There may be no worse feeling than after weeks of thoughtfully planning a qualitative study to have something go terribly wrong once you get there. There are so many unexpected factors that can derail qualitative research – respondents don't show up, flight cancellations, last minute moderator cancellation, etc. Here are some tips that you can integrate into your planning to ensure disaster won't strike your next qualitative project.
Look for intruders: Take the opportunity to carefully screen and rescreen participants to make sure they qualify and will provide good insights through their interview. As you're rescreening, be sure to check for the following:
- Change of answers. Their answers during the rescreen should match that from the initial screening. It's a red flag if their answers have changed.
- Soft spoken. Make sure you can hear/understand the respondent clearly. Their insights aren't helpful if you can't hear them!
- Overpowering voice. Make sure they know how to listen as well as speak. Try to have a conversation with them to ensure they don't just want to listen to their own voice.
Be aware of your surroundings: If you're doing any in-person research (focus groups, in-homes, shop-alongs), but sure to explore where the research will be taking place. If a focus group facility is unresponsive and not providing regular updates, that is a red flag! If you're going to someone's home or doing a shop-along for an interview, look up the area on Google Earth to make sure it's safe.
Over-communicate plans: During the planning phase, make sure you find out how many clients will be attending, who they are, and their roles. Particularly for in-homes or when clients will be directly interacting with respondents, set any expectations ahead of time in regards to how they should introduce themselves, their roles during the research, dress code, when they can ask questions, etc.
Have a strong supporting team: In any qualitative research, having an engaged and experienced moderator is crucial to getting quality insights. Make sure you select a moderator that will do their homework, come prepared, and know how to ask the right questions to get the information you need.
Have a back-up plan: Even if you do all of the above, there are still things that can go wrong – your moderator could get sick, flights can get cancelled due to weather, respondents don't show up, etc. Try to think through everything that could go wrong in your plans. Have an extra travel day built in between groups when possible. Send someone from the team that can moderate if the moderator can't. Over-recruit to allow for no-shows. You can never be over-prepared!