Let us start by a simple definition, Qualitative research deals with, non-numerical and creative/intellectual/non-structured deep dive and analysis of attitudes, feelings, understanding, drivers that lead to specific behavior. It is used widely to answer a range of business questions, like segment definition, advertisement development, product development, persona, UX and so on.
Because qualitative insight is captured from a singular person or small group, it is the knowledge and experience of the researcher that brings out the insight aimed at bringing a change in the status quo of market condition, brand perception or the full business.
In professional agencies, we see some key qualities that separate the best from the rest. We can broadly classify them into five. They are
So let us look at them in detail
1. Research Design and execution
Qualitative Research is more than just moderation. The Researcher should also have a command qualitative methodologies to select the right one at the outset, proposing it for the brief, with timeline and investment. The key among this is the Research design, as this is the heart of the research. The proposal is offered at different levels of service at different costs for clients to make an informed choice. Then come preparing for it, the guides and then comes the moderation part. For moderation, the researcher should have studied the subject him/herself first and prepared what to ask. Those with Natural curiosity & empathy can really motivate the willingness of participants to contribute in an honest, thoughtful and constructive way. The researcher has to focus on getting respondents to open up. But all the while the researcher needs to be Objectivity driven, to align with business needs. Other qualities that are considered good are Sensitivity, Resoluteness should be Mental on their feet to guide the discussion in the best direction possible.
2. Project and Resource management
Unlike Quantitative, where everything is structured, Qualitative research usually involves the researcher being the project manager, it is slightly more open-ended than the quantitative method. The role will need to the researcher to be able to manage or develop stimulus and guides, creating the consumer profiles to be recruited and briefing in case of third party recruiter, putting together the venue with infrastructure and translators, and online links if conducting online. The researcher has to be highly organized and keep a hawk-eye on details of execution. This gets complicated and overwhelming as the researcher normally works on multiple projects.
3. Report writing
Qualitative research is inherently complex as it deals with deeper qualitative concepts. Once the groups are done, the researcher has to sit down with the recordings and listen. Prepare the transcripts and organize them in a way, that is easy to analyze, get the data organized, in a way, that can give a combined read of the same question across groups/individuals. Qualitative data tends to be open-ended text, so it's not analyzable by any quantitative method, it depends on the objective and design. This is where the researcher’s real value is shown. If they can see the wood for the trees, like the insight in the huge dump of sentences, collating several opinions. In the beginning, it can be a lengthy process, taking a lot out of the researcher but this is the most crucial stage.
Once the insights are found, then it is time to tell the story, connecting the dots, giving the reasons and presenting the heuristics from which the client can develop an action. To be able to do this well need a well-rounded person, who is aware of culture, trends, knows marketing and is commercial-minded, all at the same time.
When it is time for the research debrief, the most critical part is how the insights are presented and how the client is helped with connecting the same dots, the simple it can be made the clients, the more impactful it can be. At this stage is also when most researchersuse storytelling, to be able to understand, how non qualitative research trained person might be able to interpret results of qualitative research.
The Key is to have the key slides, which show what was the objective, how the problem was broken down, what was expected from research, the questioning and the insight gained, in a few slides, in as non-research language as possible.
4. Presentation and Story telling
A debrief, or a discussion session aided by presentation, normally last for hours, involving the key research team from the agency, the budget holder from the client-side, his/her team and other key stakeholders in the organization, in case of copy tests, even the creative agency or the media agency is also invited for the presentation. Remember, it is not a show of the knowledge of researcher, quite the opposite, the aim is to kick start a discussion based on your findings, and help clients choose the most actionable items.
The public presentation can be daunting, many have stage fright. One gets better at presenting live, only with time and good preparation. This includes knowing the debrief inside out, Anticipating the real needs and expectations and thus the resulting questions, preparing for them. Building engagement and rapport with the client’s team at the start so that it is easier to gain attention. And last but not the least, if you have video or verbatim, that makes your point, use it and quote the consumer.
5. Stakeholder management
The researcher is working to an objective, for a client, and there are investments involved. So owing up the responsibility of making them happen is a key quality. People who are good with other people have great interpersonal and communication skills with a sense of ownership perform best. It helps to be proactive in thinking about the project and anticipate risk and client expectations.
In conclusion, a goo qualitative researcher is somewhat at the core, a left brain skillset, however, as the above has shown that it needs an individual with commitment to use both sides of the brain for thinking and organizing.