Application of projective techniques in an e-business research context -a response to 'Projective techniques in market research – valueless subjectivity or insightful reality?'

Elaine Ramsey
University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Patrick Ibbotson
University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland

Patrick McCole
Queen's University, Belfast, Northern Ireland


The historical legitimacy of the application of projective techniques across diverse disciplines is well documented (e.g. clinical/psychological, marketing/consumer, educational research). However, practitioners may be nervous of basing decisions on them (Nancarrow et al. 1996), perhaps because of ignorance of their unique elicitation capabilities and/or because of interpretation difficulties that may call into question the reliability and validity of the qualitative findings. Boddy (2005) published a paper in IJMR detailing the trials and tribulations associated with employing projective techniques and the relative issues of interpretability that may call into question the validity and reliability of the findings derived from such a research approach. The crux of the paper appeared to view projectives as a refreshing and innovative approach to research that steers away from the traditional approaches that Catterall (1998) called, and Boddy (2005) subsequently endorsed as, narrow-minded. It would appear that there is still much confusion surrounding the usefulness of projective techniques, which in part is attributed to the dearth of empirical evidence published. Boddy (2005) asserts that how they (projective techniques) are used and subsequently analysed is, to date, rarely discussed. Examples cited were authors such as Easterby-Smith et al. (1991) and Robson (2000), whose work – while they have provided assertions that a high level of skill, expertise and experience is required in analysing data gleaned from projective tests – lacked explanation of how this could be achieved. The authors believe the findings of the current paper serve as an endorsement to researchers across various research disciplines of the powerful data elicitation capabilities of projective techniques. The description of the unusual data collection and analytical technique provides new evidence to instil confidence in 'us' that the findings (interpretations) can remain valid and reliable.