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Better Online Qualitative with Agile Analysis

There are a few ways to get more from asynchronous online and mobile qualitative research: you can not only maximise participant engagement, but also the vividness and validity of their output, through the way you probe their answers.  You can also reduce risk by managing stakeholders effectively, (from your clients, to the recruiters, the platform and your colleagues).  But one of the main challenges, that can trip up even the most experienced offline qual researcher, is managing the analysis. 

It is particularly important to stay on top of analysis when working into agile digital workflows, which will become increasingly important, as more brand experiences (and therefore qual projects) become digital. Agile analysis means you get useful results to clients faster (often on ‘the next day’), without compromising validity.  This requires a more collaborative approach to analysis and reporting. 

Agile analysis is a particular challenge in asynchronous online qual, since you get so much feedback to process, compared to what you get from the same number of people in realtime qual groups.  For example, in one typical project with 24 people over 5 days, I got 150 000 words.  That’s based on each person giving me a full 2 hours of their time.  If you compare the time you’d get from them in 2hr webcam groups of 4, it’s more than 4 times as much feedback!  So how do you analyse and report on such vast swathes of data, in such small times?  Especially when it is an international multi-market project.  The solution is to build in consultancy time to analyse while you moderate. You work into a predefined analysis template that follows the structure of the discussion guide.  Constantly evolve the points in the document as you moderate, and substantiate them with selected verbatims.  This means clients can have ever-evolving reports from the previous day’s activity.  Work with trusted local partners in global projects and ensure they work into the same template, for the sake of consistency. 

Agile analysis and reporting is not so much about arguing a single truth (as traditional ‘linear’ qual reporting often does).  It’s also less about making the report look pretty.  Instead you may have to entertain multiple realities and work closely with the agency or client to make sense of them together. It is true to the agile spirit of ‘good enough’ is good enough. It means qual can stay relevant in the fast-paced world of agile sprints and digital development.   

To find out how to learn more about online and mobile qualitative, contact The Research Society Training Manager, Sue York at to learn more about options for live, on demand or in-house training.

By Tom Woodnutt

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