Alex Culshaw on handling common pitfalls in qual research

Alex Culshaw, head of qualitative research at SparkMR, joined our podcast to discuss several things with us: three common pitfalls of qualitative research and how to handle them, as well as a few tricks for accessing human truths in online qual research.

We started out the episode by delving a little bit into Alex’s various experiences in the industry, as well as some of the trends, challenges and opportunities he’s seeing in the industry. Then the conversation turned to the pitfalls - and how to handle them, summarized below.


Pitfall 1: Activity Creep

The first pitfall Alex highlighted is what's commonly known as "activity creep." This occurs when clients expand the research brief, adding more questions or tasks to the study. While the pursuit of comprehensive data is understandable, it can lead to an overwhelming workload for respondents. To tackle this challenge, Alex emphasized the need for effective client management skills right from the outset.

"Managing client expectations is crucial," he explained. "We need to set clear boundaries and communicate the importance of a focused research brief. When clients have additional questions, we should find creative ways to answer them without overwhelming the community."

In essence, striking a balance between meeting client demands and respecting respondents' time and effort is key to preventing activity creep. Successful client management, in this context, not only ensures the research stays on track but also fosters a positive and productive relationship between all parties involved.

Pitfall 2: Insights Misalignment

The second pitfall pertains to insights not hitting the mark. In some cases, early insights might not be framed correctly or may not align with the client's needs and objectives. To address this issue, Alex recommended the practice of piloting discussions and tasks with respondents.

"By involving respondents in the process early on," he stated, "we can fine-tune the research to ensure that the insights generated align with what the client truly seeks."

Furthermore, Alex emphasized the importance of understanding the value exchange for community members beyond research objectives. Building a meaningful rapport with respondents and facilitating a value-driven exchange can lead to more profound and actionable insights.

Pitfall 3: The "Insights Avalanche"

The third pitfall, termed the "insights avalanche," occurs when a community generates a large volume of data, overwhelming researchers. To tackle this challenge, Alex recommended having the right resources and a practical framework in place.

"Frameworks help in organizing and summarizing information effectively," he explained. "They don't have to be overly complex; even simple frameworks can make a significant difference in managing insights."

Frameworks serve as a structured approach to handling the volume of data generated by an online qualitative research community. They ensure that valuable insights are not lost in the avalanche of information and help researchers identify patterns and trends efficiently.

Alex also touches on how easy it can be to lose the human element from our work, especially for technology focused companies. While technology can certainly expedite processes, it can't replace the fundamental qualities that make us human, such as creativity, curiosity, and the ability to establish genuine connections with respondents. Striking a balance between leveraging technology and retaining these innate human traits is pivotal for successful research endeavors. 

He talks about "human truths", focusing on understanding the behaviors, attitudes, stories, and narratives of both researchers and consumers. This approach encourages a deeper connection on a human level and an exploration of authentic human behaviors while nurturing the imagination. Furthermore, the conversation advocates for a creative approach that extends beyond a single type of activity or question line. Effective question framing, piloting discussions with respondents, and ensuring clarity and conciseness are key. The ultimate goal is to generate valuable outputs that benefit clients, including videos, maps, and other insightful findings. 


We encourage you to listen to our detailed discussion on your favorite podcast platform!

No Comments Yet

Let us know what you think

Subscribe by email