SSRS Qualitative Research

Gain an understanding of underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations among your audience

SSRS regularly conducts both large- and small-scale qualitative research studies utilizing a wide range of methodologies including:

In-person focus Groups

Online Focus Groups

Online Bulletin Boards

Individual Depth Interviews (IDIs)

In-depth Telephone Interviews

SSRS Qualitative Research Advantages

Qualitative studies conducted by SSRS often include multiple methods, allowing for method triangulation and ensuring a deeper understanding of the research outcomes.

SSRS conducts multi-faceted studies that incorporate both qualitative and quantitative components. Qualitative research is often critical in shaping the development of novel survey questions.

Routinely, SSRS incorporates qualitative methodologies such as cognitive pretests into the questionnaire development process, particularly for new survey instruments, to gain insight into how survey questions are understood and identify questions that may be associated with measurement error.

Qualitative research is often conducted with specialized populations, such as physicians, to obtain deeper insights into specific areas of interest.

SSRS Qualitative Research Case Studies

In-Person Focus Groups

The Lenfest Institute

SSRS conducted in-person focus groups with Philadelphia residents on behalf of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism aimed at understanding the types and sources of information they seek in their daily lives.  One of the study’s aims was to better understand what might be done to improve the quality of and access to information for all Philadelphians.  Findings were publicly released in October 2018 (

Healthcare Foundation

In 2018 and 2019, SSRS has conducted a series of studies on behalf of a leading health care foundation utilizing a multi-method protocol including: online journaling, telephone depth interviews (TDIs), survey design and cognitive interviewing (to assess the usability of the survey instrument).  These studies are aimed at investigating communication gaps between patients, care partners, and health care providers (HCPs) and developing a patient-centric lexicon to help improve the quality of health care and patient satisfaction.

The Commonwealth Fund

On behalf of The Commonwealth Fund, SSRS conducted qualitative research in 2017 with vulnerable populations in the US.  This multi-method study was designed to obtain a deeper understanding of patient health care experiences at a deeper level than can typically be gleaned from surveys.  Several challenges needed to be addressed when conducting qualitative research with this population. While some segments of this population are geographically clustered in urban areas, other segments (e.g., whites living in parts of the rust belt) are sparsely populated in wide rural areas. Further, including perspectives of low-income Asians needed to be addressed due to differences in Asian cultures and languages.  To address these needs and concerns, qualitative research for this study was comprised of the following research phases: (1) In-person focus groups conducted in four locations across the US; (2) Individual telephone interviews with participants across the US, primarily those living in rural areas; and (3) On-line bulletin boards with rural whites and Asian community leaders working professionally or as volunteers to help Asians in their community navigate healthcare.  The Commonwealth Fund reported findings from this research in a blog series: “Listening to Low Income Patients” (See for example:

Mixed-Method and Multi-Mode Research

In 2016, SSRS oversaw mixed-method research aimed at understanding how high-need patients experience health care in the U.S. The qualitative portion featured online focus groups with High Needs High Costs (HNHC) Patients and Caregivers.  Survey questions were developed for the High Needs High Cost Survey based on findings from these focus groups.   Interviews were completed with HNHC (N=1,805) and non-HNHC (N=1,204) respondents. Data from this research informed efforts being made by private foundations to address patients’ complex social, behavioral, and medical needs more effectively and efficiently (

Cognitive Interviews

George W. Bush Institute

SSRS collaborated with the Military Service Initiative (MSI) at the George W. Bush Institute to develop survey instruments aimed at understanding barriers faced by Veterans with Invisible Wounds of War (PTSD and TBI).  Development of the Veteran’s Survey relied on cognitive interviews conducted with post-9/11 veterans.

National Survey of Healthcare Organizations and Systems

Cognitive interviews were also conducted during the questionnaire development process for the National Survey of Healthcare Organizations and Systems (NSHOS) among three different organizational levels responsible for healthcare delivery: systems, hospitals, and practices.  Unique survey instruments were tested for each of the three respondent types. Based on these interviews SSRS provided feedback regarding question wording, order, clarity, and other issues related to questionnaire quality for all three surveys. The feedback was used to create the final versions of the survey instruments used in main fielding.

Online Focus Groups

The Commonwealth Fund commissioned SSRS to conduct online focus groups in 2018 with primary care physicians (PCPs) who serve low income patients in urban/suburban and rural settings to improve understanding of how PCPs who work with low-income patients experience and interact with their patients and healthcare systems.  Findings from this research were featured in a blog series: “Listening to Primary Care Physicians for Low-Income Patients” (See for example:

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