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5 Proven Tips for Conducting Virtual Research in a Human Way

Posted By By Ruthie Feinstein, SIVO Insights, Inc. , 4 hours ago

I love the QRCA community of researchers, where we get to share our best practices and approaches for the sole purpose of making each other better. As I have conducted more and more online interviews, I am sharing useful tips for successfully executing virtual consumer conversations.  

They center around being human: acting in a genuine, respectful way and establishing trust. 

Tip #1: Recruit with a tech mindset and participant’s needs in mind. 

  • Include criteria for having a stable Wi-Fi connection and familiarity with the tech platform being used.  If the platform is new to participants, ensure you build in time for set up and practice before the interview to increase their comfort level.  

  • If your study involves thoughtful writing exercise(s), make sure recruiting criteria has a written articulation component so they are not surprised by the type of communication that is expected of them.   

Tip #2: Set clear expectations so there are no surprises.  

The more participants know ahead of time, the more comfortable they will feel entering the discussion and the more open they tend to be.  In addition to the basics, make sure: 

  • Participants know what will happen during the interview. For example, is it a one-on-one conversation, or will others observe?  Will you be sitting stationary in front of the camera or taking a field trip to their pantry or garage?

  • Details are addressed.  What should they wear? (Most ask…encourage comfort unless it is part of the research.) Should their phone be on silent? (Yes.) Is it OK to have water or coffee? (Yes, you want them to be comfortable, but please no meals unless it is an eating experience!) Do they need to make arrangements for kids and pets, so they are not distracted? (Yes, unless they are part of the conversation.) For mobile missions, no driving while participating (yes, this has happened!). 

  • Participants test the tech and are advised to log on 5 minutes before the scheduled interview time, so no time is wasted in setting up. 

  • People are able to have a quiet place to conduct the interview to avoid potential inside or outside distractions. 

Tip #3: Establish credibility and rapport to increase comfort level.  

  • “Introduce” yourself via email and provide a picture so participants know who to expect on the other end of the screen. Communicate how excited you are for the conversation, so they feel their input is valued before you even begin. 

  • Log in early so you are there before the participant, smiling and welcoming as they enter the interview. 

  • Minimize your own distractions such as only having exactly what you need for the conversation open on your laptop (the worst is hearing the constant email ding as you lead a conversation…trust me).  

  • Have and communicate a back-up plan should tech issues arise (they will) so the interview isn’t a bust. 

  • Energy!  The last interview of the day should feel like the first one.  Build in enough mental breaks and move from behind your screen to get some fresh air. Coffee helps, too. 

Tip #4: Roll with it. 

  • Life happens. Allow for tech issues, dogs barking, doorbells ringing, and kids interrupting because these things will happen. Be forgiving and empathetic.  Explain that it happens to the best of us and that you will be patient while they figure it out. 
  • If it becomes too much or too long of a distraction, ask if participants need to reschedule for a time that may be better. A stressed person is not an open or insightful person.  

Tip #5: Observe as much as listen.  

  • Observing is still just as important as listening in producing those insightful golden nuggets.  I recently led a one-on-one video interview with a man wearing an “Own the Moment” T-shirt.  I thought it was relevant to our topic and used it as a way into the discussion. It led to some insightful personal truths and informed the learning in a way that may not have happened if it wasn’t pursued. 

Like every research method, there are benefits and trade-offs, but I am really enjoying and finding great success with virtual research, applying familiar principles with a human-inspired tech-twist.  What are some ways you are using and finding success with virtual research?  Please share your tips and tricks with this great community of research practitioners! 

About the Author:

Ruthie Feinstein is a senior-level qualitative researcher with 25 years of agency, client, and research supplier experience. A skilled moderator, she is adept at building trust with and disarming research participants resulting in deeper, more nuanced insights. She successfully collaborates with clients to solve their business problems and identify new opportunities. 

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The Changing Concept of Dinner in the Age of COVID-19: Romance Vs. Reality

Posted By Laurie Tema-Lyn and Dr. Donna Maria Romeo, Tuesday, October 6, 2020

The Changing Concept of Dinner in the Age of COVID-19


As qualitative researchers —Donna with an anthropological lens, and Laurie with an innovation lens— we often work on behalf of clients to understand perspectives and opinions related to specific brands or communications. As foodies, we enjoy working on projects related to the food industry. So, as we spoke this summer about how COVID-19 was affecting our personal lives, we decided to collaborate on a passion project to explore the nature of dinner in the age of COVID-19.

Our video interviews with folks from diverse backgrounds, life-stages, and household compositions revealed much about habits and practices around food planning, prepping, grocery shopping, cooking, and eating. We uncovered exciting insights that suggest implications for food retailers, marketers, manufacturers, meal delivery services, and others.

A central theme running across the research was the concept of taking stock, both literally and figuratively. The pandemic demanded us to take inventory as we looked through the pantry, fridge, and freezer. More broadly, it triggered us to take stock of our lives mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as we grappled with challenging issues that have become a part of our collective experience.

We learned that the question: “What shall I/we do for dinner tonight?” was on everyone’s minds and had become a central focus for the day’s events. In response to that question, we found a larger construct in the dichotomy of dinner, which we have identified as Romance vs. Reality. Although not a new construct, for many, this duality has been exacerbated by life under COVID-19.

The Romantic Dinner 

First, let’s begin by toasting to the romantic side of this equation! Without the grind of the daily commute or hectic shuttling of children back and forth to school and events, many people found more time in their lives as they hunkered down at home.

The Romantic notion of dinner is described as an ideal time when household members sit down together, relax, and talk as a family. Dinner becomes a shared social experience as well as a form of entertainment. Under COVID-19, dinner becomes something to look forward to and even the highlight of the day.

Romantic dinners take preparation. People told us they turned to recipes found in books or the internet, while some took Zoom classes and learned how to bake challah or pizza. Some discovered their inner chef and experimented with new cuisines and cooking methods, such as the Instant Pot or air fryer. A few set the table with the good china and stemware. An older couple dresses up for dinner, with attire suited to the cuisine.  

Half of our respondents regularly or frequently experience these romantic dinners. In many ways, these meals are a throwback to an earlier time, the idea of Sunday dinner with emphasis on wholesome, home-made foods, lovingly prepared and savored over the evening.  

With few reasons to rush away from the dinner table, spouses deepen intimate relationships, parents and children spend precious time together and exchange ideas. Dinner in the age of COVID-19 for them is intimate, social, creative, and soul-satisfying. The Romantic Dinner has helped people emotionally get through the lockdown and restrictions on their freedom.  

While most Romantic dinners are shared with immediate family and others in the extended COVID-19 social pod who safely dine together, some also extend this reach to far-flung family and friends virtually. Several respondents discussed sharing snacks, wine, and even holiday meals like Passover and Easter with distant friends and family via Zoom so they could keep relationships and traditions vibrant, even though people can’t come together physically.

As a form of entertainment, the Romantic dinner was described as an outlet for creativity and experimentation. People feel a sense of self-confidence in trying something new and home-made and even home-baked.

Several spoke with pride of pulling together an appealing and delicious scavenger meal from what they could find in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. Others found the pandemic a perfect time to experiment with foods from different cultures, which in some ways, was a stand-in for the travel they missed.  

For many, the Romantic dinner is an opportunity to show off in the age of COVID-19. With recipe postings and stylized photos on social media, people relish their bragging rights. And all this ties in with the plethora of cooking shows and food porn. 

The Harsh Reality Dinner  

Not everyone answered the “What shall I/we do for dinner tonight?” question with positivity and creativity.  Unfortunately, for some, dinner in the age of COVID-19 is a Harsh Reality.  

The Harsh Reality dinner is a grueling, time-consuming chore, marred by stress, strain, and guilt, and simply a means to an end. Day in and day out, people grow bored with their cooking routine and the increased demands COVID-19 has placed on them.

These sentiments are felt acutely by parents of young children, especially those who work at home.  These folks have many balls in the air—so food shopping, cooking, cleaning, maintaining safe/sanitary practices, and cooking a meal become the ultimate stressor.  

Those who live alone and a few older empty-nesters were in this camp as well. They described dinner as a basic need or “fuel.” There’s nothing romantic about it, and “Netflix is my dinner guest.” For older couples who eat differently due to health issues, cooking is not enjoyable. As one retiree said, “I just wish someone would come and cook for me.”

And to a Gen X mom with two daughters and a husband, each of whom is on a different diet, it’s a veritable nightmare to figure out what to do at dinnertime to keep everyone at least somewhat happy. 

Some people who experience dinner as a Harsh Reality feel guilt and shame at not doing more, not keeping up with others who enjoy cooking or seem to cook effortlessly. They feel the strain of not meeting the ideal, and self-judge as less competent mothers or spouses.

Glimmers of Light  

Fortunately, for those experiencing dinner during the pandemic as a Harsh Reality, there are glimmers of light on the horizon. As some communities are taking control of their COVID-19 infections, many are once again easing the stress of the “what’s for dinner?” question by turning to take-out, curbside, and restaurant dining (alfresco predominantly).

The romantics are a bit sad to see these changes; but the hassled, harried parents who are juggling work, parenting, and homeschooling demands are welcoming the help that restaurant dining affords them.

Conclusion: Implications

For the Romantics… 

  • Brands and companies can provide ongoing ideas for menu planning, new recipes, ingredients, and cooking tools
  • Offer simple, low-cost, and creative ways to beautify table and ambiance
  • Consider bundling opportunities: e.g., spices or ingredients coupled with music (and video) representative of an international cuisine 
  • Design tools/services to enhance smartphone food photos styled perfectly for social media 
  • Advertising and communications can play up the multi-sensory, pleasurable aspects of cooking and dining at home

For those living in the Harsh Reality… 

  • Make it easy for the cook! Easy-to-find recipes, short cuts, and speed scratch cooking ideas 
  • Tools that simplify and make cooking faster and easier 
  • Break down recipes into individual portions for the solo householder or for households where each person has their own dietary preferences or needs 
  • And most importantly, food advertising needs to get real! Communicate in ways that acknowledge all types of diversity, and strive to de-stress, de-shame, and de-guilt the less-than-ideal cook.

About the Authors:

Dr. Donna Maria Romeo, Founding Principal, Romeo Anthropological Consulting, LLC 

Donna is a business anthropologist and customer experience expert with a PhD in applied anthropology. For over 25 years, she has helped global organizations across a range of industries see the world of the consumer through fresh eyes. Her work has contributed to innovations in customer experience, marketing, service design, and product development

Laurie Tema-Lyn, Founder, Practical Imagination Enterprises®

Laurie Tema-Lyn is a qualitative research consultant and creative catalyst with 25+ years experience. She is former member of the QRCA Board of Directors. Laurie is the author of Stir It Up! Recipes for Robust Insights & Red Hot Ideas, and numerous articles which have appeared in VIEWS, Quirk’s Media and LinkedIn.  

Tags:  communication  market research  marketing research  mrx  QRCA Digest  qualitative market research  research methodologies  research methodology 

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Bridging the Gap between MRX and UX 

Posted By Kelsey Segaloff, HubSpot, Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Bridging the Gap between MRX and UX 

Two years ago, I made the move from working at a market research (MRX) agency to a client-side user experience (UX) team at a software company. Starting my job in UX, I had the perception that UX research and market research were two completely different worlds. The more I have learned, the more I’ve found we really aren’t that different after all. 

We are focused on related goals:

Let’s take a look at the definitions of market and UX research. 

Market Research Definition 
“The process of gathering, 
analyzing, and interpreting information about a market, about a product or service to be offered for sale in that market, and about the past, present, and potential customers for the product or service; research into the characteristics, spending habits, location, and needs of your business's target market, the industry as a whole, and the particular competitors you face” 

UX Research Definition 
“UX (user experience) research is the systematic study of target users and their requirements, to add realistic contexts and insights to design pro

It helps us identify and prove or disprove our assumptions, find commonalities across our target audience members, and recognize their needs, goals, and mental models. Overall, research informs our work, improves our understanding, and makes our work better.” 

Notice any similarities?

Market research and UX research are closely related. The foundation of both kinds of research is a focus on understanding target users/customers. Importantly, UX research and market research are types of research one can conduct. Just because you identify as a market researcher does not mean you haven’t been conducting UX research, and vice versa. 

qualpower blog

As UX researchers, we use market research to better understand customers, the market, and the ways the products we work on can be best positioned. As market researchers, we use UX research to make the experience of interacting with a product or service better. You may already have been conducting UX or market research without realizing it! 

Imagine the goal of your study is to understand uncover the pain points of a gym membership in order to try and increase the number of membership signups. Would that be a UX research study or a market research study?

I would argue it’s both. If UX is focused on the user experience, the member’s experience would fall under the UX umbrella. However, if we’re looking to increase the number of membership sign-ups, we would need to conduct market research (e.g., what are the gym competitors doing, what external factors beyond the experience at this gym impact membership?) to understand the full picture.

Market and UX research are two pieces of the same research puzzle. 

We are doing the same kinds of research but in a different language 

One of the biggest challenges to bridging the gap between market and UX research is, what I like to call, “research gatekeeping.” 

Gatekeeping is when someone or something arbitrarily decides who does or does not have access or rights to a community. Within the research community, we’ve become gatekeepers of research. We consciously create UX-specific or market research-specific jargon that results in artificial boundaries between what are or aren’t certain types of research. 

Here are just a few examples of UX and MRX-specific lingo that means the same thing:

Market Research Term  UX Term 
Co-Creation  Co-Design 
IDI/TDI  One-on-one interview 
Ethnography  Contextual Inquiry 


Research gatekeeping makes bridging the gap between research types incredibly challenging. When we consciously create jargon, we’re siloing ourselves from the greater research community. If we continue drawing superficial lines, a market researcher may never realize they have been conducting UX all along, nor will the UXer realize they have been exploring the world of market research. 

So how do we bridge the gap? 

I no longer consider myself just a market researcher or just a UX researcher, instead, I’m a researcher. I can use market research, UX research, or any other kind of research to help my stakeholders achieve their goals. The more we as a research community can break down these arbitrary barriers, the more we can learn from one another. The more communication and sharing we have across the research community, the more we can grow together. And in turn, we can bridge the research gap. 

About the author:

Kelsey Segaloff is a professional question asker and loves looking at the why behind everything we do. 


Tags:  comparing MRX and UX  QRCA Digest  UX research 

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Taking Qualitative Research to a Whole New Level with Agile Principles

Posted By Batukhan Taluy, Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Taking Qualitative Research to a Whole New Level with Agile Principles

The term “agile” (with its roots in software development methodologies) has been misused in the business world for quite some time. Like its counterparts, the term agile has become a substitute for “quick and dirty” work, which has nothing to do with what agile actually is. 

Then what is agile? 

As explained in a previous article, agile is all about testing hypotheses, using forms of effective stakeholder/team communication, and most importantly, using iteration. 

In a nutshell, as is depicted in the image below, the value proposition is fairly simple. Instead of executing the whole project in one go (as in a waterfall process), agile methodology utilizes sprints whereby every sprint takes the product one step closer to the ultimate outcome. During these sprints, the intermediary outputs are validated by stakeholders (customers, team members, etc.) and this iterative process continues until the project is complete. As it is much easier to change intermediary outcomes than the whole body of a project, catching errors early drastically reduces project delivery time and improves quality.



How can one use agile to achieve exponentially better results?

I was fascinated when I first heard about the Grounded Theory as a qualitative data analysis methodology. What most caught my attention was that it allowed grounding data into several sources of truth instead of only one.   

For example, we were conducting research for a bank to find innovation opportunities revolving around fraud, and how to help customers to decrease fraud in their daily lives. During the in-depth interviews, we found that fraud is very common during second-hand car sales processes. Now, here comes the interesting part. This is just one hypothesis that we found among a dozen, but it was a powerful and widespread one. To gather more data on this topic, we turned to the internet as another source of truth. 

We found a YouTube channel in the automotive category with several thousand subscribers. There was a single video on fraud during car sales that had been watched more than 2.4 million times! These behavioral consumer data indicated that we were tracking something valuable. Analyzing and clustering the comments and feedback with our anthropologist, we theorized which consumer segments would be more likely to use such a product. This is ethnography done on the internet; there is a name for this process, netnography. For the sake of this post, I will not take a deep dive into netnography, but according to Wikipedia, we can summarize it as a specific set of research practices related to data collection, analysis, research ethics, and representation, rooted in participant observation. 

Utilizing the aforementioned data, we amended our questions. At the end of the research process, we even changed the research methodology! This is just an example of how research sprints can add value to qualitative research. We start as a tabula rasa, an empty slate, and fill ourselves slowly with the information that is provided by consumers. We don’t just shape the report, but also shape our methodology, ourselves, research participants and research questions according to the data that we capture, hence we slowly dive deeper into behavioral or psychographic consumer segments. 

So how should I conduct my next research project? 

Agile is not about strict rules or utilizing strict methodologies like netnography. Sometimes we just leverage in-depth interviews in our sprints or mix and match methods, such as metaphor elicitation, UX research, or diary studies. 

The key takeaways for your next research project: 

  1. You may want to divide research into sprints and iteratively try to optimize the questions, methodology, participant choice, etc., 
  2. use several data sources to validate assumptions, not simply rely on interview data, 
  3. get creative to capture the most relevant insights and don’t be afraid to try new methods, mix and match. 

About the author:

Batukhan Taluy is a born hustler, strategist, and an insights professional. Through his company Uservision, he consulted more than 40 Fortune 500 brands globally to make them more user centric, leveraging agile qualitative insights. He has created new generation market research methodologies and approaches, which have been published and elaborated in seminars & workshops which are organized by leading institutions and universities. He is also an avid technology, music, film enthusiast and a lifelong learner. 

Tags:  Agile Research  Humanizing Research  QRCA Digest  Qualitative  Research Methodologies 

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Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community

Posted By Kayte Hamilton, Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Leveraging Social Media Intelligence with the Qualitative Research Community

This is a follow-up to the QRCA Flash Webinar designed as an introduction to social media research (what it is and how to get started). (Presented with my industry colleague Frank Gregory from NorthStar Solutions Group.)

It probably doesn’t come as a shock to anyone reading this that the coronavirus pandemic is now the most talked about topic in the history of social media. A perfect storm for social media conversation volume growth has emerged: Consumers across the globe are stuck at home (initially under strict government orders, now in the interest of community safety), wanting to express how they feel about the situation, how their views of everyday topics have changed because of the situation, or simply to virtually connect with others and laugh to take their mind off the situation. The obvious way to do this is from the comfort of their couch—by posting on social media. 

As consumers’ behavior has been forced to change, the landscape for researchers has changed as well, with some in-person methodologies being impossible to execute for the near future. Therefore, researchers should consider a pivot to new execution strategies, including social media intelligence, as a new tool in your toolkit…myself included!

Years ago I attempted to dabble in social media listening. Pain points included having to learn new skills like query writing, on top of navigating multiple social listening platforms which were all different and all limiting. Functionally, this resource hadn’t been ripened for basic qualitative interpretation. So I admit, I checked out. I figured, “if a client wanted social listening they either (1) are doing it internally or (2) would have asked.” I couldn’t have been more wrong, and Frank quickly schooled me on the renewed power of social mining.

Definition Clarification:

Social media listening is an older view on this research tool. At the time, listening made sense; for the most part, we were simply observing the incoming data and trying to make our own interpretations and connections. Most of the time this told you a percentage of conversation share the brand has and some light ideas revolving sentiment analysis (is there a positive, negative, or neutral perception?).

Social intelligence, the more modern way to describe this sector, is much more advanced. It can capture consumer conversations across any digital entity (from actual social media to product reviews) and add demographic and psychographic layers allowing you to “segment” the digital population (lightly compared to formal screening, of course). Today’s tool landscape helps us analyze in ways past platforms dreamed of, such as audience affinity, influencer evaluation, or platform performance benchmarking. In short, it’s adding more context to the conversations.

Regardless of the type of social media analytics tool, to me the biggest appeal to jumping into social media intelligence more fully is the reminder that it’s really never too late to get started. Unlike other “in-the-moment” approaches qualitative researches might implement, we can go backward in time and analyze social media conversation in time chunks.

As opposed to trying to ask a consumer how they felt about X topic 2 years ago vs. 1 year ago vs. 6 months ago vs. today; social media intelligence allows you to find the millions of consumer comments discussing that topic over that time period. The posts consumers made 2 years ago are still there waiting to be analyzed. So, using the coronavirus pandemic as an example, kicking off a social media intelligence analysis today doesn’t mean you’ve missed out on the last few months of social conversation trends—including how the coronavirus has changed the way consumers think about certain brands, industries, and behaviors.

Every single company has been impacted by our current events. Consumer perceptions around the globe have been impacted in almost every way imaginable, often related to the brand or company you are supporting in your research project. There are many ways to tap into these conversations and use the information to your advantage, from proposals to report writing.



  • Use the data as part of a pre-search phase, getting up to speed on a topic.
  • Consider if this tool is something you want to execute or find a partner on. Similar to online boards, ask if you are an expert programmer or if you pay extra for the setup service.
  • Ask your clients how they currently engage with social media analytics. Can you help layer your qualitative expertise with this “big data”? Analysts approach the information much differently than a consumer insights professional.
  • Assume the client’s internal department is sharing social media data with the insights team.
  • Mistake social intelligence as only the “major” social media channels. Data collected includes public forums, news sites, blogs, product reviews, etc., in addition to the main social media sites (Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, parts of Facebook).
  • Block yourself; just because it’s not “screened” or “recruited” information, doesn’t mean it can’t add value to your insight generation process.

Like all new skills, integrating social intelligence into your process takes time. To me, it’s the same type of learning curve as:

  • Online boards/communities
  • Video reports
  • Automated interviews

I think people shy away from learning new skills because they are unsure of how to translate their current qualitative skillsets. Quallies are not just moderators; we bring more to the table than simply asking questions. Therefore, we should have a dynamic set of resources to help us interpret and uncover insight beyond interviewing

Let’s start a discussion. What’s holding you back from integrating social intelligence to your qualitative practice? 

About the author:

Kayte Hamilton specializes in research design at InsightsNow among a large variety of clients from pharma to CPG. As a hybrid researcher, she’s always looking for ways to mix methods. Currently she’s the chair for the QRCA Annual Qually Award, where she advocates for innovative research solutions and shares these findings with the greater QRCA community. 

Tags:  listening  online listening  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  Research Methodologies  social mediaCustomer Journey Maps 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Winning the Future of Qualitative

Posted By Ilka Kuhagen, IKM GmbH, Thursday, August 20, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Winning the Future of Qualitative

Presenter: Holly O’Neill, Talking Business, LLC

Summary of Conference Session

Holly O'Neill summarized her take-aways from various marketing research conferences over the past three years. As we have entered a new era in MR with changing needs, increased speed of turnaround and new tools, we not only need to be aware, but embrace the future of Qualitative Research!

Key Session Takeaways

It is not the market that is changing. Rather, all players in this market face challenges that have changed their behavior. Smaller budgets, shorter research cycles, innovation sprints, interactive learning needs, and more strategic thinking clients—all scream for different research approaches and open new opportunities for researchers.

Consumers are looking for experiences and relationships with brands and develop their social selves rather than just individual selves. Family landscapes have changed. Populations are increasingly diverse, and internet and mobile are ubiquitous. Technology (including AI and VR) offers new ways to do data collection, segmentation, tracking and even summaries. But we still need the human to learn, interpret, and define insights.

How I Will Use this Information in My Practice

We must find new ways to deliver insights faster and in ways that are quicker to digest; we need to embrace new technology and dare to be creative with study designs! Let us use technology and the Qual Researcher’s expertise to design projects according to the culture of the respondents. We can twist our tools to new technology and create new methods like storytelling sessions and online shadowing.

Aha Moment

Holly says: Let go of the old in favor of new paradigms. This was a great summary of changes the industry is facing and needs to embrace!

           QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Ilka Kuhagen, IKM GmbH

Tags:  new research paradigms  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  the future of qualitative research 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Wandering or Wondering about the Future of Qual: Forging New Paths to Deliver Value in Uncertain Times

Posted By Roben Allong, Lightbeam Communications Corp., Thursday, August 13, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Wandering or Wondering about the Future of Qual: Forging New Paths to Deliver Value in Uncertain Times

Presenters: Randi Stillman, Bottom Line Market Research & Consulting, and Rick Weitzer, Prell Organization

Summary of Conference Session

Examination of key challenges identified through a round of IDIs with various stakeholders that they consider impactful to the future of qual:

  1. New competitors
  2. Client-side bias
  3. New competitors with full range of services
  4. Technology

Key Session Takeaways

The competitive landscape is changing—but qual is not going away. The session identified perceived challenges from various stakeholders including client-side research buyers and non-QRCA quallies, and outlined three key areas of opportunity for quallies to investigate to help them stay abreast of the market, attract new clients, and maintain their practice. These key opportunity areas are:

  1. Sharpen business problem-solving skills—focus more on business objectives and how research insights impact business outcomes.
  2. Lean into agile solutions by creating and experimenting more with mix-and-match hybrid methods to get the best insights efficiently.
  3. Engage in continuing education and elevate ability to demonstrate the value of qualitative research.

How I Will Use this Information in My Practice

Quallies have already begun instituting deliverable practices that report insights more as potential business strategies rather than just “research insights.” We are also engaging clients by advising them on the potential business applications of insights as they come to the surface during debriefs. Researchers are becoming faster, increasingly nimble, and we are always on the lookout for technology that can speed up the data collection and analysis process.

Aha Moment

Clients are under the gun to produce results, beyond insights, especially given the current economic climate. Quallies can help them achieve business goals and remain relevant by evaluating their individual research toolboxes. Looking with new eyes and learning how to optimize existing skillsets and technology can be instrumental to achieving successful outcomes, for both client and qually.

        QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Roben Allong, Lightbeam Communications Corp.

Tags:  business strategies  insights  market research  online research  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene  research deliverables  technology 

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California’s “Gig Worker” Bill

Posted By Monica Zinchiak, Z. Research Services, Tuesday, August 11, 2020

California’s “Gig Worker” Bill

The information provided in this blog post does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please consult with your own legal counsel on your situation.

For those of us working in California, the “Gig Worker Bill”—California Assembly Bill 5 (AB5)—may have an impact on businesses that regularly use independent contractors like many QRCA members. If you are not in California, legislation like this may be on the horizon in your home state. Here is some background and my take on the types of business relationships we maintain and how to be prepared.

1989 California Supreme Court's decision in Borello vs. Dept. of Industrial Relations ( was the original pivot point in determining whether or not “gig workers” are considered independent contractors. This established the first guideline for who is considered an independent contractor and who is not in the state of California, growing around agricultural seasonal workers in the state. Under this test, the most significant factor was whether the hiring firm has the right to control the contractor, both the work done and the manner and means in which it is performed.

If you work on an ad hoc basis, manage yourself without oversight and maintain your own hours, buy your own materials and equipment, and are performing work not regularly done in-house by your client’s firm, then you pass the first test. Personally, I would also argue my services to be distinct from my client’s business, although I do work for other research firms, due to my special focus on qualitative, my specialized training (great note for QRCA Advance Program) and unique skill set. This is likely the same situation for you.

Furthermore, in a business-to-business relationship, AB5 also considers business service providers independent contractors if (1) they pass the Borello test (sometimes referred to as the ABC test) and (2) satisfy the following long list of criteria. (The sections in italics are my thoughts and suggestions.)

  1. Free from the hiring firm's control and direction while performing the work; I might advise you to set forth language that covers this concept in all your contracts. I have added this to my contracts that specifically states I am an independent contractor contracting with XYZ company.
  2. Provides services directly to the contracting business rather than to customers of the contracting business.
  3. Provides a signed written contract before services begin; If you have a handshake relationship, I suggest you create an extended term contract to cover you for a one-year period or start executing contracts for every project “gig” starting now.
  4. Has all required business licenses or business tax registration; Even if you are a DBA, make sure your business name is added to your 2020 tax forms. If you haven’t applied for an assumed business name, do so immediately; the cost is less than $100.
  5. Maintains a business location separate from the business or work location of the hiring firm; Think about working from home 51% of the time (at least as far as the state of California is concerned).
  6. Customarily engaged in an independently established business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed; If you work for just one company exclusively, this puts you and your client at risk for being labeled an employee.
  7. Contracts with other businesses to provide the same or similar services and maintains a clientele without restrictions from client’s firm.
  8. Advertises and holds itself out to the public as available to provide the same or similar services; The previous three bullets are very similar but all three must be met—so if you are working for just one client all year, do at least one other, not pro-bono, project in case you are queried by the state tax board.
  9. Provides its own tools, vehicles, and equipment to perform the services.
  10. Negotiate your own rates.
  11. Is consistent with the nature of the work, can set your own hours and location of work.
  12. Is not performing the type of work for which a license from the State of California is required; General business management consultants, SIC code 8742, are not required to have special licenses like CPAs or construction contractors, but everyone who consults should have a business license in the state of California.

Now there is much controversy surrounding AB5 over who is really an independent contractor and how the legislation was written, some say in haste. The definitions of exempt workers in AB5 were not well thought-out and horribly incomplete. The list of exemptions does not call out research consultants like it does for some other types of consultants like lawyers (legal consultants) or content designers.

Just after the law was passed, another state assembly bill was quickly introduced to expand the exempt categories and clarify some of the language. A quick glance leaves me feeling this is still insufficient. At least two more bills are currently being written to repeal and/or revise AB5.

If you would like to read one of the most recent proposed bills that could be relevant to your independent contractor status, here’s the new name to remember: California State Assembly Bill 806

I found this article by NOLO Press to be very informative.  NOLO is a fabulous resource for small business owners.

Monica Zinchiak has been a California Girl her entire life and has been an independent consultant for the last 25 years, DBA Z. Research Services. She helps her clients get in touch with the real lives, experiences, and needs of their customers. An early adopter of online qualitative methods, she has a special focus in Online Qual, conducting primary market research studies for Fortune 500 companies, top-tier market research firms, advertising agencies, and remarkable start-ups. An active member of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA), she is a past president for the organization.


Tags:  California AB5  Gig Worker Law  Independent contractors  QRCA Digest  Qualitative 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Torch Is Yours: Agile from the Hands of Engineers to the Researcher

Posted By Nancy Hardwick, Hardwick Research, Thursday, August 6, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: The Torch Is Yours: Agile from the Hands of Engineers to the Researcher

Presenter: David W. Tuffy

credit:thanks to You X Ventures for sharing their work on Unsplash

Summary of Conference Session

David Tuffy started his presentation by sharing the history of agile. The concept of being agile initially started in the software industry. Developers learned that they could be much more effective if they built a basic version of the software program and then tested it with customers. This allowed them to make sure the program met the needs of customers before developing all the features. If successful, the programmers would then go back, make the necessary changes (based on customer feedback), and then release an updated version. This ongoing, iterative process is very popular as programmers do not waste time on something that has no appeal to customers.

Key Session Takeaways

As you apply agile in the qualitative research world, keep in mind:

  • Agile does not mean doing more, faster. It’s about starting with a working product (minimal viable product) and testing it with consumers. Based on their feedback, you can add more features then go back to test it again.
  • Agile is iterative. The idea is to build on your knowledge and improve the product each time.
  • Qualitative researchers are naturally experts at being agile. We are able to probe and shift direction on the fly. This same principle, quick course correction, is the backbone of being Agile.
  • Being agile will likely mean you cannot gather the depth of information you would normally. Due to the quick turnaround, you will likely need to test fewer things or use a narrower focus on the type of information gathered. Research used during the agile process is meant to be a check-in for course correction purposes.
  • Consumers cannot tell organizations what they need. However, agile allows you to test an actual product with consumers. The information garnered will help to make changes before the next release. And of course, qualitative research is ideal for testing an idea with a small group of people before launching the next version into the world.
  • Agile is collaborative. Being agile is all about collaboration. Daily check-ins and working closely with all stakeholders are critical. At the end of each cycle, the process must be reviewed critically for improvement, as this process will be repeated over and over again.
  • Good, qualitative research is the foundation of successful innovations.

Using this in Practice

As an independent qualitative researcher, you may run into some obstacles implementing the agile process. Unless you are embedded in a company, being involved in daily updates may be challenging. Clients are not always good about sharing information and keeping you in the loop. You will need to insist on being included or the process will not be successful. You also need to think “scrappy.” Propose a study that includes a small group of participants. Design it to be an iterative check-in rather than an in-depth research study. Consider providing a bullet list of takeaways rather than a full report. It will save time and money—and because the client team is so highly involved, they will likely not feel the need to have a detailed report.

Aha Moment

Agile is a process, not a technology. You do not need to be technologically savvy to implement agile in your research approach.

QRCA Reporter on the Scene: Nancy Hardwick, Hardwick Research

Tags:  agile in qualitative research  agile process  iterative process  QRCA Annual Conference  QRCA Reporter on the Scene 

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Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rappers, Researchers, and Realities: Exploring Unconscious Bias in Qualitative Research

Posted By Janet Standen, Thursday, July 30, 2020
Updated: Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Annual Conference Reporter on the Scene: Rappers, Researchers, and Realities: Exploring Unconscious Bias in Qualitative Research

Presenter: Cynthia Harris, 8:28 Consulting

cynthia harris

Summary of Conference Session
Cynthia took us on a thought-provoking journey, drawing synergies between rap music and qualitative research. She provided helpful tips that can help us identify our own implicit bias, and specifically referenced tools we could turn to, to help us overcome the impact that our inherent and unavoidable biases may have on our qualitative research practices.

Key Session Takeaways

  • In the same way rap music gives a voice to historically marginalized people, our work can give consumers a voice within the companies we serve.
  • Insights, when delivered well, should have a “stickiness” to them, just like a catchy beat in rap music.
  • An activity reminded us that outside of family, the people we trust most in our life (i.e., those we choose to know), are often “just like us.” They reflect our own bias, defined as “an inclination of temperament or outlook.” They are part of our in-group.
  • We also tend to have greater positive regard, cooperation, and empathy to in-group members over out-group members—dangerous if you are a qualitative researcher.
  • Bias can be a good thing, and we are biologically wired for bias decision-making (such as knowing the difference between a cute, cuddly dog and a wild dog). But it also has the potential to be harmful if it narrows our thinking based on non-factual data points (i.e., based on our perceptions and biases that are in us).
  • We must be careful not to bias our research learning by accidentally asking leading questions that can unintentionally influence the responses we receive. Cynthia provided the example of the Loftus & Palmer Study in 1974, when eyewitness testimony of the estimated speed a car was traveling just before a car accident varied from 40.8mph to 34 mph, depending whether the word “smashed” or “hit” was used when witnesses were asked about what they saw.
  • The language used to deliver our learning to stakeholders can bias our delivery and therefore our audience take-outs.
  • We must analyze recorded data from our research, not use our memory of what we learned, to ensure we better reflect the true content, not our memory of the content (that will likely be influenced by our own biases.)
  • Do not be racist or ageist—by 2050 the majority of the U.S. population will be non-white, and people over 65 will outnumber those younger than 18!

Aha Moment
Stay open-minded and remember to not judge a book by its cover. Our biases are hidden, often even from ourselves, so we must take steps to be more aware of them. One tool is the free Implicit Association Test, which can be found at:

Never forget we have bias, so plan for it and account for it. As qualitative researchers, we have a huge responsibility not to let our bias impact the validity of our research findings. Our minds are “automatic association-making machines,” so we have to work at not being automated, but must manage our humanity!

janet standenReporter on the Scene: Janet Standen, Scoot Insights

Tags:  avoiding bias in qualitative research  implicit bias  unconscious bias 

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