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Causality in qualitative market and social research

Clive Roland Boddy (Department of Management, University of Tasmania, Hobart, Australia)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 10 June 2019




Academic qualitative researchers have been criticized for rejecting the idea that their research can establish causality while market and social researchers, with their realist and pragmatic approach to research, take for granted that it can. This paper aims to explore the ability of qualitative research to determine cause and effect in terms of market and social phenomena.


The literature on causality in qualitative research is reviewed and discussed. The discussion is further informed by the author’s own experience of undertaking commercial and academic market and social qualitative research over the past 33 years.


In qualitative market and social research, the determination of causality is often needed but rarely discussed. This paper explores this occurrence and brings to the fore, via discussion and the use of example, the ways in which causality can be determined by qualitative research.

Practical implications

A determination of what events bring about predictable changes in social and market environments can be established via qualitative research particularly at a probabilistic level of causality. This implies that policymakers should give a greater emphasis to qualitative findings than then sometimes do at the moment.


Causality in market and social research is rarely discussed by practitioners but is nevertheless a premise of much of the qualitative research that is undertaken. This paper is therefore distinctive in that it examines whether this premise is justifiable.



Boddy, C.R. (2019), "Causality in qualitative market and social research", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 22 No. 3, pp. 405-413.



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