September 30, 2014
With a lot of discussion about new methods of observation among qualitative researchers – in-the-moment mobile research and the like – it is terrific to witness an increasing appreciation of broader contexts. This perspective embraces the idea that individual behavior and thought are not so easily and singularly confined to any one moment in time. One could argue that it is because of this new-found obsession with observation that many researchers have come to discover – as if for the first time – the essential role that context plays in our qualitative studies. In this way, observational research – a method often bypassed for focus groups and other qualitative methods in the past – has led the research community into what is becoming a growing and healthy dialogue concerning the contextual nature of being human. Here are just four contributors to the dialogue that have recently come my attention:
An interview with Christian Madsbjerg at ReD Associates appears in the September issue of Marketing News – “What it Means to be Human” by Elisabeth A. Sullivan. In it, Madsbjerg asserts that “people are different from the way that we research them,” emphasizing the point that “the respondent is not a person” but rather “an ecology of people, a culture of people” Read Full Text
September 8, 2014
For most of us, it is important to write a final research report that goes beyond the questions we asked and the responses we received. Unlike a topline debriefing that may require a simple rundown of the questions and responses, our qualitative and quantitative studies typically culminate in write-ups that provide thoughtful discussions of our analyses and interpretations of the data.
The consumers of our research reports take it on blind faith that the data along with the corresponding questions and issues are reported accurately, and that the researchers’ interpretations of the findings are consistent with both the data and the questions asked or issues raised. And yet blind faith is not always enough. Those are the times when a closer look at what the research actually asked and what is actually reported is needed.
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 – where 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