February 2014
Vol. 13, Number 1

QRCA Management News
Conference News
Chapter News
Committee News
SIG News
Member News

QuickTips: How to Conduct the Qualitative Research Study of Your Dreams…

Linda LaScola, Linda@LaScola.com

This month’s QuickTips summarizes how to conduct the qualitative research study of your dreams and get international media attention, an academic article and a book out of it.

For QRCs, learning about just about any subject is interesting.  But what about those projects you dream of doing just for your own curiosity?  It’s possible.  My book, “Caught in The Pulpit: Leaving Belief Behind” came out recently – after six years of work.

Some tips on making the dream a reality:

  • Pick a subject you really want to learn more about. In my case, it was non-believing clergy,a subject that I became fascinated with during a personal study of biblical and religious history.  I found that there was a vast difference between what students learn in seminary and what they preach once becoming clergy. That puzzled me and I wanted to figure it out.
  • Convince a prominent expert on the subject to work with you.  Dan Dennett, Philosophy Professor at Tufts, wrote the 2006 bestselling “Breaking the Spell:  Religion as a Natural Phenomenon,” in which he called for conducting academic research on religion.  I emailed him after reading both that book and an essay he had written about Mother Teresa.  Soon after that we arranged to meet while he was in Washington, my home, for a conference.  I persuaded him to sponsor a study I would conduct, with his academic support and with financial support through donors.  Once the project was underway I ended up finding one of the donors myself, but could not have done so without Dr. Dennett’s reputation and the backing of his university.
  • Give the study everything you’ve got.  That includes all your background knowledge, all your interviewing skills in dealing with difficult/sensitive subjects, all your analytical skills, and whatever time is needed to get it right.  This is the easiest part because, remember: you’re really interested in what you’re researching, you’re enthusiastic, and you’re motivated to figure out what’s going on.  In my case the study itself went slowly, allowing time for other projects. Writing the book was an all-out effort over the summer of 2013.  Of course, I’d been poring over transcripts and analyzing throughout the process.  Also, it helped that my collaborator was a seasoned author and a joy to work with.

Publications and media attention may follow on their own.  That was not part of my original plan, but rather the result of working with a prominent professor on what turned out to be a hot topic.  Religious affiliation in the U.S. is dropping rapidly and humanists are finding their voice in the public square.  I was part of a trend and didn’t know it!  Just goes to show you that what fascinates you will probably fascinate others.

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Personal Connections

Kelly Heatly, Kelly@HeatlyCustomResearch.com

Holly O’Neill Says “Yes!”

Holly O’Neill (Newport Beach, CA) and her boyfriend, Douglas Grindstaff, enjoyed a lovely vacation in Cancun over Thanksgiving week.  But the big surprise wasn’t turkey and pumpkin pie – it was a beautiful diamond engagement ring.  Overlooking the Caribbean Sea, under the stars, with a tropical breeze blowing, and on one knee... Douglas asked Holly, "Will you marry me?"  And she said "Yes!"

Holly O’Neill and her new fiancé, Douglas Grindstaff, on vacation in Cancun.

Kristin Schwitzer’s Mother-Daughter Trip of a Lifetime!

Personal travel memoir written by Kristin Schwitzer (Annapolis, MD):

Kristin Schwitzer and daughter Kaylee in Argentina

When I became a parent, I had no idea that meant amazing perks and global travel!

Four years ago, when my oldest child, Kaylee, was 16 years old, she wrote a PowerPoint  presentation to Mom and Dad on why she needed to be the first student at her private high school to study abroad for her Fall junior semester.  After a personally defining experience in Alicante, Spain, where she took all her classes in Spanish, I joined her for two weeks of travels throughout Spain and Italy.  Definitely a good trip, but it was nothing compared to this past December in South America.  Who would have thought I would get such a great opportunity again, just four years later?!

An afternoon in the colorful La Boca neighborhood of Buenos Aires

Now a junior in college, Kaylee left in July for a second Spanish immersion experience, this time for six months in Mendoza, Argentina – the great Malbec capital of the world!  Just three days into her new life in Mendoza, she landed a photojournalist internship at the Wine Republic Magazine, covering wine-related events via video, such as this charming one, photography and social media—and yes, also learning about and enjoying wine at age 20!

As she was finishing up her final exams, I landed in Buenos Aires at 10:30 a.m.  With only 24 hours to spend in B.A., I quickly changed from winter clothes to a sundress given the 95-degree heat.  And I hit B.A. hard!  La Boca for the full afternoon with its colorful shops, pubs, street tango dancers, and the famous Boca Junior soccer stadium.  Then, off to Recoleta to see Eva Peron’s grave, and stumbled on an amazing water-front jazz festival, dinner at the wonderful Sottovoce Italian restaurant (thanks to Greenbook’s Diane Liebenson for the reco!), and even an exclusive 10:00 p.m. El Rojo Tango Show.  Back to my hotel at 1:00 a.m.  Phew!  And that was just Day One!

Off the next day to Mendoza, which included meeting Kaylee’s Argentinian family and friends, getting the tour of her local hangouts, and two especially memorable experiences: a full day of horseback riding on a beautiful estancia up in the Andes and a luxury wine tasting tour where we visited four wineries as part of a private eight-person group with a professional guide, talking/touring directly with the owners and no other visitors in sight.  Just wish we could import more of the phenomenal wines we tasted and have yet to find here in the U.S.

Horseback riding in Mendoza on a beautiful estancia in the Andes

We learned that transportation in Argentina is WAY behind the U.S; getting anywhere requires going through one of two cities—Buenos Aires or Santiago, Chile—and spending a full day of travel to get anywhere.  Oh, and beware of buses that do not provide toilet paper!  On to more interesting stuff…

Next stop: many hours south for one day in El Calafate to see the Perito Moreno Glacier.  After a full day of travel, we arrived at our hotel at midnight due to all the cancelled-without-reason flights and learned upon arrival that all tours to the glacier were sold out!  A great ad-lib experience: we hired a local cab driver for the day that didn’t speak a word of English and talked a mile a minute with my daughter!  We took a boat cruise up close and personal on one side, and then hiked the other side in Parque Nacional Los Glaciares.  We ended the day with a massage back at the hotel that was billed as “California Spa” and was so NOT that… definitely more Latin American-style!

From there, the unpleasant bus trip and crossing the border, clearing two customs—another full day wasted.  But then a turn for the better!  We caught a shuttle north into the Patagonia region of Chile, and suddenly, people and buildings were no longer existent.  Animals we had never seen before dominated.  We checked into our “yurt” where we lived for the balance of the trip, and immediately took on progressively more difficult outdoor adventures.  The first day was not that physically challenging yet quite memorable, as it was just outside the National Park, so we went an entire day without seeing another human being beyond our small group, a single car, or building of any type.  Just a ton of wildlife, including guanacos (Chilean lamas) everywhere, Andean mountain cats, pumas, flamingos, and the largest land-based flying bird in the Western Hemisphere, the Andean condor; we got within ten feet of several before they flew away.  On the way back (and each day after), our van got stuck waiting for a herd of sheep or cows being corralled by nomadic gauchos on horseback and their working dogs.  A great start for our time in Patagonia. 

After checking into their “yurt,” Kristin and Kaylee saw much wildlife including guanacos.

We kept stepping up the challenge of our full-day hikes to the final day when we did the eight-hour Torres del Paine Base Trek, a deservedly famous and highly demanding excursion, and in 70-mph winds!  There were some hikers who were literally holding on to their climbing partners by their waistbands along the trail so as to not lose them over the unguarded cliff.  (Yeah, that’s a big difference–absolutely NO rails, fencing, warnings, at-your-own-risk signs, etc. – everything we are accustomed to in the U.S.)  The amazing view at the base of the summit was well worth the effort, with its hidden turquoise lake and three massive granite towers.  On the way down and now moving with the wind, I finally realized it was easier to use my body as a “sail” and essentially run/skip down the rugged terrain than to constantly fight the wind in an attempt to slow down.  Glad I’m still here to tell the story!

70mph winds didn't keep Kristin and daughter Kaylee from reaching Base Las Torres in Patagonia Chile! Pictured with Chilean tour guide and British couple they met.

My first trip to South America only whetted my appetite.  Kaylee had already been to many of the places I would like to go someday, so I’ll just have to go back!

Next up: my globetrotting daughter is interning this summer in Chicago.  Having never once mentioned my hometown as a place she would potentially like to live, I’m absolutely thrilled that she has chosen it on her own and will get to experience a summer in The Windy City as a 21 year old!  And you bet I will be visiting her! J

In addition to the article, watch a brief video in Spanish, narrated by Kristin’s daughter, Kaylee Schwitzer:


Deborah Potts Spends the Night in McDonald’s

Next time someone asks Deborah Potts (Louisville, KY) to play the game "Tell a little known fact about yourself" or "What are two truths and a lie," she has a new one: “I once spent the night in a McDonald’s in Atlanta.”  

On January 28th, Deborah was driving south on 75/85, trying to get to her airport hotel after a day of interviews north of the city.  It took her five hours to drive 10 miles!  When a bus did a "180" in front of her, stopping in a position perpendicular to the lanes, she knew it was time to get off the highway.  She was hoping to make her way on side streets.  She stopped at the nearby McDonald’s to charge her phone and get warm and found several other stranded travelers who had decided to stay put through the night. 

The McDonald’s manager – a young woman with a young crew – was able to see beyond the usual modes of operation.  They locked everyone in for the night, while keeping the drive-through open.  All through the night, they opened their doors to others who had been on the road for hours, allowing them access to restrooms, a warm place to take refuge, and food.  Deborah may have been the only one to actually get a few hours of sleep (dang those booths are hard!), probably from years of practice sleeping on planes.  

Deborah left at 5:30 a.m. and gingerly made her way to the airport, in time for her flight out.  McDonald’s Corporation got a very grateful letter from her the next day!

McDonald's in Atlanta where Deborah Potts spent the night, seeking refuge in the snowstorm

Mark Michelson Saves Stranded Drivers in Atlanta

Mark Michelson (Atlanta, GA) helped quite a few folks who were stuck in the recent snowstorm with rides in his Jeep.  He generously offered his home to stranded friends, though the hills in his neighborhood made it difficult for one friend to take him up on his offer.

To remedy cabin fever, in between writing reports, Mark stayed active on Facebook with several groups designed to help stranded drivers.  Through one of these groups, Mark volunteered to help out stranded people he had never met by driving them to their car. 

The largest Facebook group is called “SnowedOutAtlanta,” which grew from 0 to 55,000+ members in two days!  The lady who created the group has been featured on many news programs and in the New York Times.  Her efforts spawned more localized groups like “SnowedOutRoswell,” which Mark followed closely given the proximity of his home to Roswell.

After helping out others, Mark ran into trouble himself.  He was supposed to fly to Toronto to give a presentation on Mobile Research at MRIA's Net Gain Conference.  After he was unable to get to the airport followed by a canceled flight, he ended up delivering the presentation virtually. A true digital mobile presentation!

Southern” snow plows you might have seen recently if you were driving in Atlanta.

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Katherine Horrocks

New Member Interview: Katherine Horrocks, Pleasanton, CA

Mike Courtney, mike@aperioinsights.com

Please tell us a little bit about you.

I’m one of two founding partners at Amplify Research, a position which requires me to wear many hats!  For today, I’m wearing my favorite hat and the hat I wear most of the time lately, my moderator hat; but I also have a business owner beret, a project-manager pillbox, a facility owner fez…and a whole assortment of others that come with owning a relatively new business!

Who were you and what did you do before you got into marketing research?

I was an interior design student who, in my hunt for a part-time evening job, managed to discover the world of market research by taking on the position of recruiting supervisor at a focus group facility.  I had no idea what I was getting into at the time!  

What drew you to qualitative research? Did you stumble into the field or was it your childhood dream to moderate?

As I mentioned, I completely stumbled into qualitative; but, from there on, I really did love everything about what I was doing and found.  I soaked in everything I could and went from supervisor, to project manager, to reviewing video and helping with writing reports, to doing field management and regional management. Then I started doing discussion guides and smaller-scale projects, started my own business, and now am focused primarily on moderating.  

Is there a story behind your company name?  

After extensive brainstorming, interviewing friends (duh!) and considering the pros and cons of a couple of finalists, we decided on “Amplify.”  It stands for what we strive to do to the research process; it starts with a strong vowel; and we get listed at the top of things - without shelling out extra for a premium spot!  (New-business owners are craftily frugal people!)

What’s it like in your office? What do your co-workers talk about around the water cooler? (Do you have a water cooler? Co-workers? Pets? Etc.?)  

Our office is AWESOME; but the amount of time I spend there is, sadly, pretty minimal.  If I’m moderating a project, I love when I’m able to hold it in our offices. It’s my home away from home.  But that doesn’t always work out (silly clients, not always wanting the same markets…) and when I’m working on an online project, writing a report, or putting together a screener, I actually work much better from home.  I do love the entire Amplify team though, and we’re all mind-melded through IM chats anyway!

Amplify Research holiday party in December 2013


Do you remember your first few moderating sessions? If we were able to watch a video of that first session what would we see?  

I got lucky. My first few projects were online, where you’re a little less exposed to some of the crazy things that crop up during in-person projects!  Those first online projects all were fantastic, but I definitely remember the terror of my first in-person sessions!   Meeting a whole slew of additional clients for the first time, not just the research lead with whom I was comfortable, was intimidating.  In my head the first session went something like: “Holy crap, how are we already 15 minutes in, and I’m pretty sure I just finished introducing myself? !Did I mention the recording?  I think I mentioned the recording… Wait, what did I do with the printouts for the first exercise?  I remember giving them to the host to copy…Did she give them back?  I think I had them… Oh.  GRR…I know where they are: the top corner of the second-tier counter by my purse.  How the heck do I excuse myself to go get them?  Wait!  What did the woman say her occupation was?  My profiles are sitting right next to my printouts…” 

In reality it actually went pretty well, although a little long and everything got backed up..  The overall research learnings were there and objectives were all met!

Imagine someone has created a look alike clone of you, the only thing left is to program the clone to act like you act. What are the most important habits and attributes your clone needs to master? What is the one thing that would tip off friends that it’s not really you?  

I’m pretty particular, to the point where one might even use the word “neurotic.”  It’s not in a stressed out, high anxiety kind of way; but rather in an extremely anal OCD kind of way.  I really like things to be done thoroughly and accurately, with an emphasis on detail accuracy and consistency.  (I’ve found through trial and error that this type of neurosis is particularly beneficial for being analytically creative, but not at all helpful when trying to be artistically creative.  I can design a house in autoCAD with speed and flair, in good proportion and with an interesting design aesthetic… but watching me try to “sketch” by hand with a pencil nearly sent one design instructor to tears!) 

What motivated you to join the QRCA and what do you hope to gain from your membership?  

I’ve been an active MRA member for about 10 years now, and have served on the local chapter board for 4 or 5 years.  I love being part of an industry organization and have seen first-hand the benefit of having supportive colleagues and, really, friends in the market research industry.  While the MRA is great, most of the organization is geared toward quantitative research (though I see a sprinkling of qualitative pushing its way back in); and qualitative researchers are often few and far between.  In the short time I’ve been a member of QRCA, I have already appreciated the warm camaraderie of the San Francisco chapter, and have been very pleased with the opportunities to learn and grow the field of qualitative with such a great group of bright and diverse individuals! 

We are both in your favorite city with a day in- between groups. What do we do? Where do you stay? Eat? Etc.  

We’re probably in L.A. (I know, since I’m from the Bay Area, I’m not supposed to say that I have any love for L.A.; but I like warm weather and real beaches!)  I’m staying at the Jamaica Bay Inn which is right on the beach in Marina del Rey.  You can go straight from your room to dipping your toes in the Pacific ocean in under a minute!  We would drive up to Malibu and do some shopping and then hit Duke’s for happy hour on the outdoor patio.  

A new phone app coming out helps you double your brainpower for seven hours each week.  What do you use your super brain time for?  

STARTING to write a new report!  It’s all up there; and, once it starts flowing, it comes out just fine; but getting the words to start hitting the PowerPoint slide deck is one of my greatest challenges. 

Then I’d spend all the leftover super brain time killing it at Candy Crush Saga.

Your approach to technology would best be described as _________ 

“Early-embracer.” I’m a little co-dependent on my gadgets.

Which means you are a master at _________

Tech support, sadly.  I spend more time than I care to,tech-troubleshooting for co-workers, friends, family and, sometimes, clients!

And still trying to completely figure out __________

How anyone knew where they were going before Google Maps!

Mac or PC? iPhone or Android? 

I went all Mac in 2010 after years and years of being a “hater” and I’ve never regretted it; it’s life changing! (Seriously, if you’re considering switching to a Mac I guarantee I can convince you to do it, and that you’ll thank me for it later!)

A client tells you they'll triple your project fee if you can beat them fair and square in a game. You get to choose the game. What game do you play and how likely are you to win?  

This is a tough one…I completely crushed it at Nursery Rhyme Jeopardy at a baby shower recently, is that an option?  If not, I feel pretty confident I could beat a majority of people in a timed Sudoku race!

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QRCA Members Get Published!

Editor’s Note: QRCA members often contribute articles to industry publications. With the help of our public relations firm, Hart, QRCA has established many content partnerships that provide a platform for sharing knowledge and expertise of our talented members. Each month, Connections would like to recognize those who have recently been published and share their articles to all members. Information provided by Kelly Hancock, Hart Public Relations, khancock@hartinc.com.

Recently published member article:

American Marketing Association’s Marketing Insights: On Your Radar
QRCA President Kendall Nash shares her knowledge of the fast-paced and evolving qualitative research trends to look out for in 2014. She highlights how past trends are adapting and gets into details about five lesser-hyped, but equally important trends to monitor as we look ahead to another exciting year in qualitative research.

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New QRCA Members

These are the newest members of our association. Give one or two of them a call, or send an email, and welcome them to the organization.

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Linda Binder

Clear Sky Research    
1422 Monroe Ave     
River Forest, IL 60305          
United States

Nicole Brasof

Percepta Market Research Consultancy       
621 River Road          
Yardley, PA 19067    
United States

Colleen Chappellet

c3 consulting  
2610 Pinot Way
Saint Helena, CA 94574        
United States

Sidney Clewe 

TripleScoop Premium Market Research
4833 W Front Street
Castle Rock, CO 80104
United States

Sarah Conder  

Keystone Qualitative
9733 Ottumwa Ave N           
Stillwater, MN            55082
United States

Jochen de Jager

de Jager Executive Search
Level 7, 56 Berry St
North Sydney 2065   

Sue Gartzman

2401 Jackson Ave.
Evanston, IL 60201
United States

Carol Kauder

CLK Consulting
3020 Carbon Place, Ste 202
Boulder, CO 80301
United States

Emilie Lucchesi

Self Employed           
615 Washington Blvd
Oak Park, IL 60302
United States

Keri MacNaughton

The Pert Group
270 Farmington Ave
Farmington, CT 06032
United States

Kathy Roman

1228 Erin Ct
Collegeville, PA 19426
United States

Steve Seidmon

Seidmon Associates
100 Church Street
New York, NY 10007
United States

Lauren St. George

244 Peters St, unit 1
Atlanta            , GA 30313
United States

Judith Wright

The Wright Group
1261 Lattie Lane
Mill Valley, CA 94941
United States