AQR’s Foundation Course was an action-packed four days, full of invaluable experiences to prepare us for life as qualitative researchers. There were delegates from all kinds of backgrounds, so it was great to get an impression of other people’s work— not to mention making some potentially useful contacts.

We were on the receiving end of presentations from a number of enthusiastic researchers with an impressive range of experience, all more than happy to answer questions and dish out tips, tricks and advice. The atmosphere was relaxed but everyone was there to learn; we all put a lot into it, and certainly got a lot back. We were well looked after with plenty of space and great food.

In terms of the teaching, the class on moderating skills and tips was especially useful as many of us had no prior experience in this area. We were given the opportunity to watch these tools in action during an example group before trying it out. Our moderating practice session enabled us to see for ourselves how techniques were used, and more importantly to recognise which would work best for us. There are so many different ways to phrase questions and to approach your relationship with the respondents, so it was great to give it a try and find out what felt most comfortable and natural.

Having the chance to be a respondent in these practice was a great opportunity. Not only were we able to observe the moderator behaviours that we felt to be effective, but we were also helped to understand the mindset of the respondent and where they are coming from in trying to answer sometimes difficult questions.

Since attending the AQR course I have moderated two training groups, so I have been able to put some of my learnings into practice. One of the key ones is to be mindful of the group atmosphere, something which — to a greater extent — is created by the moderator themselves. I was able to practice tricks like leaning in to generate more engagement, stopping myself before I asked a leading question, making sure every respondent is engaged to do their best, and many more besides.

Going through the analysis task as a team highlighted strategies and points of view that we would not necessarily come across in our separate industries. Formulating our ideas into a cohesive story in a team of six (and in such a short period of time), was a real challenge. It engrained in me the sense that there is always more to think about, and always another angle from which to approach an argument.

When we presented to our peers and judges, I have to admit there was a general sense of panic and anxiety. But seeing how the projects really came together in the end, and how we all succeeded in delivering a clear and detailed story was so rewarding. I think that hearing such positive feedback from the judges really served to boost everyone’s confidence. I have since presented to clients at work and was so pleased for that practice and feedback.

I am grateful for a course conducted in such a warm and educational environment. I feel it has helped me gain skills and experiences that I will refer back to throughout my time as a researcher.