The past, present and future of observational research in marketing

Nick J. Lee*, Amanda J. Broderick

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose - To introduce the contents of the special issue, and provide an integrative overview of the development of observational methodologies in marketing research, as well as some directions for the future. Design/methodology/approach - A historical review of the development of observational methods, beginning with philosophical foundations, is provided. Key philosophical debates are summarized, and trends in observational methods are described and analyzed, with particular reference to the impact of technology. Following this, the contributions to the special issue are summarized and brought together. Findings - Observational research in marketing is more than the well-known method of "participant-observation." In fact, technology has the potential to revolutionize observational research, and move it beyond a solely "qualitative" method. The internet, video, scanner-tracking, and neuroimaging methods are all likely to have a big impact on the development of traditional and innovative observation methods in the future. The articles in the special issue provide a good overview of these developments. Research limitations/implications - The views of the authors may differ from those of others. Practical implications - Observation is a far more wide-ranging strategy than many perceive. There is a need for more expertise in all types of observational methodologies within marketing research schools and departments, in order to take account of the vast opportunities which are currently emerging. Originality/value - Provides an original perspective on observational methods, and serves as a useful overview of trends and developments in the field.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)121-129
Number of pages9
JournalQualitative Market Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 3 Aug 2007


  • market research
  • qualitative methods
  • research


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