Qualitative Research

Karin Curran has specialised in qualitative market research since 1994, after several years of business management. She works directly with clients as well as supports research agencies when they have need of advanced qualitative skills or experience in particular areas. 

Recent clients include:

  • TelstraClear
  • Corporate Cabs
  • Auckland International Airport
  • Auckland Regional Council
  • Rohm & Haas
  • TNS Conversa
  • Baseline Consultancy
  • IDEAction

About Karin Curran

Wanting to work with and understand people has been a recurring theme in her life and has accounted for her degrees in psychology and human resources management as well as the seven years she was a telephone counsellor with Youthline.

Being a Senior Qualitative Director in the specialist qualitative division of TNS (previously CM Research and NFO), one of the largest custom market research companies in New Zealand, allowed her to work in a wide range of industries and with many well-known companies. She has specialised in pharmaceuticals & healthcare, travel & tourism, telecommunications, financial services and building/construction.

In 2007, she decided to refocus on Curran Research Associates. In addition to traditional face-to-face methodologies, she is a leader in online qualitative research, especially discussion boards. Online bulletin boards can be used as a standalone method or to complement a more traditional face-to-face approach. A successful relaunch of CRA showcased the discussion board approach in a presentation to the biannual Market Research Society of New Zealand conference, which won Best Paper 2007.

Although Karin is one of the most experienced online qualitative bulletin board moderators in the Asia Pacific region, she continues to employ face-to-face methods when appropriate. With moderation of more than three hundred focus groups and close to two thousand face-to-face depth interviews, she has a deep practical understanding of the benefits and limitations of each approach. She well understands the need to tailor the research design to the individual project, client and target market and appreciates the greater range of methodologies that supports this.


Karin is a full member of the Market Research Society of New Zealand. This industry organisation has a comprehensive professional code of practice that all members are required
to uphold. For more information, please visit http://www.mrsnz.org.nz/Resources/Code-of-Practice.asp

She is also a member of Research Innovation Partners, a group devoted to advancing ideas and developing innovative approaches, products and solutions within the wider market research and related industries.

What you get when you work with CRA

  • One of the most experienced qualitative practitioners in NZ, with additional experience in Australia and the
    United States.

  • Knowledge that the people you met at the briefing and proposal stages are the ones doing the work.

  • Research that is customised to your needs and market.

  • A flexible approach to methodologies, research design and partnering with other agencies.

  • Responsiveness and attention.

  • People who will immerse themselves in your business, taking the time to learn your priorities, business issues, strategies, products/services and general market.

  • Fewer overheads, meaning that your research budget is funding the actual research, not supporting the administration of a large company.

  • The potential for “green” research – reducing the carbon footprint of your research through online qualitative bulletin boards.

Planning for the best research

At CRA, a recommended research design is put together after we understand you and what you hope to achieve from the research. Some of the questions we’ll ask will include:

  • What has triggered the need for this project?

  • What research has been done already and what do you know from that?

  • What’s happening in your market right now, including competitor activity?

  • What decisions will you be making on the basis of this research?

  • What are the objectives of the research (questions the research needs to answer)?

  • What thinking have you already done about how these objectives should be met? Quant? Qual? Focus groups? Depths? Particular subsets of clients or maybe ex-clients or competitors’ clients?

  • Who are the stakeholders and other people affected by the research?

  • What are the important practical issues that will impact the research design, i.e. deadlines, budgets?

  • Anything else we need to know about your company or the market in order to ensure research and recommended strategies are realistic?

Please email for CRA’s Research Brief template that will help you define the scope of your issue and understand what you really need from your research agency. Taking time at the front end ensures the best possible research outcome.

Qualitative research methodologies

Good qualitative research is more than an interesting story.  A top researcher uncovers the underlying themes and issues and uses them to create strategic yet grounded insights and practical recommendations.  The methodology is merely the tool that makes research possible and having more tools available increases the likelihood that the right one can be applied with the most power and precision.

Focus groups:

Focus groups are the best-known qualitative research methodology – so much so that sometimes clients say they “want a few focus groups” as a shorthand for qualitative research. Focus groups have much to recommend them but are by no means the only approach.

Typically five to eight respondents (sometimes more, sometimes fewer) meet at a central location to take part in a focus group. This approach encourages interaction between participants and stimulation of new ideas.

When to consider focus groups:

  • Target market is easy to group into relatively
    homogenous segments

  • Topic is interesting and lends itself to public discussion

  • Need to have interaction to witness dynamics or
    spark new ideas

  • Stimulus that needs to be touched or manipulated

Karin has moderated several hundred focus groups in three countries, from minigroups of 3-4 to supergroups with 10 or more people.

In-depth interviews
(depths, IDIs or 1-to-1 interviews)

Depth interviews are common with certain target markets (e.g. senior management, healthcare professionals), when the topic is sensitive or complicated, or when we need people to share their opinions or feelings in an environment that is less subject to groupthink and social pressures.

Interviews generally last between 45-60 minutes and are held centrally or in a location convenient to the respondent.

When to consider depth interviews:

  • Target market is high end consumer, business people or healthcare professionals

  • Topic is complex, requiring individual attention and feedback and more time than a focus group provides (focus groups allow around 15 minutes of contribution per person)

  • Topic is sensitive (commercially or personally), making public discussion in a group inappropriate

Karin has interviewed close to two thousand people from a wide range of backgrounds in New Zealand, Australia and the United States.

Online qualitative bulletin boards

Online qualitative research is less well known in New Zealand than its face-to-face counterparts, although it has been used successfully internationally (e.g. USA, Europe) for many years and is gaining a loyal and appreciative following locally.

Boards generally fall into two categories: group-style, with
8-13 respondents; or depth-style, with 20-30 respondents. As their names suggest, they have different dynamics mainly to do with the amount of inter-respondent discussion.

Group-style boards will tend to have slightly fewer questions and respondents will be recruited on the understanding that they are expected to read and respond to not only the moderator’s questions, but also posts that their fellow participants have submitted. This creates an atmosphere that lends itself to more bonding and interaction, resembling a focus group.

Depth-style, or silo, boards have slightly more questions and interaction is solely between the moderator and each participant.

When to consider discussion boards:

  • Topic is sensitive or complex

  • Desire to deeply understand issues

  • Need to see how an idea or concept will age; or when it can be modified and retested during the research

  • Target market is geographically spread or typically difficult to recruit to focus groups (i.e. professionals, youth)

For more comprehensive information about
discussion boards, click here

Karin has overseen more than 40 discussion boards, moderating over 30 herself, making her one of the most experienced qualitative online board moderators in the Asia Pacific. These boards have included participants not only from New Zealand, but also Australia, the United States
and the United Kingdom.



A wealth of research experience since 1994 across virtually all industries and with every kind of target market imaginable

  • More than 300 focus groups

  • Close to 2000 interviews

  • Around 3 dozen online qualitative bulletin boards involving nearly 1000 respondents