The Association for Qualitative Research
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Repeat attendance focus

Sally Fairall reviews a seminar designed by field people, for field people.

Penny Bowden kicked off the AQR's field seminar, devised by field people for field people, with the results of a BMRB quantitative survey on repeat attendance conducted last year. The figures, at first glance, looked alarming. One calculation showed that in a typical eight-person group, we could expect one respondent to have attended 16 or more other groups in the previous 12 months. Scary.

Gerald Kreinczes then pointed out that, if we ignore the issue, our industry is laying itself open to all sorts of criticism. He reminded us that research shows that experienced respondents behave differently in groups and, worse still, if they had been briefed to lie about previous attendance, the group begins with dishonesty that can effect the findings. We were convinced: repeat attendance was a problem.

Next up, Ann Whalley presented an outline of the new AQR Recruitment Standards and things changed again. The standards start by recognising the many difficulties that everyone faces with recruitment, including office based field staff, area supervisors and recruiters as well as researchers and clients. They then called for everyone to be more realistic and more understanding about requirements, and more honest if things look as though they are not coming together. So was repeat attendance not the major problem we had all faced at lunchtime?

Delegates' opinions shifted session by session. In the afternoon break I overheard one delegate, Paula Kearton, saying: "At lunchtime I thought that's it, we must never let people come again, but now I haven't got a clue and am looking forward to the debate.

She was reassured by Russ Lidstone, who offered six good reasons why repeat attendees can be helpful for the research, not least being the fact that they are more likely to turn up. He also stressed that he was talking about repeat attendees, not fraudulent respondents who were not the person they purported to be.

For me, that was the main theme of the day. I was left with the impression that if it's just repeat attendance, then it's not a massive problem. If it overlaps with fraud, it is. I hope the new recruitment standards will put both in their place so that, in the words of a client shown on video, none of us need feel that recruitment is "a little bit dodgy" ever again.

 

Sally Fairall
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