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Ritzer's McDonaldization and applied qualitative marketing research

Clive Nancarrow (Bristol Business School, University of the West of England, Bristol, UK)
Jason Vir (TNS Global, London, UK)
Andy Barker (RI Qualitif Research International, London, UK)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 1 September 2005




The purpose is to examine the insights gained from applying Ritzer's thesis of McDonaldization to international qualitative marketing research, in particular the four pillars of McDonaldization: efficiency, calculability, predictability, and control.


The factors influencing choice of qualitative method in practice are examined drawing on the literature, the authors' observations based on experience (a team of practitioners) and a qualitative research study, using a mix of interviews and a workshop with those who co‐ordinate international research or who are subject to the co‐ordination.


The research suggests McDonaldization or “factory farming” may be a reality in some quarters in the qualitative marketing research industry and examples of how the four pillars of McDonaldization bear on the industry are examined.

Research limitations/implications

There is a need to determine and monitor the extent of the McDonaldization phenomenon and at the same time explore across different cultures two key interfaces that can be adversely affected by McDonaldization, namely the respondent‐researcher interface and the researcher‐researcher interface when the researchers come from different cultures.

Practical implications

Management may now reflect on whether their practices increase or decrease the likelihood of gleaning qualitative insights and the case for considering developing a more eclectic research philosophy.


This paper provides a new framework for evaluating applied qualitative marketing research.



Nancarrow, C., Vir, J. and Barker, A. (2005), "Ritzer's McDonaldization and applied qualitative marketing research", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 296-311.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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