Archive for September, 2013

The Possible Dream … Who Says You Can’t Conduct In-Home Rural Ethnographies with Teenage Boys?

Posted on: September 16th, 2013 by doyle

From the desk of Alice Morgan

Bug spray.  When conducting rural ethnographies with teenage boys in the end of August, bring it.  Plus a sense of humor.   And an open mind.  And sit back and enjoy the ride.  Because you will be spending hours in the car.

Method to the Madness

For a recent public health campaign targeting rural teenage boys, I traveled around rural Iowa and Kentucky conducting in-home ethnographies.  For those of you who say rural ethnographies can’t be done, I beg to differ.  Although there is a lot to be said for online work with teenagers (anonymity yields candor) and focus groups (a convenient venue for researchers and clients alike) there simply is no substitute for being in-home.  Want to understand the lives of rural teenagers?  Meet them on their terms.  Meet them, well, at home.

As Usual, It’s All About the Recruit

Recruiting for in-homes is hard.  Recruiting teenage boys even more so.  Add to the mix recruiting teenage boys, in-home, in sparsely populated rural areas several hours from the nearest focus group facility, and you have the ingredients of an impossible recruit.  Select your recruiter(s) carefully.  Find out how they plan to identify and recruit people who live in remote areas.  Give them extra time.  Call frequently to check in.  Send flowers.  Pray.  Our recruiters were able to pull rabbits out of hats but it was a nail biter of a recruit.  In the end it was all good.  Great, in fact.

Up Close?  Get Personal

With all due respect to moderator training about the evils of interviewer bias, an interview creates an innate power imbalance.  When a moderator deflects all personal questions in the interest of avoiding any bias, the power imbalance worsens.  Add the potential privacy invasion of an in-home interview, plus a couple of client observers, and a sticky situation can arise.  My goal is to interview the teenagers away from their parents.  To achieve this goal, I speak Truth To Power (power = the parents).  I say, truthfully, “I have 2 teenage boys, and I know for a fact that they watch what they say when I am around.  So is there any way you can hang out in a different part of the house so I can interview Johnny privately?”  Works like a charm.

Teens May Not Know Who They Are, But They Know Who They Aren’t

Some of the most penetrating insights about rural life were obtained not by asking about living in the country, but by asking kids to describe life in big cities.  Kids in rural regions have a distinct sense of what it’s like to live in a city, and how they are different from “city kids.”  (Personal tip:  I employed a similar strategy with my daughter’s college selection process.  She may not know what college she wants to attend, but she absolutely knows what colleges shedoes NOT want to attend.  By identifying the schools she doesn’t want, we backed into the schools she is now considering.)

Lastly, Enjoy

These far-from-a-cell-signal ethnographies were among the most interesting interviews I have conducted in the 20+ years I have been in the biz.  I was fortunate to travel with fun, interesting clients, which was a godsend given how much time we spent driving around together.  Best of all was the work itself, getting to know some remarkable teenage boys who live in remote regions and discovering their stories.

beattyville train


“If we don’t change, we don’t grow.” (Gail Sheehy)

Posted on: September 9th, 2013 by doyle

From the desk of Kathy  Doyle

Having just sent my only child off to college this past week, the experience reminded me that when we are young the world is full of possibilities and change is exciting! In only a week, my son has decided that he wants to change his major from dance performance to chemistry, and then chemistry to communications. And switch from the downstate university he currently attends to one in a big city. My reaction – mental whiplash!

But in truth, change is good. And our goal at Doyle Research Associates is to welcome and embrace it. Our website says:

We are Innovative. We are Strategic. We are Experienced.

In this blog post I’d like to tackle the statement “We Are Innovative.”

According to the Collins English Dictionary, being innovative refers to “using or showing new methods, ideas, etc.”. And that is precisely the benefit we bring to our clients. The market research industry is changing at such a rapid pace that it’s barely recognizable from the industry I entered in the 1980’s. Keeping up with the changes is a full-time job, and one that many—if not most—of our clients simply do not have time for. So we have made it our goal to stay abreast of trends, identify new methods or ideas that appear to have potential, and vet them.

Vetting a new method or idea is a 3-part process:

  1.  Staying current. This requires reading blogs and forums, attending webinars, and jetting off to major industry conferences such as The Market Research Event, the Qualitative Research Consultants’ Association’s annual conference and, most recently, IIEX. Tough job, when these conferences are held in fun places like San Diego, Montreal, Miami, Nashville … but someone has to do it. At those venues, we listen to speakers, visit exhibition halls, and talk to colleagues. When we identify new methods or techniques with potential, we move on to Step #2.
  2. Due diligence. We talk to the vendors in question, and schedule a demo of the new method/platform/technique. And then we evaluate what the benefits would be for our clients if we were to explore this further. Would it allow them to conduct research that was not possible before? Might it lead to better insights? Or lower costs? Or a faster turnaround time? Or is this just the newest “shiny penny” that everyone is chasing? We don’t have time for shiny pennies. We want to identify innovations that will bring real value to our clients.
  3. Pilot test. Those ideas we feel have merit are then pilot tested, most often internally, using staff as the guinea pigs; but sometimes for our clients with full disclosure that they are the guinea pigs. At this point, we are looking for barriers to adoption, developing best practices, and agreeing on the appropriate clients/targets/industries for introduction.

In the end, our goal is to identify innovations that will truly impact the research we conduct, and the insights we are able to provide our clients.