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Either as a qualitative researcher or as a client, you face the difficult task of choosing the best methods and the most appropriate tools to meet your research objectives. This website wants to offer the guidance, resources, and inspiration you seek.

The User Guide will help you better understand the strengths and weaknesses of some new qualitative research methods.  The Platforms Directory offers a comprehensive overview of qualitative research software, tools, and applications while the Providers Directory includes the firms & consultants who directly apply new qualitative research methods.

Written by a group of leading qualitative research experts, the NewQual Blog is full of practical advice, thought-provoking opinions, and valuable insights.


Why Insight Communities Are Different From Branded Panels

Posted by Kerry Hecht Thursday, February 6, 2014 11:46

Paper chain neighborhood


By Kerry Hecht


Com-mun-ity (n):  an interacting population of various kinds of individuals

Pan-el (n):  A custom online panel or Internet access panel is a group of pre-screened respondents who have expressed a willingness to participate in surveys or customer feedback sessions.

While panel and community have similar definitions in the dictionary, the connotations within the marketing research industry are quite different and we often see brands and agencies attempting to create a ‘community’ but ending up with a ‘panel.’

In this post I am going to highlight the differences between the two.



Using the label ‘community’ implies a level of organic activity where participants are interacting with one another and with the brand, represented by the Community Manager who literally becomes the voice of the brand. The brand builds a relationship and interacts with members of the community and, over time, will grow a healthy community. Outside the community itself, but within the scope of the research, internal insight teams may be communicating with one another and socializing the findings such that insightful decisions can be made. They will also be feeding questions and new research objectives back into the community, via the Community Manager. This approach ensures all stakeholders within the organization have a vested interest in the success of the the insight community. Communities can require a substantial investment of time, so to capitalize on this everyone should be involved with and have bought into the community strategy from the outset.



Branded PANELS are NOT communities. They are a group of people that are on-tap and available to answer questions or to engage in activities once in a while.

For our purposes it’s important to understand that branded panel interactions tend to be mainly surveys (panel again being the resource, but the methodology this time is a survey), so there is very little interaction between participants and little or no back and forth between the brand/community manager and the respondents.

The key benefit of having the branded panel is the availability of the group and while this may not give you the depth you’d receive through an Insight Community, the resources you’ll need to allocate will be significantly less.



There are some fundamental differences in the rules of engagement between an Insight Community and a branded panel.

To keep levels of engagement within your Insight Community high, you’ll combine research-oriented activities with other activities that we refer to sometimes as ‘fillers’. The interest in and content generated by these ‘fillers’ is very useful for keeping members engaged during times when there aren’t any research activities taking place as well fostering that organic activity amongst members that we mentioned above.

These kinds of activities generally relate to to category or to a topic that community members might also find interesting. For example, you might ask members of a digital photography community how they feel about scrapbooking or how people who are active internet shoppers how they feel about security breaches. They should be topical in nature, but with less structure than a research driven activity. Another benefit of these filler activities often help you uncover what questions you need to ask next and guide your overall research plan. It allows the Community Manager (and brand) to be the fly on the wall and witness how people converse about your brand and about parallel topics – in a very natural language.

With branded panels engagement and relationships tend to be more quantitative in nature (Insight Communities will mix both qualitative and quant) and have dark periods between the research. Because of these dark periods, respondents can be difficult to retain over long periods without significant cash incentives, and the quality and quantity of response can drop off over time. Ultimately, there won’t be a lot of continuity between interactions and you end up spending more money and effort refreshing the participants than you would with a community.



Communities, like panels, often require cash incentives but the best communities are often managed with less cash incentives due to their collaborative nature. Through this web of interaction community members are able to see how their input is effecting the brand and it fosters a passion to help. In this sense, the rewards are driven by social norms and not a rewards system. They love the knowledge and process, not the coupon they receive as a bonus. Where relationships are built and deepen, the quality and sustainability of the interactions grows. With flourishing relationships comes more openness and honesty. This leads to the uncovering of real truths.

As we’ve already pointed out, branded panelists tend receive cash or prize-based rewards since the method of engagement isn’t designed to build relationships in an open two-way fashion. Panelists rarely find out what has been done or actioned with the information they have shared and this keeps the interaction activity based.



Don’t get me wrong. Branded panels do have their place and are incredibly valuable tools within a research program. But, they are fundamentally different from Insight Communities and we must understand those differences if we are to be successful with either. At then end of the say, the best way to think about it is that Insight Communities are a methodology and a Panel is a resource from which we find respondents.

Mobile Agnostic Qual Research or Response Research

Posted by Stephen Cribbett Tuesday, October 29, 2013 10:16

digital tablet


The lightning fast changes and developments in smartphones, tablets and phablets (phone-tablets) is blurring the boundaries between mobile and online research. Mobile Agnostic Research, as it’s become know, is happening now and it’s growing fast. It gives participants the ability to chose whether they take part in the online qual discussions and activities (and quant) via their desktop, mobile, phablet or tablet. According to Ray Poynter, it accounts for as much as 30% of all data collected right now. Dub’s own data suggests that as many as 26% of data collected on our qual software, IdeaStream, is being collected this way. So you see, it’s not something to be ignored.

Mobile Agnostic Research provides greater choice and convenience for participants, as well as being a more natural fit with the way they communicate in their everyday lives – on different devices at different times of the day. But there are also big benefits to researchers that I want to focus on in this post, such as enabling them to reach the largest mobile user demographic possible.


Already time poor and confused?

Are you typical of the modern day qualitative researcher, with lots of new methods to grapple with (netnography, behavioural economics, facial recognition and so on) and an even bigger array of tools and software to help you deliver them (communities, text analytics, social media listening tools etc.)? It’s overwhelming right. Have you only just got your head around online qual and built a relationship with a prefered platform, only to have your head turned again by mobile qual tech vendors. I’ll bet the mobile qual that’s turning your head doesn’t integrate with your prefered bulletin board or community software neither, meaning you’ll have to work with two platforms now instead of one! There’s goes your lunch hour!

Online qual research has, in the last year or so, grown as mobile data collection has increased. But it has created confusion among researchers as they try to work out  whether ‘mobile apps’ or ‘mobile web’ is the way to go. Sure, apps let consumers work off-line, but right now consumers are experiencing app overload. Mobile web is massively on the rise making mobile web much more accessible globally.


Create Once Publish Everywhere (COPE)

Mobile Agnostic Research doesn’t just hold benefits for participants, it means that qual researchers can build and manage their entire online qual study or insight community on just one software solution. Because this solution is fully optimised for the mobile web, researchers need only setup their project, discussions and activities once, on one platform, and see it published across mobile, desktop, tablet and phablet at the same time. No need for costly technical integration. No need to set up two separate projects on un-integrated desktop and mobile platforms. Create once, publish everywhere, or COPE. It’s like the hub and spoke model. Simple, quick, effective.


Responsive research design

From a technology standpoint, HTML 5 is what is powering these changes and making online research software compatible with a range of mobile devices and operating systems. Create Once, Publish Everywhere (COPE) is a cross-platform approach that automatically adapts your research to any device or operating system (OS). It enables you to:

  • Save time and reduce costs in developing and testing your research design on multiple devices
  • Automatically deliver a consistent app experience to participants

Added benefits include:

  • Server-side technology for faster display times (ok, that’s a very techy one I admit!)
  • Available on a software-as-a-service basis

It’s similar to what web designers call ‘responsive design’ which optimises the users experience regardless of the device they are using. Taking this approach, I have coined the term Response Research Design to capture a new approach to research design that researchers must learn. What it points to is the future whereby participants are going to be the ones defining the research methodology and not researchers. Within insight communities, people will pick and choice how they respond, what they respond to and what device they use to share their data. Without the choice, they will simply remove themselves and become just ‘lurkers’

Mobile Agnostic Research and Responsive Research Design present many challenges for researchers, qual and quant. I’ve outlined just a few, i’d love to hear if you feel there are more to add.

What I Read This Summer; What I’m Asking Myself as a Result

Posted by Katrina Noelle Tuesday, October 8, 2013 10:28

My summer reading list this year included two books from the worlds of sociology and marketing that gave me pause about how we as researchers are asking our participants questions and how much we rely on their stated views of events.  It made me ask a number of questions of myself as a researcher.

In Herd: How to Change Mass Behaviour by Harnessing Our True Nature Mark Earls challenges the assumption that we all think and behave as individuals.  Instead, he shows through a series of examples how human beings behave as members of a herd.  One market research implication of this view is that people are likely to say that they made decisions independent of others’ influence and from a rational, aware, decisive position. Even though they want to think of themselves as acting autonomously and rationally, they do not sometimes know all the factors that influence decisions.


As he says, “Who would in all seriousness admit that they bough something without thinking and then got to like it after the fact?  Particularly something that costs a lot of money, like a car.”

  • Are we remaining as aware as we need to be of the “why” questions we’re asking participants and of the resulting “reports” of rational behavior we receive in response?
  • Are we challenging and exploring the rational answers we hear from respondents?
  • What projective techniques can we use to take participants out of their rational minds and answer questions more intuitively?

In The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business Charles Duhigg stresses how much habits influence behavior.  He proposes that people are prompted by cues in our lives and environment to go through learned routines that result in a reward.  Our clients want to alter and affect those habits so that they include their brand’s products and services, but this is a complicated process.  As researchers, it is key to know that “People’s buying habits are more likely to change when they go through a major life event.” 




  • How does that impact how we can recruit participants? Should we include screening questions to find participants going through a major life event when habits can most readily be changed?
  • Are we delving into the cycles of cues, habits and rewards that our respondents follow to understand how our clients can insert themselves into this process?


Mostly my reading reminded me to stay tuned to works like this outside the specific realm of qualitative research.  Social sciences and marketing texts offer invaluable insights for researchers trying to understand and analyze the people around us on behalf of our clients.

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