Discussion guides are a key part of ensuring your qualitative projects meet the needs of your clients, whether it's a focus group, and ethnography, or an online bulletin board. Putting the time and effort into crafting an intelligent discussion guide can sometimes be a daunting task. Two hours may seem like a long time to fill, but following these steps will help you create a discussion guide that will lead to powerful insights for your clients:
1. Release your creative mind!
As you settle into writing your discussion guide, give yourself the freedom to write and record whatever comes to mind. Don't worry right now whether these are the best questions for that particular objective, you can fine-tune and further craft your guide later on. If you have an idea for how to get at something, write it down and go for it! You'll have time to perfect the guide later on in the process.
2. Use the research objectives as your guiding principles and the foundation of your guide
The most important part of any research project is answering your client's questions, so make sure those are the unifying principles of your guide. Brainstorm questions that you predict could lead to answering those objectives and allow the questions to be broad and abstract.
3. Start with the big picture and move into the smaller details
Once you have your broader questions, you will naturally hone into the specifics of that topic to cover all the details. Focus on one particular part of the guide at a time to hone in on the more specific, detail-orientated questions (but remember if you have a great idea for something else, write it down so you don't forget!).
4. Imagine yourself in a discussion with someone to help envision the conversation flowing naturally
Qualitative research sessions are much smoother when the conversation and activities flow effortlessly among participants and the moderator; having a well-organized guide is the key to ensuring this will happen. Structure your guides by strategically placing questions in an organized and logical manner that allows conversation to flow naturally. If you have difficulty with the organization, envision that you are talking to someone else about this topic. What would make the most sense to go after this question? How can I transition us into this next subject? Follow where your mind goes.
5. Consider using activities as another means to understand participants' underlying motivations and preferences
Part of our responsibility as market researchers is understanding preferences and motivations when even the consumer doesn't know! Trying methods like sorting exercises is an excellent way to get at those underlying thoughts that consumers may not be able to articulate. Additionally, activities help break up the conversation that can often go stale and are more stimulating for participants.
Stay tuned for more market research tips coming in the following weeks!