Reflections of a newbie
Alex Dewdney found walking into a room full of market research professionals slightly daunting, but Rome in Britain encouraged her to stay curious. As a newcomer, you can be relatively secure in the knowledge that you'll know fewer people and have less research experience than anyone there – not immediately encouraging for an evening of industry debate.
Yet pushing self-deprecation to one side, there are some clear merits to such a viewpoint. Coming from a field liaison role and the world of writing screeners and deciphering your empty nesters from your pragmatic jugglers, it's both refreshing and rewarding to be given a window of insight into the life of a researcher. It's an opportunity to explore the issues, success stories and mistakes surrounding the industry and a chance to learn from the very best in the field. Rome in Britain, with an audience of both experienced and new researchers was a great example of this. It may not have had the glamour or allure of Rome but I'm sure the same level of grit resounded in the debate.
Rosie Campbell kicked off with a thought provoking piece on the role of a quallie, confronting us with the modern dilemmas of research. Do we run the risk of losing the essence of qual, overdosing on online dataheavy alternatives and a client's need for speed? Has our search culture, a click-and-you-shall-find lifestyle, swamped us with information and eradicated our basic drive for knowledge: our curiosity?
It's easy, as a newcomer, to forget what came before and the fears of what could be lost or damaged as society races ahead for technological betterment. Kat and Rachel from 2CV brought a new angle to this by reflecting on both academic and contemporary theories that can help shape, refine and give added value to the future of research.
And yet, can we overburden our work with these additional layers? The general consensus was no, we have to use these theories as tools and there's no shame in adopting those which work for us, when and where we see fit. It was a rather reassuring conclusion to hear as a beginner, wondering which theorist to take up as bedside reading first.
It was clear that this wasn't an environment afraid to critique itself. Peter Totman and Luke Perry from Jigsaw confronted the controversy surrounding ethics in research and Ipsos MORI's Ella Fryer-Smith presented a possible future tying ethnography and advertising in a knot that could arguably strengthen or strangle both parties involved.
It was an interesting night, far less daunting than first anticipated. On the tube home I though about something Rosie had said: "stay curious and be amazed". A fitting tribute to the evening and my first lesson in becoming a researcher.
Senior Brand Strategy, Mash
This article was first published in InBrief magazine, November 2012
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2012