Creative Qualitative Approaches: A QRCA Conference Overview

This year's QRCA conference challenged us to think beyond the standard bounds of qualitative research approaches to dig deeper and elevate findings. Most qualitative research looks like this: the moderator asks a question, the participants provide an answer. While this traditional dialogue format will always be the foundation for qualitative research, I was reminded that we are rewarded with richer information when we are creative and open-minded in our sessions.

Beyond the Verbal

The nature of qualitative research is centered around conversation and observation, allowing us almost unrestricted access to information we could never get from quantitative surveys. But sometimes, simple question and answer style sessions don't yield the rich insights we need. When this happens, we need to facilitate an environment that allows participants to tap deeper into their thoughts and beliefs. How do we do that?

Projectives are an excellent solution. Projectives are creative exercises that can be done in a focus group, interview, or as pre-work prior to a research session. Top techniques, as taught by Steve Kalter of Acumen Marketing Research, allow participants to more effectively communicate their deep emotions and attitudes around a topic, which they often cannot articulate verbally. Some of our favorites he mentioned are collaging, which are often used for comparison topics, and using visual cards or pictures to describe a brand or association. We even use these techniques in our ideation and co-creation workshops, as suggested by Petra Viskova and Hana Klouckova of CONFESS Research.

Not only are projectives more engaging and fun for everyone involved, but they allow participants to think with their creative side rather than their logical side. Projectives are a springboard that allow us to explore deeper into the sub-conscious.

Going Deeper by Stepping Back

When looking through behavioral data, we sometimes see interesting or even confusing patterns that the data itself cannot explain. To fill in the information-gap, we need to hear from that person directly what was going on to explain what we're seeing in the data. But oftentimes, the participant's memory prevents them from remembering exactly why something happened, and we're left not knowing the whys behind the action. It's understandable: it's simply impossible for us to remember every detail of our past interaction with an app, product, or service.

To overcome the memory barrier, we can use a visual timeline of a participant's interaction with a product or service during the qualitative sessions. As Alice Greene of Campos Research Strategy taught us, using visualizations of their behavioral data allows participants to speak about particular moments in time. The moderator can transport the participant back in time to explore the entire context surrounding an action (or inaction). Participants can take us through their product journey, without missing any of the details.

Without a visualization to refer to, we are usually left with overly general information from participants. But when we use visualizations in the sessions, it overcomes the memory recall barrier and allows participants to communicate their experience in more vivid detail.

Creative Design

As the QRCA conference reinforced, bringing creativity and open-mindedness to exercises in our qualitative research yields vibrant findings that would be left undiscovered if done the complete old-fashioned way. Creative design, along with rigorous execution and enduring insights, is part of our core mission here at Murphy Research and is an area we always strive to improve.