Posted by: chrissypurcell | April 11, 2013

Qualitative Research vs. Market Research in the Online World

Like Nicole, our reading from Eysenbach and Till got me thinking a lot about online privacy. Yesterday, Facebook announced that they are rolling out a new tool for advertisers and expanding their ability to tap into a user’s personal information from outside of the social network’s walls. This means that Facebook isn’t just pulling information from your profile, but also from your online shopping, browsing history, online public records, and more, to provide advertisers with increasingly targeted data. For a detailed explanation, take a look at the WSJ article here.


As a Facebook user, I implicitly condone this practice through my participation in the social network, despite the fact that I do not know what companies are mining my personal data as part of a large-scale marketing effort. Yet, if I were a member of an online forum and discovered a “lurking” researcher observing my behavior there, I have a feeling I would be peeved to say the least.

What is it about these two scenarios that feel so different? Is the qualitative researcher held to a (necessarily) higher standard than the quantitative market researcher? Is there a fundamental difference in feel between being observed for qualitative purposes, versus being observed for quantitative purposes?


  1. Interesting questions Chrissy! I think it has less to do with whether the research is qualitative or quantitative and more to do with who is doing the research. Google has been collecting and sharing data without our awareness for years now. When it’s a business doing the research it’s called marketing. When it’s a government agency (or university) doing the research, it’s under far greater scrutiny for protections as you learned in the discussion of IRB.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: