If you get the chance to grab the latest (Third Quarter 2014) edition of MRA’s ALERT! Magazine, check out the article, “Qual and Quant are Like Peanut Butter and Bananas not Oil and Water” by Jessica Broome, Ph.D. In the article, Jessica does a great job articulating why researchers should be looking to blend qualitative and quantitative methods and how these methods can work together to better meet clients’ needs.
We, here at Dialsmith, are firmly in Jessica’s camp on the value of the blended approach, and, in many cases, our Perception Analyzer tools are used by researchers to facilitate this by gathering real time quantitative data that then drives deeper, more meaningful qualitative discussions in live focus group settings. Given Jessica’s perspective and impressive credentials, we were hoping to chat with her about some topics of interest to our clients and readers. She was kind enough to comply. Here are the highlights from our chat:
Q: As a bit of background, can you tell us briefly about the type of research you do and clients you work with?
Jessica: Absolutely everything! I am content agnostic and methodology agnostic, so I’ve done everything from hard core qual to hard core quant, from ethnographies and shop-alongs to large-scale quantitative surveys. As for my clients, they are all over the map. In the past month I’ve worked with two major pharmaceutical companies, a bakery started by a mom in Florida, a clothing retailer, a Caribbean lottery organization, and a huge international aid organization. And I try to keep one toe in the academic waters, so sometimes I’m doing methodological work for peer-reviewed journals. My work is very diverse and never boring.
Q: In your MRA article, you laud research approaches that blend qual and quant. What words of caution do you offer researchers who choose to not embrace this blended approach?
Jessica: You need to manage client expectations around the findings and what can be done with them. I’ve had clients who wanted to do two focus groups and pitch the findings to major media outlets, or recommend huge business decisions based on the results. On the flip side, I’ve had clients who tried to tell very interpretive, qualitative stories using only quantitative data. I like to give clients, especially if they’re not very experienced with research, sample qual findings and sample quant before we even start the fieldwork, or sometimes even in the proposal stage—just so they know what they’re in for.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve run into when trying to blend qual and quant?
Jessica: Clients with limited resources sometimes find it hard to swallow the cost and the time commitment of a multi-phase research project. You really have to sell them on the value of both components separately—and the value of both together. I call it the “whole is greater than the sum of the parts” argument. And occasionally I’ll run into researchers who are staunchly on one side of the qual/quant divide—qual people who think that “numbers are scary” or quant researchers who say that, “qual is too loosey-goosey”—but that seems to happen less and less, thankfully.
Q: Do online methodologies lend themselves to supporting this blended approach more than offline and if so, why?
Jessica: Not necessarily. Online hybrid methodologies are amazing, and they can definitely be a quick and cost-effective way to get qual and quant findings in one fell swoop. But I still love doing old-school, in-person qual to inform design of or support findings from phone or in-person surveys. There are benefits to in-person qual that you’ll never get online. It definitely requires a lot more patience, but even in today’s “I want it now!” environment I try to hold on to my grandfather’s advice that “anything worth doing is worth spending time on.”
Q: Are there specific methods or tools with which you have experience that help facilitate the use of this type of blended approach?
Jessica: My first experience with an online qual/quant hybrid was Stratalys’ tool Q2 back when I worked for PR agencies. We would do two groups one evening, write up the results overnight, and send the account team in to pitch a client in the morning. It was crazy! And it was enough to send an account team in with a well-informed pitch. For most of the clients I have these days, I’d probably recommend a few more groups, but it’s still a good way to try out a blended approach. I’m also a fan of discuss.io —you can do a few online video interviews in the morning and get results to your clients in the afternoon. It really speeds up the qual process, and sometimes that’s necessary.
Q: Have you had experience using moment-to-moment in your research and if so, can you talk about the type of project(s) you’ve used it with?
Jessica: Unfortunately, no—I haven’t had an opportunity to do moment-to-moment, though I’ve certainly pitched it to numerous clients! I could absolutely see it being a great springboard for a qual/quant approach, and a quick one at that. I’m hoping to have a few clients buy into the idea this year!