5 Tips to Boost Insights & Engagement in Qualitative Research

Qualitative research helps us understand the "why" behind opinions, beliefs and decisions of the target consumer. However, asking strangers to share emotional drivers and deeply held beliefs with one another is no easy task. That's why we are sharing some of our favorite activities and tips for qualitative research. We hope you give them a try!

1. Start with an ice-breaker. Warm-up activities and ice-breakers are important steps because they help the respondent feel comfortable enough to respond truthfully and include intimate details.

2. Be indirect.

Directly asking respondents questions about their preference for one product over another will only get you so far. Use a variety of methods and activities to get to the heart of the respondents' opinions. For example, start by directly addressing the question at hand, move on to a laddering activity where the moderator repeatedly probes respondents on the "why" (see Tip #4 below) and then move into a projective activity, such as a collage (See Tip #5 below).

3. Stay focused.

Design each section of the guide with an objective in mind and make sure the follow-up questions help respondents stay on track. For example, asking about bad experiences or soliciting negative feedback can turn a productive discussion into a gripe fest if the moderator doesn't ask the right follow-up questions. Asking respondents to come up with solutions to problems or identify very specific negative aspects are good strategies to avoid that particular pitfall.

4. Ask "why" without saying "why."

Asking "why" several times in a row can make a friendly interview feel more like an interrogation. Try to rephrase the question by saying, "Tell me more about that" or "That's interesting, explain your thought process there."

5. Incorporate activities.

Including activities helps keep the energy and engagement levels high and often yields some of the most insightful findings. Projective techniques allow researchers to get past the respondents' logical responses and emotional barriers in a way that allows respondents to open up and share attitudes, opinions and emotions that they would not have otherwise volunteered.

A few of our favorites are listed below:

Collages and Image Sorts

Collages and card sorts are common projective techniques that allow respondents to use imagery to express how they feel about a brand, product or concept. Asking respondents to create a collage for a brand or having respondents sort cards by which ones best match a product help tease out emotional subtext behind their opinions. Instruct the moderator to ask how the images are related to the topic and what those images signify for the respondent.

5 Tips to Boost Insights and Engagement in Qualitative Research

Imaginary World

Another way to break through the logic barrier with respondents is to ask them to describe a fantasy world in which the brand or product is at the very center. For example, how does "Apple Land" compare to "Droid Land" in terms of cell phones. Who lives there? What is the style of architecture? What is the primary export? How do its inhabitants have fun? Have the moderator ask the respondents what aspects of the brand or product lead them to those aspects and which land they like best.

5 Tips to Boost Insights and Engagement in Qualitative Research Party Personalities

A great way to have a fun and insightful discussion about category competitors is to determine which brands in the category the respondents are familiar with and then ask the respondents to personify these brands by describing them as guests at a party. Who is the life of the party? What are they drinking? Who is the most popular? Who is the wallflower? Instruct the moderator to ask the respondents who they would invite to their party and if that's the same brand or product that they are most likely to purchase.