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Beginner Tips for Online Qualitative Research

If you talked to Betsy Hoag and Katerina Makatouni of Chicago-based Kairos Consumers, you’d assume they’re old pros when it comes to online qualitative research. The truth is, though, they did their first project just this year. How did they go from novice to pro so quickly? By following these tips:

Spend time understanding the software. When Betsy and Katerina knew they’d be doing an online qualitative research project soon, they signed up for as many 20|20 Research webinars as their schedules could handle. “We wanted to learn all aspects of the features that were offered,” Betsy explains. “We also needed to learn how to sell the technology to our clients.”

Build in time for bumps in the road. This should go without saying: Don’t wait until the last minute to upload your discussion guide and supporting files. Have those materials ready a few days in advance so you have time to make sure they’re working correctly. If they’re not, ask for help – we are available 24 hours if you need us.

Take advantage of the bells and whistles. When it comes to 20|20 Research’s suite of online research software, there are a lot of features that can enhance the research and analysis process – but they might be daunting to a beginner. “There’s a wealth of analysis tools on QualBoard, but you worry that you won’t be able to use them correctly the first time,” Betsy says. But it’s important to learn them: They’re not only going to help you organize and analyze your findings in time, but they can help you differentiate yourself and sell the value of the technology to your client. Betsy and Katerina say they played around with the software quite a bit. “Before our first project started, we had really gotten a feel for how to mask questions, why it might be helpful to mask a questions and how to use the tagging and grouping functions,” Betsy explains.

Engage clients early. If you’re new to online qualitative research, it’s possible your client is, too. To get buy-in, it’s important to engage them early in the process. “Get their input for the discussion guide and make sure they’re online at some point to see some of the responses unfold in real time,” Betsy says. Cost is usually enough, but when they see the wealth and depth of content created by a bulletin board focus group, they’ll be sold, she says.

Probe for follow-up (but not too much). Like with an in-person focus group, it’s often important to probe participants for more information. “But remember not to get carried away,” Betsy says. “If you ask too many follow-up questions, it’s possible your participants will start answering more conservatively because they don’t want to have to explain themselves after every response.”

Go over your discussion guide each night. This might be a hard concept for someone who’s never done a bulletin board focus group, but Betsy and Katerina remind beginners that when it comes to online qualitative research, strategy and discussion guide development is ongoing. “Every night when the boards are closed you should be spending some time going over the day’s responses and tweaking the discussion guide as necessary,” she says.