Qualitative Research: Through a Different Lens

Posted on: January 26th, 2017 by doyle

PrintFrom the desk of Kathy Doyle

I spent last week in LA at QRCA’s 2017 annual conference.   It continues to be the “go to” event for qualitative research practitioners who want to stay abreast of trends and share best practices with colleagues.

This year the theme of the conference was The Power of Perspective – looking outside our industry for insights, as well as observing our industry through a different lens.  Through five standout presentations, I gained insights from teen journalists, a radio show host, a comedian and theater major, an attorney, detective, ASL interpreter, visual illuminator, zoo director, storyteller, educator, conductor, social worker, and even a forensics expert!   Many thanks to Teen Press, Susan Sweet and Jay Picard, Laurie Tema-Lyn, Chris Kann, and Dina Shulman and Marc Engel for your fabulous contributions.

Five things I took away from the conference (plus so many more!):

  1. Talk less, listen more.    Across a variety of professions that listen for a living, some variation of that theme emerges.     Observe body language.  Mirror physical responses.  Empathize.   But stop talking so much!
  2. Resist the urge to fill the silences in an interview or focus group.  Sometimes sitting with the silence will reveal insights that simply take longer to emerge.   And sometimes a long pause is………… part of the answer.
  3. Look to Hollywood for storytelling inspiration.    View your report as a story, with a plotline and characters.  View the executive summary as a trailer.   Make sure your report features the equivalent of the “I want” song found in most musicals.   And, when appropriate, create composite characters (what we call personas) that represent key segments.
  4. Rethink the belief that maintaining objectivity is the best stance to take as a researcher.  Perhaps it’s OK to reveal parts of yourself–to be human, and to truly immerse yourself in your respondent’s world–to convey context and gain deeper, more authentic insights.
  5. Reconsider how we ask Q’s.  Consider starting specific rather than general, upsetting the funnel approach which has been our gospel. Perhaps that completely open-ended question is too open and leads to responses that are too broad to yield true insight.  And consider the value of asking your respondents to ask questions of themselves, rather than doing all the questioning.   You might be surprised at what you learn.

I walked away feeling energized and empowered to look at what we do, on a daily basis,  with a fresh perspective.

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