from the desk of Alice Morgan
At Doyle, we love the beginning of the qualitative research process, when the sky’s the limit and we get to bounce around all sorts of ideas about how to achieve the business objective. As experienced qualitative researchers know, every method has both advantages and disadvantages. And the method selected depends on a number of factors, considerations, and implications. In this blog post, we’d like to explain how we figure it all out – how, precisely, the sausage is made (ok the metaphor may be inelegant but what can I say – my husband owns a BBQ joint!). To put it more elegantly, here’s how we get to inspired research design:
Alone Again, Naturally? (Cue the cheesy 70s music)
A key determinant in research design is whether the objective will be best achieved via an individual interview or some kind of group (pair, peer party, triad, mini-focus group, focus groups, panel, etc.) Is it a sensitive topic, and/or one in which group dynamics can bias or impede sharing? If so, an individual interview may be called for. Or is this a topic – like branding, or ideation, or consumer wants and needs, where “sparky” group dynamics, the wisdom of crowds so to speak, will help? In that case, we suggest some type of group. Or it is it a topic in which both perspectives would be helpful? Think mix – mixed method, that is.
In-Person or Online?
At Doyle, half our research is conducted in-person and half is conducted online. We truly love the in-person experience, and we are equally crazy about the reach, depth, and candor we get online. We suggest in-person when there is a tactile element to the research (do people need to see and touch the product?) or if we are asking participants to embark upon unusual and complex creative projective exercises. We suggest online and, increasingly, mobile for a variety of reasons including geographic reach, using smartphone videos to get at in-store or at-home experiences, or if we wish to observe reactions over time. This brings us to …
Live or … Not Live?
As prior blog posts have noted (http://doyleresearch.com/qualitative-research-dead-asynchronous-or-alive/) qualitative research is either conducted in real time, or over an extended period. Live research, which is conducted either in-person or online, makes sense when we want to know what people think – then and there, without overthinking it. Communication checks, for example, are conducted live (and mostly online, via webcams). However, it is often beneficial if people have time to, well, ruminate. Asynchronous methods such as bulletin boards or video journals allow us to go deeper, to get at emotional drivers, need hierarchies, and to get the story behind the story.
And What About the Client?
Last, but not least, is you, Dear Reader. What qualitative research approach will most engage you/your stakeholders? We have clients who have been conducting qualitative research for many decades. While not discounting the benefits of traditional methods, they are often open to creative approaches like ethnographies or mobile research. In contrast, we have clients new to qualitative. For newbies, we often suggest focus groups, as nothing beats seeing your customers up-close and personal. You never forget your first time (watching a focus group that is).
Method to the Madness
So there you have it – the various factors we take into consideration when figuring out research design. There are obviously lots of different approaches to qualitative research and careful consideration of the above will lead to stronger research and, thus, better business decisions.