January 10, 2007
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Qualitative Research

Tom Webster has an interesting note on using Tinderbox for keeping track of market research focus groups . The challenge is not simply crunching the data; in practice, life can come between the researcher and the information. "Three months, 13 cities, three continents....": not only do you need to analyze and organize a lot of information, you need to get things done in the time and workspace you have — in airports and hotels and in moments between meetings. Webster describes the problem as having to "take five hundred cocktail napkins and turn them into a ten-page article."

One of the projects I did over the past few months was a coast-to-coast qualitative research project for a large public broadcasting concern, which spanned over two months in more cities than you can count on one hand. In this project, we did focus groups in several representative cities, then packaged all the data up to draw some conclusions about media usage, lifestyles and consumer behavior.

The day this project ended I had to drive to Georgia for another client, then fly off to London to give a presentation. As a result, I had very little time to go back over the data (or watch the films of the groups over and over) to distill my thoughts and draw conclusions to deliver my analysis within a reasonable time frame. Tinderbox was immensely helpful here, serving as both my "institutional memory" for both client and project, and as a remarkably efficient way to create, group and identify clusters of notes--and people--to get to the insights that the groups had to offer.