May 142014

Guest Post by Ilka Kuhagen, Co-founder of Think Global Qualitative and founder of IKM, see her LinkedIn profile by clicking here.

The QRCA Global Outreach Scholarship is a wonderful opportunity for qualitative researchers outside the US, UK and Canada to experience a QRCA annual conference. One Scholarship is awarded to a qualitative researcher in the early stages of their career, while the second is for a more senior practitioner who is well established in the industry.

This year’s recipients will have the opportunity to come to New Orleans from 15-17th October 2014.

QRCA is currently seeking candidates for two 2014 Global Outreach Scholarships:

  • The Foundation Scholarship is awarded to a qualitative researcher who is relatively new to qualitative research, but is already establishing a career path in this field. For instance, they should have developed some experience of moderating group discussions and IDI’s and of analysing the results.
  • The Advanced Scholarship is intended for a qualitative researcher who is already well established in their career, but wants to expand and deepen their knowledge of methods and techniques, and to maximize the value of the projects that they plan and execute for their clients.

The Scholarships cover the cost of conference registration (valued at up to US$1,425) and offer up to US$1,000 to cover travel expenses to the conference. QRCA’s Annual Conference provides exposure to the latest in qualitative thinking and techniques, and is an invaluable opportunity for international qualitative researchers to extend their network of contacts around the world. In addition the recipients are given free QRCA membership for the remainder of 2014 if they are not already members.

Full information about the Scholarships, including specific details about the qualifying criteria and application process, is available at or can be obtained from Darrin Hubbard at The closing date for applications is Friday 30 May 2013.

Full information is available on QRCA’s website at – The form to apply can be downloaded by clicking here.

On the website you can also watch the video (short version or in full length) with the two winners from 2013 by clicking here.


Jan 072014

As part of the book on mobile market research that Sue York, Navin Williams and I are writing we need to give an overview of mobile qual, before going into depth. Do you think the image below helps?


  • What are we missing?
  • What would you change?
  • What about the titles for the segments?

By WE-research we mean projects where participants are recruited to capture a variety of qualitative data about their lives. They might be asked to capture images of waste, or videos of travel problems, or audio comments about the school run, for example. The term WE-research was introduced by Mark Earls and John Kearnon a few years ago. But, do you have a better term for this type of research?

We are planning on three chapters on qualitative research, indeed we have written three chapters, an overview which covers all four segments above, followed by chapters specifically on the top two segments. Our view on techniques like passive tracking, Google Glass etc is that there is simply not enough material yet to have a chapter on it, there is too little experience around.

If you’d like to help by reviewing one or more of these three chapters, please email – we’ll acknowledge you contribution in the book :-)

Jul 052013

As I have mentioned before, I am involved in writing a book on mobile market research, with Navin Williams and Sue York. As part of that process we will be posting elements of our thinking and snippets of the book to NewMR in order to crowd-source improvements. Here is one such snippet, it is the first page of a chapter on mobile qualitative research. We would love to hear your thoughts.

Mobile Specific Qualitative Research
This chapter looks at qualitative market research techniques that have been created by, or heavily impacted by, the arrival and utilisation of mobile devices. A separate chapter looks at how mobile devices are being incorporated into other, more traditional, forms of qualitative research (for example, in online focus groups and discussions, or in connection with face-to-face qualitative approaches).

Topics covered in this chapter include:

  • Mobile ethnography: where participants captures slices of their lives, or the lives of people around them, as an input to an ethnographic analysis.
  • Mobile diaries: where participants record their activity in relation to a specific topic, for example during the purchase of a mortgage, or whilst on a journey.
  • Triggered recording: where participants record their interactions with some external factor, for example, every time they see and advert for a particular category.
  • Qualitative tracking: This approach uses passive tracking, i.e. the phone uses its features and sensors to record where the participants go, what they do, etc; without any moment-to-moment intervention from the participants. These traces are then reviewed by the researcher as an input to their qualitative analysis.

To some extent, some of these approaches show a degree of overlap. For example, in mobile ethnography, mobile diaries, and triggered recording a participant might be asked to create a message when a specific event happens, they might be asked to take a photo or record a video, or to record how they feel. The difference tends to be the balance between the activities, the reason for the research, and how the research will be analysed. For example, in a mobile diary project the participants’ descriptions may be the key deliverable, in an ethnography it is the analysis and write-up that is the key element of the project.

Several of these mobile qualitative approaches use data collection methods that are similar to mobile quantitative techniques. For example, qualitative mobile diaries might be used to follow 20 participants, capturing their thoughts and experiences in relation to some activity, such as every time they have a drink during the day, capturing open-ended comments and images. A quantitative mobile diary study might be based on 400 participants and be based on the answers to closed questions, captured every time the participants drink something. Similarly, qualitative tracking might look at twelve people for several days, and the analysis might include sitting with the participants and reviewing the trace information to build a rich picture what has happened. A quantitative project might be based on 600 people and the analysis based on using software to find patterns in the data, e.g. sequences of actions, or typical routes.

This chapter reviews each of these approaches, providing practical advice, case studies, and methodological notes.


  1. I would love to hear from people with case studies they would like to share, either in the book or on our mobile resources page.
  2. Is mobile specific qualitative research a suitable term for this collection of approaches?
  3. Would you add any techniques to this list?
  4. Would you change the names of any of these four approaches?
  5. Do the first three really constitute three different approaches, or would they be better rolled into a single item?

Jun 122013

Earlier this month, NewMR held its first Explode-A-Myth session (find the recordings by clicking here) and my contribution was a discussion why there is no method that is a melange of qual and quant, because the underlying paradigms are different.

Through the Q&A session at that event, and in particular a question from Betsy Leichliter, I gained a clearer understanding of the core difference between qual and quant. Betsy asked “So should the ‘qual’ or ‘quant’ labels be driven by the method of analysis, not necessarily the method of “data collection”?”. I think this question from Betsy is the best answer to the question about what is the difference between qual and quant I have seen.

Within reason, any data can be assessed quantitatively or qualitatively. Of course, there are some limits to both approaches. A very small amount of data is likely to produce findings that are hard to generalise. We can count the sales of brand X, in one store, on one day, but it is hard to draw any inferences about the world from that. Similarly, ten-thousand open-ended responses could only be assessed qualitatively with a large team, or a large amount of time.

The quantitative approach is based on an assumption that there is a ‘real’ world, which we can measure objectively (or, at least, that we can get fairly close to that ideal). The underlying beliefs are a) it is the method that provides the results (different researchers should provide the same answer if they use the same method on the same data), and b) that the researcher is discovering and reporting something that exists.

The qualitative approach, as it has developed over the past thirty years, is based (for most researchers) on a constructionist paradigm (there are several different models, but they all tend to be constructionist). The researcher does not discover truths, the researcher creates a narrative that provides useful insight into what is happening. The researcher is part of the analysis, different researchers will provide different narratives, and the value of the narrative depends on the ability of the researcher to observe what is happening, to synthesise an analysis, and to create a narrative that conveys something useful to the end client.

The key difference between quant and qual is the difference between discovering and creating, overlaid with ritual of using numbers for quant and words for qual.

Apr 132013

As mentioned before (here and here), Navin William, Reg Baker, and I are producing a mobile marketing research module for the University of Georgia’s Principles of Marketing Research course. I have bounced some ideas off the readers of this blog, and here is another topic where I’d love to hear your views.

Some of the most interesting work, to date, in terms of MMR (mobile market research) has been in the area of qualitative research and this is a key point for students of MMR to be aware of.

The key areas of qualitative MMR:
My feeling is that the key uses of mobile in qualitative research are:

  1. Smartphone Ethnography, recruiting participants to capture slices of the own lives and the lives of people around them to produce ethnographic data and in some cases to engage citizens in mass or auto ethnography.
  2. Mobile blogging, where participants use their mobile device (which can be as basic as SMS) to record or comment on some aspect of their lives. This can also include asking the participants to record their own vox pops.
  3. Mobile focus groups, where participants can use a mobile device to take part in focus groups. At one extreme this means voice only, at the other end it can mean using a web-enabled tablet to show all the participants on the screen, with full audio-visual connectivity.
  4. Discussions, allowing participants to take part in asynchronous discussions from their mobile devices, typically via internet access.
  5. Homework, where the participant is sent tasks via their mobile device, often in advance of a discussion, and often including the participants using their mobile devices to capture artefacts (e.g. pictures of your pantry).
  6. Tracking, where a small number of participants agree to be tracked for a period of time, for example 24 hours or a week, and the researcher uses the participant’s mobile device (typically a smartphone) to record some or all of: location, internet usage, voice calls, when and how the phone used (e.g. to check time of day), who the phone contacted (e.g. Bluetooth and WiFi), and much more. Qualitative tracking is based on looking in-depth at traces, often in conjunction with the participant themselves to gain insight into what is revealed by the data.
  7. As a tool in a qualitative session, for example tablets can be used in focus groups or in a one-on-one interviews, to show images and video, and to allow the participant to access materials and respond, for example by sorting items or creating pictures.

In addition, mobile devices are used to organise and coordinate qualitative activities, ensuring people receive instructions, helping them find locations, and generally communicating with participants. Also, mobile devices are often used with insight communities as part of the overall method of communication with members, for qual, quant, and administrative purposes.

What do you think? Have I missed some important areas? Are some of my items marginal?

Jan 072013

Market research is being deluged with new sources of data, from social media, from electronic communications, and from research communities. Whilst some of this information is suitable for quantitative analysis, large parts of it are unstructured, for example tweets, posts, comments, and uploads. Whilst this data presents an interesting opportunity for market research, it presents a sequence of inter-connected problems and challenges:

  1. Many of the market researchers who are most proficient with unstructured data, the qualitative researchers, are not instinctively drawn towards online data, preferring to deal with people in a face-to-face environment.
  2. Many of the researchers most attracted to large amounts of online data, the hard core quantitative researchers, have little appreciation of the different epistemologies of quantitative and qualitative research.
  3. Many of the software vendors, perhaps in a rush to market, have released products before they were really ready and with massive over-claims.

In order for market research to fully leverage the potential benefits of the discourses being generated, market research needs to address the qualitative deficit. The qualitative deficit is the shortage of talent, software, and approaches designed to utilise massive amounts of qualitative data.

Some of the new approaches and skillsets that are needed relate to the process of quantifying messages within discourses – Google’s Flu Trends being a straightforward example (where Google use phrases that indicate people are searching for flu remedies to quantify the incidence of flu). This use of unstructured data will be of value in areas such as brand and ad tracking.

However, the bigger deficit relates to taking qualitative information and extracting qualitative findings. In online discussions the meaning is often unrelated to the frequency of words and phrases, the meaning rests in the structure of the conversation and the outcomes of the conversation. Feedback for product design, the identification of opportunities, core reasons for product dissatisfaction are likely to be found in the meaning of discourses, as opposed to counts of terms and phrases.

Whilst part of the answer will be new software, my feeling is that research urgently needs to expand the number of researchers with a good understanding of qualitative methods and epistemology.