Qualitative Research

What Spock Would Say About The 2014 QRCA (Qualitative Research) Conference

Jeff Hecker

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Qualitative Research Consultants’ Association’s 2014 conference in New Orleans, which from my perspective was hugely enriching.  But, in the spirit of presenting a variety of perspectives, here are a few observations everyone’s favourite Vulcan might have had, had he and his ears been in attendance.

1. Yes, qualitative analysis can be iterative and non-linear.  But that doesn’t mean logic doesn’t have a role.  Stephen Heffernan‘s excellent presentation on a framework for research design he calls The Central Research Question (CRQ).  His approach demands that client and researcher come to agreement on the single question that defines the overarching objective of a research study, simply worded to yield a clear, unambiguous answer and path to action.  This of course forces dialogue, both within the client team and between the client and researcher.  Reaching agreement on a single-minded question that research must answer has a number of benefits, including:

  • Allowing for the identification of 4-6 “supporting questions” which, in combination, answer the CRQ and lead to a structure for the research project overall.
  • Providing a firm rationale for INCLUDING some things and EXCLUDING others in the design of the research
  • Providing a structure for reporting which aligns perfectly with client-logic about
  • Encourages action at the conclusion of a study (rather than analysis-paralysis)

2. Determining appropriate tradeoffs is a central feature of human psychology, and a worthwhile consideration for researchers. Tom Rich‘s presentation “Leave the Gun, Take the Canoli.  Using Tradeoff Analysis to Strengthen Qualitative Analysis and Reports” illustrated this beautifully, in what I think may be the first presentation on behavioural economics that actually feels highly applicable in the field.  Rich presents a framework that envisions 5 consumer “currencies” – Time, Energy, Money, Product Performance, and Self-Esteem.  By looking at where a choice between two products or services involves trade-offs between these “currencies”, we can help clients understand the essential drivers of behaviour around that choice.

3. Video and imagery add an emotional “punch” to any findings presentation.  Carol Kauder‘s presentation “Don’t take my word for it: A Journalist’s Guide to Bringing Presentations to Life with Images and Video” provided a reminder of the visceral power of images and video, and how to use them to turn what could be an otherwise dry presentation into one brimming with human vitality.

Thanks to all the presenters, and congratulations to the QRCA‘s conference organizers for yet another great event!