Research Design Structure Suggested

As researchers we are being called on more and more often to think of different methods for crafting our research design to carefully fit marketing needs and overall research objectives.  With the explosion of available tools and the resulting fragmentation of methods, choosing a research design is getting more and more complex and more and more powerful.  One result of this explosion of methods is our need as researchers to think holistically about research so we can apply it effectively.

The following blog article by Caryn Goldsmith provides an interesting structure for considering different types of research.  The article generated quite a few comments.  For the article and the comments, go to;

Paradigm Shift: Trends in Market Research

Published July 30, 2009 14 Comments

I’m a consumer advocate.  To advocate for them – to give them voice in the business decision-making process – I must know the best ways to learn from them.

As new techniques are developed, I can embrace them, refine them, reject them, or even create something else that will work better for my clients.  I want a large arsenal of effective tools.  And, when needed, I want to be able to combine approaches to address the client’s objectives in the best way possible.


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Are you lying to me?

Susan Abbott points out that people who are lying often can’t be caught by body language but are usually given away by their words, usually they way they tell a story. 

Drawing from Judging Honesty by Words, Not Fidgets, by Benedict Carey, Susan presents the debunks the following myths about liars.  

  • Liars do not avert their eyes more than people telling the truth
  • Liars do not fidget, sweat or slump more than truth-tellers
  • There are fleeting changes in expression, but these are difficult to analyze

In addition, she presents the following truths:

  • People who are lying tend to try to stick to a script, to avoid getting caught in a lie.
  • People telling the truth don’t have a script, so they tend to recall more extraneous details, and make mistakes. And the more they talk about a given experience, the more of these details come to mind.

Paying close attention to words is just as important as nonverbal behaviour to truly understand the truth contained in the research.

Susan’s blog, “Customer Experience Crossroads” can be found at

NSF speaks on qualitative research

Rarely do you find an academic science foundation producing a serious paper on qualitative research.  While browsing the internet, I came across a paper that the National Science Foundation published following a 2003 workshop.  The paper titled “Workshop on Scientific Foundations of Qualitative Research” is an academic paper that laid out a roadmap for the NSF to begin awarding grants for qualitative research. 

The paper is not terribly long. The actual paper is only about 10 pages though the appendix balloons the entire document to 147.  As a practitioner, I found it somewhat helpful if I applied a “qualitative” eye to it as I read.  For me, I gained the most by keeping the question, “How might this concept be applied to my practice?” rather than reading it for literal knowledge. 

Here is the link to the entire paper

Click the link below to read two paragraphs from the paper’s Executive Summary about the organization of the paper.

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A Strategist’s Case for Qualitative Research

As qualitative researchers we sometimes “know” we are getting the answers but we don’t have the statistical precision of a quant methodologist to prove our point.  Subjective arguments just don’t carry the same gravitas as objective, quantitative ones.  With that frustration in mind, I have lifted a portion of a post by Victoria Else from her blog, “Behind the Two Way Mirror.”  The entire post can be found at


The mirage of quantitative messaging

So here’s my plea. First, if you haven’t already, read The Black Swan; it’s both necessary and delightful. Second, ask yourself some serious questions about quantitative research. It may be–heresy though this is–that qualitative is nearly always a much better basis for the development of marketing messages.

I am not completely anti-quant. Segmentation and behavioral models can lift your results if they are narrative-free (i.e., reflect no assumptions), easy to validate in real-time, and frequently refreshed. However, quantitative messaging studies over-complicate and even distort our understanding of human attitudes and behaviors.

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Case Study: Logitech uses qual to go beyond analytics

In advance of the Web Strategy Summit coming up May 4-5 in Calgary, Matthew Nish-Lapidus sat down with one of the presenters, Dianne Howie to get a preview of her presentation.  In this interview, she shows how Logitech used qualitative research to dig deeper into issues highlighted by Logitech’s web analytics and how the qualiative actually allowed Logitech to identify and solve specific consumer problems. 

2009 Web Strategy Summit – A word with Dianne Howie

by Matthew Nish-Lapidus
April 1, 2009

At the upcoming Web Strategy Summit Dianne Howie and Heather Searl will speak about the role of research in their session “Going Beyond Web Analytics to Dig into the Minds of Your Users.” I was lucky enough to get a few minutes of Dianne’s time to ask her a few questions about her session.

Matt: In your Web Strategy Summit session you are going to talk about using qualitative research to back up web analytics quantitative data. When was the first time you used this technique, and what kind of benefits have you seen?

Dianne: Both Heather and I have used qualitative research for years. The Logitech remote controls division began using qualitative research web research when Heather joined the company in 2006. Logitech’s Harmony remote controls have web based setup software, allowing the company to collect a lot of quantitative data including: the time to set up devices, which pages they visited, and where people quit the setup process. Previous projects had tried to improve the setup process based on this information, but it didn’t work was well as they hoped. In addition, the quantitative data and marketing data didn’t match. They had high return rates. They could tell when a returned remote wasn’t fully set up and where people dropped off. But that wasn’t enough to know how to improve the design.

It makes a world of difference to see someone struggling with the setup process in person. You see things that could never be revealed by web analytics. For example, people tried to use the remote with the (very realistic) store sticker still on top of the LCD display. It wasn’t obvious that the sticker had to be peeled off! Another example… People didn’t know where to look on their devices for the model numbers. Just providing some simple tips and pictures during the setup made a huge difference.

The qualitative research made a compelling case to get the funding to do redesign of the setup process properly. Videos from visits made the points well: for example one person spent 12 minutes going around and around trying to fix a mistake and not understanding what he had done wrong. After applying the findings from the qualitative research, Logitech measured significant improvements in customer satisfaction for remote setup.

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YouTube for academic-minded quallies

This paper from the Weekly Qualitative Report is specifically produced by academics for academics.  However, if you are interested in finding qualitative material in video format on YouTube, this paper has done the work for you.  The authors searched YouTube for qualitative related videos, reviewed them and provided them in this paper with a synopsis and a link.  You may find it useful.  Here is the article abstract:

YouTube, the video hosting service, offers students, teachers, and practitioners of qualitative researchers a unique reservoir of video clips introducing basic qualitative research concepts, sharing qualitative data from interviews and field observations, and presenting completed research studies. This web-based site also affords qualitative researchers the potential avenue to share their reusable learning resources for all interested parties to use.

You can go directly to the paper at: 

The importance of unlearning

At the end of a very good article that defines the ever-elusive “insights” that we seek as qualitative researchers, is an interesting couple of paragraphs related to the importance of “unlearning.”  I’ve copied those paragraphs below and hope they will stimulate your thinking.  To see hte entire article, go to:

Kathy Sierra in her blog Creating Passionate Users discusses unlearning.

“Yes, we’re under pressure to learn more and to learn quickly, but the future goes to those who can unlearn faster than the rest, because you can’t always learn something new until you first let go of something else. And learning to let go of rules is one of the first things we (and our managers) have to learn to be quicker at.

Sometimes that means letting go of something that served you well for a long time.”

Qualitative Research is changing, as we work through how we engage people in a more “authentic” way. The recession means we literally cannot afford to do what we have done in the past. We will need to “unlearn” both how we construct methodologies as well as how we analyse and interpret meaning. And maybe there are other things we have to unlearn as well?

15 types of meaningful experiences

Qualitative research is constantly engaged to understand underlying motivators, hot buttons and meaning for various types of consumers.  Therefore, understanding and being able to communicate those insights is crucial to success for the qual researcher.  The folks at Making Meaning outline 15 meaningful experiences people common to people across cultures.  For the full article go to

The 15 meanings that they found across cultures simply provide a framework for thinking as we conduct qualitative research.  Those 15 means are presented below in alphabetical order. 

  1. Accomplishment
  2. Beauty
  3. Community
  4. Creation
  5. Duty
  6. Enlightenment
  7. Freedom
  8. Harmony
  9. Justice
  10. Oneness
  11. Redemption
  12. Security
  13. Truth
  14. Validation
  15. Wonder

Its an interesting website.  I recommend you check it out.

Cynefin Sense-Making Framework…a model for decision-making

In research and in management, we are solving problems.  As we know, not all problems are created equal.  There are many different approaches to many different problems.  A fascinating method for thinking about problem-solving is the Cynefin Sense-Making Framework developed by Professor David Snowden. 

This framework divides problems into two broad categories:  ordered and unordered.  The ordered category is further divided into Simple and Complicated problems.  Unordered is divided into Complex and Chaotic. 

  1. Simple problems are cause and effect related and generally have direct solutions. 
  2. Complicated problems exist in a complex environment where the actual solution is not obvious and requires an expert to discipher and solve.
  3. Complex problems exist in a constantly changing environment where cause and effect are impossible to determine.
  4. Chaotic problems are those that happen rapidly denying decision makers time to analyze and evaluate. 

Deloitte applied this Framework to the problem of Mine Safey in South Africa.  The resulting report is a wonderful explanation of the Framework as well as a case study in its application.  You can find the report at:

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