Maximize Your Research Experience

Deciding who should participate

In addition to specific demographic, product/brand usage, and attitudinal criteria related to the research topic, experienced consultants may also consider the following issues, especially for focus group participants:

  • Select individuals from households or businesses that truly represent the target market.
  • Seek out persons who are articulate and forthcoming about their own experiences and opinions.
  • Discuss the issue of past participation with clients and recruiters, and set limits appropriate to your topic and objectives.
  • Exclude anyone suspected of not being truthful about his or her qualifications.

Choosing the setting

Weigh the advantages and limitations of each medium or venue.

In person - Maximizes opportunities for researchers and clients to observe and interpret non-verbal communication; easiest format for using visual and/or tactile stimuli (e.g., storyboards, prototypes, packaging); preserves the highest degree of control over who actually shows up and participates.

Telephone - Reduces or eliminates certain logistical barriers making it easier to attain geographic dispersion, reach busy people, include the homebound. This medium can also elicit more candor if respondents feel anonymous. However, it does lacks non-verbal cues of face-to-face interaction.

Online – Offers access to respondents who would or could not participate in person; has no geographic limits; offers potential for more candid responses; has voice and visual contact in some applications; excludes respondents without Internet access.

Deciding how much qualitative research is enough

Experienced qualitative research consultants will often advise conducting at least two focus group sessions and/or a minimum number of interviews with each key market segment (defined geographically, demographically, user type, etc.). The appropriate amount of research will depend on the range of issues to be covered, and the number and nature of respondent segments to be included.

Executing the research

Generally, a qualitative research project includes the following steps:

  • Finalize the project design, schedule, and budget
  • Arrange recruiting and reserve facilities
  • Develop screening questionnaire(s) and field instructions
  • Monitor recruiting progress and check respondent profiles
  • Develop discussion guide(s) and any stimuli to be used in the research
  • Conduct the interviews, group discussions, observational sessions, etc.
  • Debrief with client(s), possibly at intervals during the research
  • Analyze results and prepare deliverables as previously agreed
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