I recently attended a course at the MRS on qualitative research analysis. The course was conducted by Kevin Stanfield from Substance QI. The aim of the session was to learn new techniques on how to synthesize data collected during fieldwork, give the data substance and finally present it in a way that answers the brief of the client.
The day was broken down into five sessions.
A. The role of qualitative analysis: there are 4 drivers which help analysis;
1. Context – recruitment, structure of the project, where the discussion/focus group is happening and how is the material presented (if any)
2. Tools – the physical mechanics
3. Process – filtering and synthesis (different techniques which can be used, now there is a lot of digital help)
4. Reporting – it is important to answer the brief, knowing the audience, PowerPoint (due to its accessibility) is the norm but it is not an obligation.
Qualitative research is not an exact science there is room for interpretation, which is why the researcher needs to be experienced for the client to trust their analysis.
The benefits of qualitative study include the depth of knowledge gained and the reliable (though subjective) output. Qualitative study can be robust as long as analysis has been done thoroughly and objectively, it is sometimes the stage that is neglected due to time constrains and need for quick answer.
During the session we did a number of group exercises; one of them required 3 participants,, a respondent, a moderator and an observer. Each group role played 3, 5 minute ‘focus groups’ allowing each participant to act in the 3 roles on 3 different subject. We then had to present the findings with the other people who had observed that subject in order to answer the research questions.
1 – The context is the story behind the event. Without context a brief can be interpreted completely differently. There are factors of influence to take into account: social, special, cultural, character and financial. All parts of the study have an impact on the analysis from the objectives set, the methodology, the recruitment criteria, the questioning techniques and stimulus material.
A tip which Kevin gave us was use your senses … and do not believe everything you hear, especially when reading a transcript as you lose the tone and body language speech can be misinterpreted.
2 – Process and Mechanics. Thanks to advances in technology we can now collect very large amounts of data, this doesn’t necessarily mean that we get more insight but requires the researcher to sift through more data. When collecting data there are 3 key points to get the most out of participants: inject energy, help articulate and go beyond the spoken words. Researchers can also task participants with some “work” before or during the session, this can be taking pictures, writing a diary, playing games etc., these create involvement.
3 – Filtering and Synthesis. True analysis is a combination of what was said (content), how it was said (behaviour) and why it was said (motivational). The synthesis stage of the research used to take a very long time before the use of digital tools, following synthesis the analysis would be done with the use of a grid. These methods have been replaced by digital tools, however there is still the need for verbatim analysis.
Kevin presented a 5 step frame:
Source: Kevin Stanfield, Substance QI
4 – Reporting. The medium you use to report is very important, it depends on the audience and what the results of the research will be used for. Whichever you choose needs to create impact and be clear. The use of a model or graphics can be clearer than many words (as long as it is the right one).
A further point to remember is that a presentation is not a report. A presentation should be free of long text, what the researcher adds is what makes the presentation “come to life”, the slides are just there as a visual.
The final point that Kevin taught us is that 3 is the magic number! The brain finds it easier to understand “threes”. ‘3’ is a powerful tool in the insight word, you should try to stick to 3 main key findings, 3 key items in the conclusion and 3 key recommendations because businesses can only have so many priorities.