The 'Social Contract' of Qualitative Research

Karin Wood
Millward Brown, Inc.


What do we mean by a social contract?

'An agreement among the members of an organized society or between the governed and the government, defining and limiting the rights and duties of each.' 

Webster's II New College Dictionary

If we consider this contract in qualitative research terms, we find an interesting application of the above agreement, and a blurring of roles between researcher and client particularly in our market, the USA. Client participation in the USA is greater throughout the whole research process than is the case in many other countries and thus their involvement in any contract or agreement is increased.

Let us break this definition down into its component parts to illustrate its research application: