Mobile Research

Integrating Quality Features in Qualitative Mobile Research Design

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. wifiThere 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

Striking a Balance in Research Design

One of the healthy outcomes from the rise of social media and mobile research is that it has balancebrought to the forefront the issue of the balance of power – or control – in research design.  Method specialists who are proponents of social media or mobile research often assert that a big advantage of these approaches is that the participant, not the researcher, controls what is shared or not shared.  Qualitative researchers, for example, have discovered the value of Pinterest where, without any researcher involvement, they surmise the hobbies and characteristics of individuals that represent some segment of the population.  And a mobile qualitative research study empowers the participant to select when, where, and how (in what format) information is provided to the researcher.  The researcher may start with a few basic questions but it is the research participant (knowingly or not) who controls the input.

This participant-leaning balance of power is in contrast to other qualitative research – face-to-face focus groups and in-depth interviews – as well as quantitative survey research where the researcher drives the course for the research with carefully-considered Read Full Text

Selection Bias & Mobile Qualitative Research

When I conduct a face-to-face qualitative study – whether it is a group discussion, in-depth interview, or in-situ ethnography – I am taking in much more than the behavior and attitudes of the research participants.  Like most researchers, my scope goes way beyond the most vocal response to my questions or the behavior of store shoppers, but incorporates much more detail including the nuanced comments, the facial and body gestures, as well as the surrounding environment that may be impacting his or her thoughts or movements.  So, while one of my face-to-face participants may tell me that he “just prefers” shopping at a competitor’s store for his hardware, I know from the entirety of clues throughout the interview that there is more to uncover which ultimately lands me on the real reason he avoids my client’s store – the unavailability of store credit.  Likewise, the mobile research participant shopping at Walmart for coffeemakers may share her shopping experience via video and/or text but unintentionally omit certain components – e.g., the impact of competitive displays, product packaging, store lighting, surrounding shoppers – that would have been discovered in an in-person ethnography and contribute important insights.

Selection bias is inherent in nearly all research designs.  At some level research participants are deciding what is important to communicate to the researcher and what is worthy of being ignored.  From deciding whether to participate in a study, to the granularity of details they are willing to share, the participant – not the researcher – controls some measure of the research input.  It is no wonder that many of the discussions concerning research design center on this issue, with survey researchers discussing at length the best method for sampling and selecting respondents (e.g., the next-birthday method in telephone studies), converting initial refusals, and effective probing techniques.

There is not much discussion on selection bias in qualitative research.  One exception is an article by David Collier and James Mahoney* that addresses how selection bias undermines the validity of qualitative research.  More focus on the issue of selection bias in qualitative research is warranted, particularly given the speed with which research designs today are evolving to keep up with new communication technology.

Mobile research is just one example of an increasingly popular qualitative research method.  Mobile research provides for the first time a viable way to Read Full Text