Methods of qualitative social research
The term "guided interview" is a generic term for a certain way of conducting qualitative interviews: The conversation in a guided interview is structured by means of a discussion guide, so that the course of the interview follows a certain predefined thematic path. Guided interviews can have a very different level of structuring: On the one hand, the interview guidelines can structure the interview only very little, which means that the interviewees can control the flow of the conversation themselves. The interview guide then has the function of merely ensuring that certain topics are dealt with in the interview, which are addressed by means of a few, sometimes vaguely pre-formulated questions. On the other hand, interview guides can be more differentiated and include a large number of different, specific questions; such an interview guide thus steers the interview considerably more, but care must be taken that the pre-formulated questions remain open, narrative-generating and listener-oriented.
Focus groups & focus group interviews
A focus group is a moderated and focused discussion of a group of people. Through mutual exchange and exposure to the perceptions, opinions and ideas of other participants in the discussion, significantly more information can be gained than in individual interviews. Group dynamic processes lead to a more intensive examination of the subject matter by the participants, since they have to justify their own opinions to other participants on the one hand, or they can cross-fertilise each other through the encounter of different perceptions and views. This mutual exchange should lead to a deepening of the individual reflections, important central aspects should therefore emerge more clearly and distinctly than is the case in individual interviews. At the same time, the group situation leads to the fact that emotional reactions of the participants become visible, which are expressed spontaneously and thus honestly. This gives the clients or hosts of the focus group a very deep insight into the way of thinking of the participants in the focus group, which is hardly possible otherwise.
Focus group interviews follow a more detailed guideline in which explicit questions are already formulated for a guided discussion. In practice, they last between one and three hours - tending to be somewhat shorter than only slightly guided focus groups, for which about three to four hours are planned.
The importance of images in the market communication of organisations is becoming more and more important. The more complex the communication messages are designed, the more relevant their visualisation becomes. Non-linguistic stimuli - such as images and colours in particular, as well as music and scents - are suitable for the targeted - automatic and without further mental control - triggering of emotions.
Within the framework of association workshops, which is a method from qualitative market research, test persons are invited to depict their perception of an organisation, their attitudes and associations to it on posters using visual material provided. A subsequent discussion allows for a better understanding of the guiding thoughts and considerations and to draw conclusions about the perception and image of an organisation within the population, but also within previously defined target groups.