The cadre of modes available to researchers as they design their studies has grown hugely over the past decade. When researchers once had few choices – relying on face-to-face, landline phone, and mail – they now need to think carefully as they sift through an increasing number of options. In addition to the old standbys, other viable, and often preferable, modes must be considered, including mobile phone, online (without webcam use), and online (with webcam use).
“Natural” characteristics, i.e., its ability to foster a natural, social conversation environment.
The ability to share content, e.g., photos, video, documents.
Rapport building, i.e., its ability to foster researcher-participant rapport.
The ability to identify cues – verbal and non-verbal – that provide insights beyond direct responses.
Coverage, i.e., the breadth and depth of geography and the population segment the mode can reach.
Cost, i.e., the total cost of the study attributable to the mode.
There are, of course, other considerations – such as, convenience, depth of response, and so on – but the six listed are certainly important.
Using these considerations, it can be helpful to visualize the relative value Read Full Text
Every researcher working with human subjects strives to ensure the highest ethical standards. Regardless of whether the research is quantitative or qualitative in nature – or in the field of health, communications, education, psychology, marketing, anthropology, or sociology – researchers care about protecting the confidentiality, anonymity, and basic “rights” (such as privacy and freedom of thought) of the people who agree to be part of their studies. It is with this in mind that, in addition to gaining IRB approval (as required), researchers openly discuss the goals and intended use of their research with participants, as well as asking them to carefully read and agree to the appropriate consent forms. Online group discussions (focus groups) present a particularly delicate matter. Unlike any other overt form of research – unlike an online survey dominated by closed-end questions, or an online in-depth interview with one person at any moment in time – the online group discussion – with its amalgamation of many people (typically, strangers to each other) responding at length to many open-ended questions over the course of multiple (possibly, many) days – potentially raises important security and identity concerns among participants. Even with a signed consent form, online group participants may still have serious doubts about the containment of their input to the discussion and, hence, their willingness to contribute Read Full Text
The idea of conducting qualitative “research” by way of simply listening in on conversations posted on various social media venues is, from a research design perspective, curious. It is curious because the business of understanding how people think (i.e., the business of marketing and social research) has never been about just hearing them talk, reading their words, and/or observing their behavior. While capturing this information may prove interesting and in some circumstances useful (e.g., counting the number of mentions of a competitive brand or variations in reactions to a new product introduction), it is not good enough when the intent is to learn about underlying perceptions and motivations.
This issue is discussed throughout Research Design Review but most notably in a September 2011 post where the distinction is made between social media monitoring and Read Full Text