The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Excellence

Fieldwork Flashback

In the 1980s, our only means of communication for qualitative recruitment was a dial-phone attached to a landline. Everything was typed as most companies had their own printing department (normally in a dingy basement).

All recruiter packs had to be despatched by Royal Mail or Red Star collections at 5pm. Normally we would have 10 to 14 days to prepare for fieldwork, but a rush job (same week) would necessitate a bike or courier, an additional expense requiring special permission.

Incentives: usually £3.50 per person, in coins, meaning queuing up at the bank and filling out several carbon forms for accounts. Not easy to manoeuvre into small brown wage envelopes. If they were posh or professional they got a cheque in a white envelope.

Who remembers the times researchers arrived late to groups to find all the respondents wasted having consumed all the test beer? Or the riots when incentives were muddled up and respondents were given £7 instead of £8?

Technology has made fieldwork easier but deadlines are shorter and recruitment criteria harder. What changes will the next 40 years bring?


Liz Sykes
Company Secretary, Association for Qualiative Research

This article was first published in InBrief magazine, April 2020
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