Keeping Qual Human at #QRCA2020

Published On: January 31, 2020By

The theme of this year’s Qualitative Research Association’s conference was ‘Keep Qual Human’, which paints an optimistic picture for qualitative research. Here are a few tidbits of what I learned from the conference with supports that optimism by industry trends and insights from our qualitative practitioner community.

2020 Qualitative Industry Trends Include:

  • Market research is an $80bn global industry – bigger than coffee! 45% of that is in the U.S.
  • Data is the new oil – people want it FASTER and CHEAPER than ever before – technology is making this possible with tools that bring things like AI, machine learning and automation – which takes the ‘human’ element out of the research – but the human component will always be essential, because….
  • The need to understanding the ‘why’ will never go out of style! While the research industry is changing with tech, qual is still rooted in old school human techniques but with unlimited ways to innovate methodologies. It’s where art meets research!

3 Crafty Ways experts in our community are keeping qual human:

  1. Use boardgames to inspire research design: Use the fundamentals that make boardgames timelessly alluring, like the human need for intimacy and connection, fun and play, competition, escapism, storytelling, the physicality of play and creation, being rewarded and the ‘pain of payment’ to advance in the game! Research is always about creating the right atmosphere in order to generate insights as people feel comfortable and inspired to reveal their truth
  2. Qual on a budget: Think on your feet when you have limited resources! Example: In attempt to formulate some insights in how dog parents choose toys for their pups, there’s a lot to be learned from just going to dog parks to observe the pet/parent relationship and how they play, interviewing pet experts like veterinarians, asking friends with pets to try out some toys for a week and give their feedback, and just turning to Youtube to see first-hand how pets are playing with toys. Insights can come from anywhere and can even be free!
  3. Autoethnographies, aka ‘self-ethno-research’: Put on your participant hat and reveal rich culturally-rooted behaviors and preferences. While journal research design will tell you the what, when and how often, auto ethnography design – driven by detailed questions and participants with strong verbal and written articulation – reveals the broader context behind them. For example, what makes someone in California stand by their In-And-Out burger vs. someone in Texas staying true to their Whataburger? Is it really about the taste or something deeper?

Knowledge and learning aside, the people behind the idea that we need to keep qualitative research human are practicing what they are preaching. I am taking my #QRCA2020 inspiration into the new year and back to my teammates at KNow!