August 14, 2014
On August 5th Vision Critical held a webinar titled, “How NASCAR Increases Fan Engagement and Drives Business Decisions” where Brian Moyer discussed the NASCAR Fan Council, its online community of more than 10,000 NASCAR fans. In his presentation, he talked about the camaraderie feel of the community and the efforts they take to create an atmosphere in which fans believe they are “talking directly to NASCAR.” So strong is this community atmosphere that fans actually challenge whether Moyer and his team are hearing what fans have to say and wonder if NASCAR is internalizing their comments for a greater good. One fan asked, “How do I know you are listening?”
What a great question. To NASCAR’s credit, they make a habit of providing one-on-one feedback to their community members and did so in response to the are-you-listening question. But how well do researchers of any kind pay attention to this all-important facet of research design? Where in our research designs Read Full Text
Conducting qualitative research by way of a mobile device presents the researcher with unique challenges in terms of how to design a mobile study that results in valid outcomes. There are, however, a number of quality measures that researchers can build into their qualitative mobile studies that will serve to elevate their research designs and bring added confidence to the final results. The following are just a few quality considerations that qualitative researchers should think about and incorporate throughout the mobile research process. This list simply highlights a few design aspects related to mobile research and in no way supersedes the additional quality features (discussed throughout this blog) that should be part of any qualitative research design.
These design aspects are discussed from the perspective of the Total Quality Framework* which is comprised of four components – Credibility, Analyzability, Transparency, and Usefulness. In essence, the framework is based on the idea that all qualitative research Read Full Text
If I Conduct a Large Qualitative Study with 100 Participants, is it Quantitative Research? Three Big Reasons Why the Answer is “No!”
July 10, 2014
Too often qualitative researchers present their findings with an assertion along the lines of, ‘We conducted 25 focus groups with a total of 250 participants making this study more quantitative than qualitative’; or ‘We conducted 10 online bulletin boards with 15 participants in each divided between males and females, so we wound up with good quantitative data’; or ‘We planned on conducting 30 qualitative in-depth interviews (IDIs) but extended the research to include 100 interviews so that we can quantify the results.’ Unfortunately, comments like these reflect a misguided attempt to equate apples with oranges – lumping them both into the category of “fruit” although their essence – the properties that characterize them – are radically different.
Conducting a lot of qualitative research does not transform it into a quantitative study. To say otherwise, assumes that the only distinguishing factor between a qualitative and quantitative research design is the number of participants or respondents who contribute to the research outcomes. This way of thinking would deem Read Full Text
June 9, 2014
Greg Allenby, marketing chair at Ohio State’s business school, published an article in the May/June issue of Marketing Insights on heterogeneity or, more specifically, on the idea that 1) accounting for individual differences is essential to understanding the “why” and “how” that lurks within research data and 2) research designs often mask these differences by neglecting the relative nature of the constructs under investigation. For instance, research concerning preference or satisfaction is useful to the extent it helps explain why and how people think differently as it relates to their preferences or levels of satisfaction, yet these are inherently relative constructs that only hold meaning if the researcher understands the standard (the “point of reference”) by which the current question of preference or satisfaction is being weighed – i.e., my preference (or satisfaction) compared to…what? Since the survey researcher is rarely if ever clued-in on respondents’ points of reference, it would be inaccurate to make direct comparisons such as stating that someone’s product preference is two times greater compared to someone else’s.
The embedded “relativeness” associated with responding to constructs such as preference and satisfaction is just one of the pesky problems inherent in designing this type of research. A related but different problem revolves around the personal interpretation given Read Full Text
Qualitative and quantitative research methods have always, in some shape or form, sat side-by-side in research design. It is difficult to find any serious quantitative study, for instance, that didn’t set out with a preliminary qualitative phase to help steer its course, with survey researchers quick to quip, ‘Oh yes, we conducted a few groups before designing the questionnaire’. And yet, it is typically the quantitative research phase that gains the spotlight in mixed-method designs, where the survey process and resulting data play starring roles, while the qualitative research component acts in a supporting albeit lesser and infrequently scrutinized role in the overall design.
This tale of submission is being turned on its head as a quiet revolution stirs to more boldly integrate and elevate qualitative methods in the research scheme. Nowhere is this movement – or dare we say, Read Full Text
May 23, 2014
One of the most meaningful concepts in qualitative research is that of “Othering”; that is, the concept of “us” versus “them” that presents itself (knowingly or not) in the researcher-participant interaction. Othering is an important idea across all qualitative methods but it is in the in-depth interview – where the intensity of the interviewer-interviewee relationship is pivotal to the quality of outcomes – which the notion of Othering takes on particular relevance. As discussed elsewhere in Research Design Review, the interviewer-interviewee relationship in IDI research fosters an “asymmetrical power” environment, one in which the researcher (the interviewer) is in a position to make certain assumptions – and possibly misperceptions – about the interviewee that ultimately play a role in the final interpretations and reporting of the data. It is this potentially uneven power relationship that is central to the reflexive journal (which is discussed repeatedly in this blog).
In 2002, Qualitative Social Work published an article by Michal Krumer-Nevo titled, “The Arena of Othering: A Life-Story with Women Living in Poverty and Social Marginality.”1 This is a very Read Full Text
It is a common misperception among researchers that the analysis of research data is a process that is confined to the data itself. This is probably truer among qualitative researchers than survey researchers given that the latter frequently publish their work in the literature comparing and contrasting their data with relevant earlier studies. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is typically held up to less scrutiny; and, except for the usual comparisons of populations segments, it is rare to find an analytical discussion that goes beyond the patterns and themes derived from the qualitative data itself. This may be for any number of reasons. It may be associated with the idea that qualitative research by definition is chock full of uncontrollable variables that vary from study to study making data comparisons across studies unreliable, or it may be researchers’ unfamiliarity Read Full Text
As qualitative and quantitative researchers who explore the thinking and doing of human beings, we are nothing without the willing cooperation from our research participants. We pool them into a sample, then we contact them, we screen them, we coax them, we adhere to strict reminder protocols to motivate their interest and lure them into submission, and then… And then we are disappointed, bemused, and sometimes a bit angry at participants’ sub-par performance as actors in our research production (be it, for example, a focus group discussion or online survey). Just in the past week, I have read lengthy discussions from researchers who describe their participants as “demons,” “lazy,” “cynics,” or “hostiles” because they have not paid their due respects to our quest for true knowledge but rather undermine our efforts by speaking too much or too critically in a focus group, or speeding through a survey questionnaire.
So, where the research participant was initially cajoled with assurances of their importance – “Your Opinion Counts!” – as well as our endearing gratitude for their cooperation, Read Full Text
March 30, 2014
In November 2012, Research Design Review posted an article titled, “Interviewer Bias & Reflexivity in Qualitative Research.” This article talks about why self-reflection is an important and necessary step for qualitative researchers to take in order to address “the distortions or preconceptions researchers’ unwittingly introduce in their qualitative designs.” Although the article focuses on the need for reflection as it relates to the potential for bias in the in-depth interview (IDI) method, the relatively¹ intimate, social component of qualitative research generally and other methods specifically – focus groups, ethnography, narrative – make them equally susceptible to researcher biases and suppositions.
The outcomes from a qualitative study are only as good as the data the researcher returns from the field. And one of the biggest threats to the quality of the research data is the ever-present Read Full Text