The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Excellence

The ultimate wish list for 2007

Was 2006 a pig? Should clients (and researchers) get out more? In Brief asked for ideas on what the future might hold

It’s been a busy year for most researchers, but there are always facets of the job that drive them to despair. A very robust (not) sample provided the following clues as to what aspects of research in 2006 they would like to see the back of:

  • Client (at proposal stage): We don’t mind where you conduct the groups (costed accordingly). Client (after commissioning): Actually, we really need it to happen in Cambridge. Researcher: Argh! Is it just me or are there REALLY NO DECENT RECRUITERS in Cambridge? And why, even if you find one, does nobody they recruit actually turn up for the group?

  • Respondents who claim they were told the group finishes half an hour earlier than specified ­ but that’s OK, I can stay for an extra £20 (all in front of client).

  • Clients booking projects and then going AWOL and expecting me to make the whole thing up for them (brief, objectives, locations, stimulus, etc.).

  • Micro-financial-management-to-destruction of research agencies (mentioning no large companies in particular).

  • Mad airline security knee-jerk reaction from BA (no liquids, colloids, suspensions, etc.) compared with Air France which, on the day of the big Heathrow meltdown, allowed a dog onto my flight from the US!

  • Clients who always insist on doing groups in the same studio as ‘It’s so handy for my house, I live only five minutes drive away’ and then complain that they keep seeing the same old faces in their groups.

  • Clients issuing an invitation to tender and then circulating whatever intelligent questions you come up with to everyone else on the pitch list.

  • The need to keep increasing incentives to motivate respondents to attend, especially professionals and doctors.

  • The sacrifice we ask respondents to make in terms of their time to take part in ever more complex and lengthy research programmes in view of the hectic life they increasingly live.

  • That some clients still don’t seem to get what qualitative research is, no matter what you tell them; wanting us to turn up with stats and pie-charts when they’ve only commissioned four groups.

  • Writing long and very detailed proposals for things that never happened because, surprise, surprise, ‘we don’t have the budget any more’.

  • The fact that experience and knowledge are undervalued in research, as evidenced by the industry norm of buying research by the yard (we’ve made a rod for our own backs).

And, by means of contrast, let’s see what they’d like to see happen in 2007:

  • More: ‘Thank you for the proposal. We’d really like to go ahead but we’d rather do 10 groups, than the six you suggested if that’s OK.’

  • Of course I can find you left-handed, laxative consuming 24 year olds who also occasionally sky dive by tomorrow (in Cambridge ­ see previous section). Incentive? Oh, £10 should do the trick if it’s only three hours!

  • More housewives (sometimes it’s just great to spend time hanging out with normal women ... rather than connecting with style leaders, etc.).

  • More use of non-standard research locations, e.g. Barnsley, Chipping Norton, Thetford, Folkestone, St Ives, Telford, Wigan, Carlisle and Crawley to name just a few (although we moderators would have to really moderate rather than switch the respondents on and watch them perform).

  • Clients to decide that a project is definitely going ahead before they issue the brief (rather than waiting for you to write a proposal and then deciding that they don’t actually want to do the work after all).

  • Clients realizing that it’s possible to do groups in areas other than Birmingham, Manchester and London. Wales exists; I’ve seen it!

  • The emergence of true partnerships between researchers and clients.

  • The emergence of the new qualitative ‘facilitators’: crossing the current boundaries and extending their role in helping clients solve internal as well as external problems.

  • Fewer clients demanding the inclusion of token minority groups just to ‘tick the boxes’. If you want to hear their opinions, then talk to them properly ­ otherwise it’s insulting to pretty much everyone involved.

  • The hope that there will be a growing appreciation in the industry as a whole of the strategic value of research which, in practice, would mean researchers being employed on a retainer (sometimes).

  • More collaborative projects with good colleagues and friends.

  • More junior qual researchers showcasing their wares innovative ideas at the MRS Conference.


Louella Miles

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, January 2007
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2007