Qualitative Research Goes to the Movies

From the desk of Alice Morgan

In this blog post I marry work and play:  qualitative research and movies.   You, Dear Reader, have an assignment.  Your mission is to identify:   1) the character who uttered the line, 2) the movie in which the quote appears, and 3) the connection the quote has to … QUALITATIVE RESEARCH, of course!


A.    “The stuff that dreams are made of.”

B.  “Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.”

C.  “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer.”

D. “I’ll have what she’s having.”

E.  “I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”


A:  Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon, 1941

QUALITATIVE CONNECTION:  A qualitative researcher feels at times like Sam Spade.  Companies are searching for an elusive Maltese Falcon of their own, the product or service that meets unmet needs and generates bazillions of dollars for perpetuity.

B:  Margo Channing, All About Eve, 1950

QUALITATIVE CONNECTION:  Sometimes research projects don’t go well.   Often this results from 1) an unrealistic or difficult recruit, or 2) unclear/shifting research objectives.  There is no easy solution to a bumpy research project, but it helps if researcher, client(s) and other stakeholders regroup, and reassess if the project starts to go off the rails.  This is easier said than done, but no good comes from ignoring the warning signs.

C:  Michael Corleone, The Godfather II, 1974

QUALITATIVE CONNECTION:  Know the competition.  Smart businesses regularly conduct research with their competitors’ customers to understand what makes them tick.

D:  Unnamed Restaurant Patron (in actuality Estelle Reiner, director Rob Reiner’s mother) When Harry Met Sally, 1989

QUALITATIVE CONNECTION:  Like Meg Ryan in the infamous scene filmed at Katz’ deli in NYC, sometimes respondents fake it.  There tends to be a positive bias in concept assessments.  Smart researchers know this and build in techniques to get the real story.

E.  Blanche DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire, 1951

QUALITATIVE CONNECTION: It’s amazing how much people want to help. Yes, participants get paid for the efforts, as they should, but at the heart of qualitative research sessions is the indisputable truth that people want to add value, to contribute. And they do. Our entire industry is built upon, well, the kindness of strangers.