Qualitative Analysis Skills: A Primer Part 2
Remember the people
Qualitative research is all about understanding people. That’s why clients want us to conduct it. While it is easy to remember that at the ‘data collection’ stage, it can sometimes be forgotten that qualitative analysis should be about people too.
One of the challenges is that some of the methods researchers use for qualitative analysis seems to turn the fascinating insightful people who have participated in the research into a dry list of themes. Of course, identifying the themes that have emerged from the research is important, but the best research goes beyond just themes.
Here are some ways to bring people back into your qualitative research report:
1. Create personas and link their name to behaviour. Personas are great for behavioural-based research, to illustrate how different people behave differently. Think of them as schematics, there to illustrate a point you want to make. Use a name that illustrates their behaviour, even if it is as simple as ‘Lucy the luxury buyer’. Each persona needs to reflect a different behaviour that is relevant to your client. Personas work best when they are simple illustrations, but take care not to reduce them to cliché. You will know you have a cliché rather than a persona when you have linked their behaviour to some gender, cultural or socio-economic characteristic. I love this example from Prototypr
‘In a recent workshop I ran there were three Ad-hoc personas created that were all women in their late 20s, all working in finance, and all dieting in preparation for their wedding or because they were worried about finding a relationship.’
2. Use case studies for the back story. Case studies help you understand customers 'as people' not simply as examples of a certain type of behaviour. case studies are useful when you need more depth than a simple ‘persona’ allows. When writing about Self-Managed Superannuation Fund Members (SMSF) for instance, we wrote this case study (adapted a little from the original):
Jim and Judith’s story
Jim is an accountant who set up an SMSF as many in his profession had done before him. A usually quiet and unassuming man, Jim loves to talk about investments and tax strategies with his friends, so in many ways SMSF is a bit of a social lubricant for him. Judith is a nurse and has to be very organised and careful in her work. She brings these skills to administration of the SMSF but has no interest in the money side beyond that, thinking that there are many better things to talk about – grandchildren for instance...
We could have reduced this to ‘Jim the accountant’ but the case study illustrates more than a basic persona can ever do. We could also have listed the findings as themes like this:
- Couples typically divide SMSF administration tasks on gender lines
- Some people like to talk about SMSFs with their friends.
See how the case study brings to life how SMSFs can play in the lives of real people!
3.Use their language. Talking to men about Christmas, many of them described their role using the word ‘The’. They said they were ‘the helper’ or ‘the outdoor guy’ for example. This insight really helped to illustrate the defined role that these men had prescribed for themselves. In contrast, their partners chose to go beyond such boundaries by ‘going the extra mile’.
To summarise, when analysing and reporting qualitative research bring the people back into the story.