Summary & Additional Resources
Since each of the qualitative methods discussed here have different strengths and limitations, using a combination of familiar and new methods can be a great strategy for achieving your research goals. You will often come away with greater confidence about the insights and actionability of your research when you approach the issues from different angles, using different communications channels and techniques. This is also an efficient, low-risk way to expand your research toolkit.
Above all, we encourage qualitative users to partner with expert qualitative researchers who have experience with a variety of qualitative methods, and can help you find the best ones to meet your objectives.
Some of the newer qualitative platforms and tools are being targeted to “do-it-yourself” users seeking rapid low-cost solutions for certain types of qualitative data-gathering and analysis. This disintermediation trend is similar to the way quant survey users have adopted low-cost do-it-yourself survey tools to implement some of their survey research. Qualitative users who have the internal resources to design, manage, and interpret their qualitative research may find that DIY approaches are a good choice for some situations.
However, there are still no magic platforms, templates, instruments, or analysis programs that can do all of the thinking for you. Qualitative research continues to be a dynamic blend of art and science that relies heavily on human interaction, topic expertise, creativity, and flexibility to yield rich results. Partnering with experts to help design, conduct, and/or interpret your qualitative research continues to be the best way to boost your ability to achieve your goals.
No qualitative platform, template, instrument, or analysis program can do all of the thinking for you. Just as every plane needs a pilot, most qualitative projects need expert researchers to help get them where they need to go.
As shown in the chart below, whatever your timing, design, and location needs may be, you will generally have more than one qualitative method to choose from to meet your research objectives — and this list continues to grow!
The three best ways to keep up with new qualitative options
LEARN FROM EXPERTS
Take advantage of the many free educational resources provided by market research associations such as QRCA (the Qualitative Research Consultants Association at www.qrca.org). QRCA Views magazine, QCast webinars and on-demand archives, and the public LinkedIn QRCA Discussion Group are free to non-members as well as members. The Association also produces global, national, and regional in-person conferences and events to educate qualitative research providers and users. Experienced qualitative researchers are often available to serve as trainers, coaches, or “shadow” moderators for researchers who are using new methods for the first time.
SEE FOR YOURSELF
It is difficult to envision what you can do with qualitative options you have not tried before, until you see how they work in case examples. Companies that provide qualitative platforms and tools offer many free webcasts and self-education materials online, including case examples shared by their clients. Exploring just a few providers per week will quickly expand your awareness of the possibilities.
JUST DO IT!
To truly understand whether qualitative options that are new to you are right for your needs, commit a little time and money to explore them in low-risk ways. For example, to see how mobile-enabled input might enrich home-based research, include a few mobile-enabled participants and activities in your next home-based project. If you wonder whether webcam interviews are a good fit with your target, try a few during your next in-depth interview project. Consider running your own “research on research” experiments. A tiny pilot, using a handful of “friendly users” is a great way to learn what it’s like to design, conduct, and interpret a new qualitative approach. Some providers will make their platforms available for limited use, at little or no cost, to researchers who volunteer their services to not-for-profit clients. Some providers will give researchers free access to run small “research-on-research” projects once they have used a platform for at least one paid project.
This site includes a Find A Researcher search tool for locating qualitative researchers with many different types of expertise, as well as educational resources. The private QRCA Forum is available to both members for global learning, collaboration and discussion of best practices. On LinkedIn, the QRCA Research Group is open to members and non-members seeking information about qualitative research issues.
GreenBook Directory of Marketing Research Companies and Focus Group Facilities (www.greenbook.org)
The GreenBook directory is the most detailed and accurate online guide for buyers of market research services of any kind, including the entire spectrum of qualitative services: permanent research facilities, recruiting services, moderators, transcription services, and more.
Tiplist for your Qualitative Research Project
Online Tools and Applications