Tiplist for your Qualitative Research Project
Experience-based tips to help keep your qualitative project on track.
TIP #1 – Before you choose methods and design your research and analysis plan, make your objectives as clear as they can be. They will be your best guide for choosing methods and techniques, before and during your qualitative research.
TIP #2 — Just because your research will be online or mobile-enabled, don’t assume you must recruit people online, via mobile, or from panels. Qualitative research participants typically must be fully “on spec” since they are so visible to the researchers and client observers. So, experienced researchers tend to rely on trusted qualitative recruiting specialists to screen and authenticate participants, regardless of which methods or communication channels they choose for their research.
TIP #3 – Before you use a qualitative method that is new to you, do a tiny pilot version if possible. Then start your project small and slow, and give yourself the chance to course-correct.
TIP #4 – Have more than one way to get the job done. Just as a bad storm or strike can disrupt plans for in-person research, “bad things can happen” at any time when your research relies on internet or mobile communications. Think through all the links in your process chain, so if one of them breaks, you can easily switch to Plan B.
TIP #5 – Don’t confuse input that is interesting with insights that inform or inspire. Before you ask participants to share photos, videos, etc., with you, ask yourself, “How will we make this material meaningful to the research users?”
TIP #6 – Just because participants can share experiences with you “in the moment” don’t assume their input will be more honest, objective, or authentic than it would be in other contexts. Often people can engage in an experience and communicate about it at the same time, but not always. Consider asking them to also share expectations in advance, or reflections afterward.
TIP #7 – Digital and mobile-based qualitative methods may be faster, better, OR cheaper for achieving your objectives compared to classic in-person or telephone-based methods — but not necessarily faster, better, AND cheaper.
TIP #8 — When choosing qualitative platform or tool providers, don’t just ask about specific features or functions, tell them what you need to accomplish during and after your research. Terminology is not yet consistent across many of the newer qualitative methods, and providers upgrade their capabilities often. So tell them in plain words what you need to accomplish and find out what can or cannot be done with their solutions.
TIP #9 – Set clear expectations with participants about what they can count on from you and what you will expect from them in terms of their time and involvement. If you need group interaction during remote or asynchronous projects, address this during recruiting and build into the on-boarding process easy ways for participants to interact with each other right from the start.
TIP #10 — Don’t make assumptions about support from platform providers — spell it out. Some solutions offer minimal or no support. Others can provide extensive training, design advice, customization, hands-on management of participants or materials, and more — but not all services are free. Ask questions, be realistic, and budget for whatever help you may need from tech providers, coaches/shadow moderators, or multi-media reporting experts.
TIP #11 — If you don’t have the time to learn and implement a new online or mobile qualitative method, consider using in-person or telephone methods if feasible. Often these methods are the most flexible, efficient, and easiest for authenticating participants, and the most conducive to researcher/client collaboration.
Choosing Qualitative Methods
Summary & Additional Resources