Conducting Some Qual…Online!

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I feel like I’ve moved into the 21st century. I recently helped to set up, facilitate and report the results of an online discussion board for the United Way of Greater Cincinnati (UWGC). It was a really fun, educational experience. Coming from academia, transitioning from using a typewriter to a computer to publish one’s thesis is considered a bit of a big deal!

As I blogged about here, back in November I completed a course with Carol Shea (of Olivetree Research) about developing and testing new concepts using online discussion boards. I was excited to actually get to work with Carol on this UWGC project. (Thanks again, Carol, for this great opportunity!) The discussion board went very well; we had many participants who shared insightful comments. As much as I enjoy moderating the actual discussions, carefully reviewing and analyzing the findings to distill new insights for the client is my favorite part of the research process.

I hope to continue to get involved with more research projects this year–especially those of the online variety. It’s evident that this is the direction in which qualitative research is going in the (immediate) future, so I know that I need to polish my online research skills. Email me today (danielle.quales@gmail.com) if your company has a upcoming qualitative research project (B2B or B2C–I do it all!) that needs freelance support!

Continuing Education: A Lifetime of Learning

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I’ll be using this blog to share my experience and thoughts about a recent course I took at a new education company here in Cincinnati called InsightsCentral. The course was called “Optimizing New Concepts to Succeed” and was focused on designing, conducting and applying the findings of qualitative research to today’s business world. I learned about InsightsCentral when I set up a networking meeting with its founder, who also owns a research company. After having explained my background and the fact that I’m still building up my freelance business, she suggested that I take the course. I had a fairly open week in between some projects, so I decided to take her up on her offer!

The course was online, but kicked off and concluded with a personal call with the course coach Carol. During the 10-day period in which I took the course, I was the sole pupil so the individual attention was great, but it would have been nice to have some other students with whom to interact on the class discussion boards.

The course consisted of taking a new snack concept from its earliest idea as a concept statement, through qualitative research in the form of online bulletin boards and then in making recommendations to the client on how to proceed with the new snack concepts. It was really helpful that this particular study was a “real-world” study that Carol’s team had actually conducted for a client, so I had the actual data with which to work in making my analysis and drawing conclusions. Learning about concepts and theories is always informative, but having the opportunity to dig in and really manipulate the data is always the very best learning experience! Another aspect of the course that really initially intrigued me was the fact that the research was conducted using online bulletin boards, which I’ve learned is a research method that is quickly growing in popularity due to their many benefits. If I’m going to be successful in this field in the coming years of my career, I know I’ll need to be familiar with and experienced in the latest technology that facilitates such research.

If you want to learn more about how to apply the latest qualitative research methods to a business problem, I highly recommend taking this InsightsCentral course! The company plans to continue to roll out additional courses in the coming months, so I look forward to learning more about those as they become available.

As a fairly new researcher in the business world, I look forward to continue to take advantage of any and all educational opportunities that I can–both informal and more formal like the InsightsCentral course. I was trained in a variety of qualitative research methods in graduate school, but have since learned that some of these manners of thinking and methodologies are a bit outdated. In this way, it’s always best to be continually learning more about the industry in which I’ve now found myself, so I can continue to be successful and be able to effectively navigate these waters.

Qualitative Research: From Academia to Market Research

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Anyone who knows me well agrees: I was in school a long time. I’m certainly not complaining because I loved it. Hiding from the real world until I was approaching my late 20s? Perhaps. But I had some great  formative experiences and the skills I learned have proved invaluable as I’ve embarked on my professional career, not to mention a pair of graduate degrees that perhaps no one else in the world has!

Once I wrapped up my second graduate program in the humanities and had decided I didn’t want to teach, I knew I had to figure out what the heck I was going to do professionally with the qualitative research, writing and deep analysis/synthesis skills I had honed in undergraduate and graduate school. Not to mention that I needed to find a field that would help me pay off the mounting stack of student loan debt from five years of graduate school!

Enter fate. One of my PhD advisors at Indiana University dropped me a tip in class one day that was to become the basis for my future career. He casually mentioned that there were plenty of professional opportunities for we social scientist and humanities types trained in qualitative research methods outside of academia. A ha! I knew I had to find out more about this, so I set an appointment with my advisor to discuss. The first field he mentioned that I should explore was market research. So, I did. I had taken whole courses devoted to qualitative research methods, so when I began to self-educate on market research, concepts like “focus groups,” “subjects” and “surveys” were very familiar. This whole new world of research outside of academia had been opened up to me, and this was getting very exciting indeed! I could continue to do what I loved–design, execute and analyze research–and not have to deal with teaching bratty 19-year-olds.

My first real exposure into market research was when my mom introduced me to a woman whose New Jersey-based market research company had previously done projects in collaboration with my mom’s team at work. They had an upcoming food and beverage new product development project, and they needed someone to write the report deck for the focus group research being conducted on the East Coast. I chatted with the woman (who was the President of the company) briefly, and she kindly decided to give me a shot! I signed the necessary NDAs and tax paper work, and she sent me over the project details and focus group recordings and transcripts soon thereafter. The project went well, and within a couple weeks I delivered my first market research report deck to the client!