the benefits of slow research


A little while ago I was invited to the launch event of boutique research agency Qual Street’s ‘Year in the life’ project. This was a year-long proactive piece of qualitative work where they spent lots of time with nine mums across London and Yorkshire who identified themselves as just about managing financially (JAM).

With the luxury of both lots of time and no client brief they were able to dig deeply into these women’s lives and came out with some great insights, not only about JAM mums, but about qualitative research itself:

– When you talk to people about an aspect of their life when they’re actually experiencing it they will provide different (probably more negative) feedback to when you ask them to look back on the same event, when their recall is rose tinted, reflecting how they want to see themselves and view the world. (This neatly fits with Daniel Kahneman’s work on the experiencing and remembering self)

– One methodology won’t suit all respondents. As well as home visits there was of course ‘homework’ to do throughout the year – some of the mums enjoyed making videos, others were good at keeping their online journal up to date and some preferred phone calls or taking photos. You can’t force respondents to do something they don’t want to, or to pay more than lipservice to it, but being flexible about the medium used can result in more detailed and honest feedback. Another reason why standard focus groups and pre-tasks aren’t always the right thing to do!

If you’re interested in the project and the resulting insight, you can find out more on the Qual Street website (and I believe that a dedicated microsite for A Year in the Life is on the way too) or hire the lovely Qual Street team for a workshop or presentation about JAM women focused on your area of interest.

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