There are 10 unique attributes associated with qualitative research. These were discussed briefly in an article posted in this blog back in 2013. One of the most fundamental and far-reaching of these attributes is that the qualitative researcher is the “instrument” by which data are collected. The data-gathering process in qualitative research is facilitated by interviewer or moderator guides, observation grids, and the like; however, these are only accessories to the principal data collection tool, i.e., the researcher or others on the research team.
As the key instrument in gathering qualitative data, the researcher bears a great deal of responsibility for the outcomes. If for no other reason, this responsibility hinges on the fact that this one attribute plays a central role in the effects associated with three other Read Full Text
Maybe attitude doesn’t matter. Maybe how people feel about any given topic or how they think through a decision about whether to act one way or another are irrelevant to research design. Maybe all that really matters is behavior. Maybe behavior is more important than attitudes because users of the research care only about what someone does, not what someone is feeling or thinking in conjunction with the behavior. If true, the implications narrow the focus for research design and suggest, for example, that
the “success” of social programs, such as those to feed the poor, can simply be measured by meals served, or
the effectiveness of youth health initiatives can be defined solely by the incidence of risk behavior, or
consumer preferences can be determined exclusively by their online shopping activities, or
employee satisfaction can be fully evaluated by the number of missed or “sick” days, or
an assessment of a person’s belief system can be obtained by just looking at how often they attend a place of worship.
Maybe – with the growing ability to track where people are when and correlate their digital activities with something of interest – behavior-oriented research designs are the wave of the future. Lex Olivier and Mario van Hamersveld think so. They take this position within the context of Read Full Text
In Chapter 10 of Sam Ladner’s book Practical Ethnography: A Guide to Doing Ethnography in the Private Sector, the author discusses a best practice approach to reporting ethnographic research for a corporate audience. She states that “private-sector ethnographic reports are successful if they are dramatic and consistent with the organization’s truth regime” (p.165). To this end, Ladner recommends text reports with “clickable hyperlinks” throughout and supplemental material, such as a PowerPoint presentation, that acts as the “marketing campaign” or “movie trailer” for the text document.
As another “delightful element” to the ethnography report, Ladner suggests the use of personas or archetypes, each representing a depiction of participants that share a particular characteristic. This is “a useful way to summarize the voluminous amount of qualitative data” (p. 167); however, Ladner cautions that personas “are often done badly” and points to Steve Portigal’s article on the subject matter, “Persona Non Grata.” In it, Portigal advocates for maintaining the “realness” of research participants rather than manufacturing a “falsehood” (by way of personas) that distances the users of the research from the people they want to know most about. Portigal encourages researchers to engage with the “messiness of actual human beings,” emphasizing that “people are too wonderfully complicated to be reduced to plastic toys [that is, personas].”
Reporting observational research for corporate users can be a challenge. On the one hand, the researcher is obligated to dig into the messiness of analysis and convey an honest accounting of what the researcher saw and heard. On the other hand, the final reporting is meaningless if no one pays attention to it, thereby preventing the research from having the desired effect of bringing new energy and a new way of thinking to the organization. Ladner and Portigal agree that powerful storytelling grounded in reality is the best approach, but how do we create a compelling drama while maintaining the integrity of our data? A combination of formats, as Ladner suggests, is one tactic. And the use of personas may be another. An open and ongoing discussion among researchers about personas – if and how the roles we assign the actors in our final story are (or can be) created while staying true to the study participants – seems like a worthwhile effort.