Longitudinal Research

Longitudinal Research: 3 Key Roles Keep it Light

Date: November 25, Katrina Noelle

Katrina participated in a BayCHi Birds of a Feather (BOF) event entitled “Longitudinal Light; How to do longitudinal research & keep your day job” and sat on a panel with Twyla Campbell (Chegg) and Katy Nandagopal (Google) to discuss the ins and outs of longitudinal research and how a research practitioner can run a longitudinal study while having the bandwidth to keep up with their other projects as well.

During the panel, we realized that doing longitudinal ‘light’ could actually be quite heavy if taken on alone! However, lightness is possible when you share roles/components of the projects with a team. In spite of our different backgrounds and varied experience with long-term studies, we all agreed that there are 3 Key Roles in these studies. The roles can either be assigned to individuals on the project team or one person can wear multiple hats.

After the event I took a stab at naming and describing these 3 Key Roles as follows:

Participant-Facing Moderator – This person is the ‘face’ of the project that participants interact with most. S/he encourages participants, sends them follow up questions and generally keeps the enthusiasm for the topic and activities alive. This is the person who is sympathetic when participants turn in an assignment late and plays good cop throughout the project!

Participant-Facing Taskmaster – This individual is the timekeeper and logistics lead. S/he makes sure that everyone has all the information they need in order to complete the project/assignments correctly and chases participants when they are running late. Some of us might refer to them as the ‘bad cop’ but they are very necessary to keep everything on track.

Client-Facing Analyst – This person/team is responsible for synthesizing the findings and presenting the insights to stakeholders. They ensure that the project is meeting the objectives along the way and that the project team gets regular progress updates. I recommend regular output deliverable points throughout a longitudinal study so that stakeholders stay engaged and can pivot the activities within the study as needed based on the insights along the way.

So being ‘light’ takes a village. A team of committed researchers brings lightness into longitudinal studies and lets the researchers involved keep up with their daily research workload