few:
Qualitative research is more art than science. Bill Bowerman (Nike co-founder) tested his shoe designs on a relatively small sample size, yet was able to scale the innovation to millions of people, in large part because it was the right sample of runners.
Typically, clients turn to qualitative methods to understand meaning – the How and the Why.
So while we believe there are minimum sample sizes that should be employed in qualitative research, there are some critical variables in the equation we consider:
Our short answer when clients ask us about the right sample size is to go with 30-50 respondents, but the context as outlined in the “Fabric POV” section above guides us beyond.
Follow up questions are welcome: please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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