Qualitative Research, Paris, November 2007

Serpents with tails in their mouths: a reflexive look at qualitative research
Anjul Sharma and Gareth Pugh Synovate, United Kingdom INTRODUCTION TO OUR GARDEN, ITS MAIN CHARACTERS AND THE STORY OF OUR GENESIS Picture the Garden of Eden. Eve is standing at the foot of the Tree of Knowledge, and coiled in the Tree is the Serpent looking knowingly at that luscious apple. All it needs is for the Serpent to persuade her to take that first bite – one bite of that apple and knowledge will be hers. She is, of course, being tempted. Or is she? So what has that got to do with the ESOMAR Qualitative Conference, you may ask? Whether one subscribes to the Biblical perspective or not, the fact remains that there are many more parallels with qualitative research than you might at first think. In our own ways we qualitative researchers are all Eves too – yes even the male ones – poised in front of our own Tree of Knowledge. Unlike the Biblical Eve we don't need to deliberate too hard about whether we take a bite from the apple because it represents the knowledge we hunger for and symbolises the core of truth we seek when we create insights. Just like the Biblical Eve we have Serpents as well. Our Serpents are respondents who tantalise us with their knowledge. And then, of course, there are our clients sitting at the opposite end of the Garden in a tent with a small megaphone shouting instructions. They're certainly not close to the Tree, although some of them may like to be. In our experience and those of our colleagues, most conference papers talk about everything other than how their respondents felt about being researched. If they talk about their respondents it is framed in the context of what they told researchers about the product or service they use as a consumer. The side of their life that experiences the research process is often not included. Well, we feel that the respondent needs to be brought centre stage. We are here to inspire you with their experiences in qualitative research. In this conference paper we are researching research: turning the tables; reinventing research and situating it in a different paradigm. Get ready and come with us on this fascinating journey into the Garden of Eden. Be prepared to have your basic assumptions challenged, your sacred truths questioned and your research world sent into a spin. In Part 1, we open the scene in the Garden of Eden by exploring respondents' experiences of recruitment, venues, content, methodologies, moderators and clients. In Part 2, we turn our interpretive attention to unravelling the complex dynamics that ensue from, and during, a research encounter between Eve, the Serpent, the Apple and the client. In Part 3, we end our journey in and around the Garden by discussing the many implications for moderators, respondents and clients. Let us start by telling you about our Serpents. BACKGROUND ON OUR SERPENTS Our paper is based on original, primary research conducted in the United Kingdom, United States, India and China (London, Birmingham, Manchester and Newcastle; Chicago, Illinois and Paramus, New Jersey; Delhi, Bangalore and Chandigarh; and Beijing and Shanghai respectively). One rationale for this multimarket approach was to fully understand any cultural differences in respondents' experiences and behaviour. However, beyond this we also wanted to see if emerging research markets were any different to more mature ones. As it happened, we actually uncovered many similarities and consistencies (of course, any differences have been highlighted). Fieldwork took the form of four three-hour workshops and four one-hour depth interviews in each country during August 2007. The mixed methodological approach was designed to overcome any research effect from over claim in the workshops. Workshop participants were recruited on the basis of having attended two or more research sessions (although in practice most had attended four on average). They had experienced a range of different methodologies (in different venues), various types of research (e.g. creative development, packaging research and new product development), as well as a selection of subject matters subsumed under the following umbrella categories: drinks, food, medical, health, financial services, media, grooming, hobbies leisure and home. Depth interview participants were recruited on the basis of more frequent attendance than this, with other criteria mirroring the workshops. PART 1: THE OLD GENESIS – HOW SERPENTS EXPERIENCE QUALITATIVE RESEARCH Virgin Serpents Arrive at the Gates of the Garden and are Afraid of their First Time Most respondents' first initiation into research in the United Kingdom and China arises as a result of being stopped in the street by a recruiter or being phoned on the basis of a referral from someone they know or, for the United Kingdom specifically, a recruiter knocking on their door. In India, respondents are also stopped in the street by recruiters. For our cousins across the pond, telephone calls from the viewing facility predominate. However, across all four markets, a request for attending qualitative research is met with not only trepidation around 'doing something unusual' but with a great sense of fear and doubt. They simply do not know what to expect or, if they do, their expectations are framed within some highly negative points of reference: door-to-door selling, being duped and sold goods and services under pressure. These concerns are further ignited by a media frenzy, its whistle-blowing mentality and the poor image of market research (hassle from ladies in the street with clipboards rather than a chance to be part of something ground breaking and new). A second set of fears relates to self-doubt about their own level of knowledge, anxiety over appearing ignorant and/or behaving inappropriately: “It's just like going to a 10th standard exam” (India)

although. Cash incentives often do not make it into the household money pot – they are used to purchase treats or 'wants' for the respondent – a rather more individual and inward looking approach: “I use this play money and spend it right away on things for me. they need to spend money to arrive at the venue. We will tease out the implications of this in Part 3. Indian respondents are given gifts instead of the cash incentive and this sets up a different type of dynamic. family and neighbours and thus it needs to impress them as well for gifts will be flaunted. no one wants to lose face especially in the presence of seven other people. clothes or shoes). Figure 1: Why serpents take part in research Without exception. lipsticks and products which have formed part of the research (e. The gift is not just to please the respondent but also to demonstrate the value of participation in research to spouses. charity or other such philanthropic cause. Is this sufficient to give reassurance to respondents? What else could be done to address this issue? How respondents first experience recruitment (and their first 30 minutes in the research session) is key. Most will not take part if they are not paid. pay for babysitters (in the United Kingdom and United States) and feel that their opinion is valued sufficiently. confidentiality and anonymity. respondents in the United Kingdom. In essence. However. The moderators introduction is short. The giving of money also formalises the interaction from something potentially quite random to a contractual relationship with commitments and obligations on both sides: committing Serpents to make a verbal and intellectual contribution to the research. the form this takes is slightly different. unless the research is for a government department (local council or state health service).They are terrified that this could result in them not being invited to research again. they do not appear to be sufficiently convincing. particularly for bringing in the all so-desirable virgin ones. Despite any reassurances that recruiters may give at the point of recruitment. some in the United Kingdom and United States also receive gifts such as floral arrangements. Figure 1 summarises the main ones and these are discussed in more detail below. whilst the notion of compensation for time expended is also alive and well in India. committing Eves to conduct the session in an appropriate way. these first experiences do raise some major issues. But beyond this. These are received with gratitude and. neither does the moderators' introduction which emphasises the need for honest and frank answers.g. often not lasting more than 15 minutes in total of which only 5 minutes is about frank opinions. United States and China are heavily motivated by a cash financial incentive and even more so for those who are heavy frequency (taking part in seven or more sessions a year). It goes in and out” (USA) In addition to cash incentives. lots of data analysis but an empty view” (China) Whilst these fears and anxieties dissipate in subsequent research encounters. The quality of the gift then becomes much more central to the process: “Poor quality glasses can't be shown at home but the family doesn't feel my time has been wasted when they see good . Third. it goes towards compensating them for their time as 'time is money' for them. So what do they do with the money? Well. Serpents are Tempted into the Garden by Money and the Promise of Knowledge There is a plethora of reasons for why respondents take part in research and these are largely consistent across the four markets. in China there is also the fear that their views may disappear into a large faceless research project where the value of their individual contribution is lost: “It will be something very big. respondents will not want them to take the place of money. they go some distance in enhancing the enjoyment of involvement in research at both a practical and emotional level.

in doing so. accomplishment and fulfilment which means talking to friends and family about their involvement and deriving some public recognition for the work they have done in the very private world of qualitative research. elite-ness. services. Thus while clients see research as part of their 'work' and expect respondents to be in 'work mode'. Hence. this is actively encouraged by spouses and members of the family: “My husband encouraged me to take part so I could see what is new” (India) Linked to this is the self-satisfaction at being privy to a secret that has not yet been shared with others outside research. akin to being part of an exclusive club. coolness. not to mention the further enhancement of their status and value. This social validation and valuation works in tandem with financial recompense for not only are their opinions sought – they are also valued in tangible terms. But what do they lose from taking part? Often. brands and advertising and learn from the moderator. meeting people they would never normally see. This view is more prevalent in India where there is a strong desire to keep one step ahead of the neighbours and be party to knowledge that they may not have. a night out with adults. And this may be one of the” (India) It also sets up a sense of anticipation about what they will receive – a bit like a birthday gift – and the desire to not receive the same gift twice. find out about new products. an escape from a busy life and the opportunity to learn new skills and build up their confidence all represent motivating reasons to take part. Heavily motivated they may be by the money. very little. . but there are other highly salient reasons for research involvement. thus. It is. In essence. not surprising that some respondents are keen to receive the research findings and/or the product upon launch and. A break from the kids. In India. Other reasons for involvement focus on the desire to disconnect with the daily reality of life and 'go out to socialise' and meet new people. respondents see themselves in 'play mode'. One of the most key is the desire to contribute their knowledge and learn about new and intriguing developments themselves: learn from other respondents and hear their opinions. After all what can they lose (once they know the endeavour is bona fide). most will not miss significant family or social engagements for the sake of attending research sessions (perhaps unless the incentive is doubled!) Serpents Talk about their Fellow Serpents and not always in Flattering Terms Serpents they like and dislike Respondents categorise each other in three ways and these are highlighted in Figure 2. not only is the 'incentive' about addressing rational practicalities but also about bestowing a sense of emotional value and status. why no-one said that they thought research was a pointless exercise – that is reassuring! But they do note the time that could have been spent with the family and children cannot be re-wound. Thus in China: “I hope that when I take part in research I want to attend a session on something that is new and not ever seen before” (China) And then there is the stirring of pride. they are obtaining a sense of closure on this particular piece of research involvement. we still feel this play mind set can yield a different quality and quantity of information and insights compared to what is yielded when they are in work mode. However.

simply. so what! Whilst this three-fold typology helps us understand the relationship dynamic and frustrations between respondents. 'What right do they have to be here given their silence?' Indeed. MFRs assume that the viewing facility will be able to counteract such tendencies by screening out anyone who has attended in the last six months. Respondents do not know what they are thinking and thus start to frame a set of questions. going to a group discussion and then a depth the following month is not seen as problematic. some additional distinctions are made. In this sense. That said. respondents sympathise with the moderator who tries to deal with the dominating vocal types. they also disrupt the egalitarian make-up of the session and introduce an unwanted hierarchy. They sympathise with and appreciate fellow normal types like themselves. seven or more per year. who resent having to do more work to compensate and yet will not receive any greater remuneration for their greater effort.e. MFRs and HFRs do not necessarily understand the fuss over HFRs. Any attempts by the moderator to break this silence is appreciated as it means less work for other respondents and means that the moderator is in control of the session. They assume the average respondent would not run the risk of being found out if they did lie. in their eyes. 'Are they judging me?' 'Am I too stupid for them to bother with?' What do they know that I do not?' 'Are they broody or unhappy?' 'What is their problem?' 'What is their agenda for not contributing given that they are being paid?' And ultimately. Participating in different methodologies is acceptable and does not constitute being a high frequency respondent.g. These silent Trappist monks in the session are buying their silence at the expense of other respondents. again and again and again . there is another factor that operates underneath this typology. they could also be a cast iron guarantee that the session will be a success because repeat respondents can use their experience to make the session work! “A repeat respondent is an experienced guy” (India) In the United Kingdom. they could be adding something valuable. even resented. The questions that may be going through respondents' heads this time might be: 'why are they saying so much – is it to show others how little the rest of us know?'.. Again. Appreciated for their judicious balance of silence and verbal contribution. . in some cases. 'why can't they just keep their mouths shut for a change and stop giving others (respondents and moderator) a hard time?'. Dominating vocal types – they are resented even more for they are perceived to be overly self-important and too aware of their own status. there is an 'equity equation' taking place inside their minds. These heavy frequency respondents (HFR) could be in any of the three categories listed above. they can second guess how one should respond to the material (both rationally and emotionally) and they can bring shy respondents into the conversation. This factor is vital to research as it has for so long been seen as a taboo – we refer to the issue of heavy repeat respondents who take part in many sessions e. Normal types 'like me' – they are anxious not to dominate the discussion but make a real effort to give their opinions.. They help police the session and (in their own minds) set themselves up as the moderators' friend.Figure 2: Serpents talk about other serpents q Silent types – they are disliked and. We believe that this negativity is rooted in several basic phenomena. q q The return of the Serpent. i. 'what do they know that I do not?' and. Respondents in the workshops (who we can define as medium frequency respondents – MFRs) are not always aware that others can be such heavy attendees. In India. As long as they do not lie to gain entry to the session in screening or during the discussion and behave like 'normal types' what is the harm according to respondents? Indeed. In the United States. They could be helping the moderator run the session and save time – they know how to behave. they give everyone the chance to have their say.

We feel that this experience of ethnographic approaches is particularly problematic given clients increasing desire to get closer to respondents and the negativity of the latter towards this. “At home no-one listens but here we women are called on for our outlook” (India) They provide respondents with a sense of connection which is otherwise absent from their daily lives and the opportunity to develop skills they are lacking: “It has given me the confidence to stand up and present to colleagues at work from a flipchart” (UK) Add into this mix the opportunity to have a soap box for their own views and you have a heady cocktail of reasons for liking participation in groups. there is a down side to these methodologies such as obnoxious.. Eve gives me her undivided attention . it also causes them to query why on earth would anyone in their right mind want to take a picture of something as banal as this? In the absence of a convincing explanation. do I really want this hassle? Less often experienced but nevertheless vital to the qualitative toolkit is ethnography. the desire to have fun and the intellectual stimulation of debating views and opinions with them.. this would hardly ever be possible and they certainly would not be paid for it. But groups and workshops raise the fundamental question of whether the presence of others encourages respondents to push their opinions further. it is not always culturally appropriate for females to share their views in this way. Beyond that. Their shorter length and possibility of combining with accompanied shopping trips can make them fun. dedicated place into which respondents 'go' is very much part of why they value and appreciate a 'good' research session. They allow the vocal respondent to give their opinions a thorough work out in their very own exclusive mental gym. super! First and most frequently experienced by almost all respondents we spoke to in our four markets is the group discussion which is often the initiation into the world of research for many. But even worse than this is the frightening thought of having a researcher. in some cases. Eve talks to several Serpents at the same time . . So what does this mean? It means that respondents do not realise that we may actually value no or limited knowledge as a genuine reflection of reality and that this can give us greater learning than someone who has read up everything they possibly can on a topic. And specifically.. Anxiety over feeling the need to tidy up the home and keep up appearances takes away much of the enjoyment of participating in this sort of session. many of the pros and cons of groups also apply to creative workshops. but do I want it? Praised for being a testimony to genuine interest in the respondent. sessions that are too long (workshops lasting three or four hours).. they ask. How should this issue be managed? Whose wishes are paramount here? These are some of the questions we answer later in the paper. they fit with the mental template of going out or being treated and pampered a little bit. or worse still a client. kitchens and bathrooms is more puzzling.neither is attending a session on a different topic. the sole focus on the respondent is often intimidating and means they cannot 'zone out' and have to concentrate for the entire duration of the session. they reason. no wonder they are confused. Different Ways to Reach for the Apple and get a Mouthful of Knowledge In the Garden. plush venues equate to 'they value me' and... Do they? We know what we think but what do you think? However. This is mainly seen as dragging out the experience and often requires a rather hefty incentive to compensate for the pain and inconvenience. Not only does it become intrusive. Thus qualitative market research offers them an opportunity for self-expression and to be heard. the 'hermetically sealed' world of a particular. Although experienced less often. In normal life. in places like India. would not enjoy being paid to go and indulge their desire for retail therapy especially if this entails keeping the purchases afterwards? In essence. depth interviews eliminate dissenting opinions and retain focus on the key issues in the absence of other potentially wayward respondents. depths take away one of the key motivations for involvement in research which is the opportunity to meet with and bounce their thinking – and even their personalities – off others. 'this is a bit too expensive for my liking' and more modest and undesirable venues equate to 'they could have made more of an effort'.e. the creative buzz of bouncing ideas off others. i. being more controversial or more forceful than they otherwise would. vocal respondents. This leads to additional stress and nervousness. However. the HFR is being paid (well) and offered refreshments – this appears to be a win-win situation surely? In other words. As such. there are many ways to pluck the Apples of knowledge. But understanding the rationale for taking photos and video recordings of cupboards. Accompanied shopping trips are enjoyable – who. hanging around the house for four to seven hours. And finally Eve gets intrusive and personal . they also tap into some of the main motivations for taking part in research – the genuine desire to find out about a topic. Both approaches offer the advantage of safety in numbers and minimise the risk of being over-exposed to moderator questioning. our issue – the perceived deception by heavy frequency respondents – is not seen as a problem at all (unless lying is involved). Whilst paired depths and triads offer the advantage of having a 'partner in crime' who can respond as well. In general. many of the pros and cons of depth interviews still apply. sessions that overrun and use of creative/projective techniques (which we discuss later). How can we address this situation or even use it to our advantage? How can we minimise any damage? How can we optimise the potential benefits? We present some answers to these questions in Part 3. After all. In addition. Habitats for Research in the Garden The quality of the venue in which research is held sends out some clear signals to respondents about how they are perceived.

in the United States almost all have tasted research in viewing facilities and find this preferable to other types of venues. they are 'proper' research places designed specifically for research to happen. homely environment. Sometimes there are too many people in one party [group]” (China) The invasion into personal territory is met with reticence and means that a 'presentable front' has to be offered. On the down side. the domestic environment is full of distractions. why it is being conducted in home. So how do respondents feel about them? This is where there are some notable differences in response by country. I didn't like it at all” (UK) It is worth noting that in places where viewing facilities are the norm. But it also has some disadvantages too: “At my home it is . being interviewed in their own home offers the benefit of convenience and potentially saves time for respondents (though this is not standard practice in India). It also calls for a limit to be placed on the number of observers who accompany the moderator. is easy to access and feels safe. They are seen as comfortable and familiar. using someone else's home generates similar feedback but with the added dimension that it is easier to say to their own families that they are going to 'a friend's home' and is less likely to instigate a barrage of searching questions. for women they are not and there is some concern about how video tapes will be used.g. i. There is also the concern around letting strangers into their own home and. Or there is Always Hotel Patch – Great if it's a Good 4 * . we actually took respondents behind the mirror to see their reactions: most accepted that this was not the same as interrogation rooms seen in US crime shows and even liked the idea that the respondent room was far nicer. However. the fear of who is behind the mirror persists and no matter how much the moderator reassures them it is probably never going to be enough unless the moderator takes them behind the mirror but this has not happened for most respondents. a mammoth cleaning exercise needs to be undertaken and this creates stress and tension. In the United Kingdom this venue represents a happy balance in that it gives the comfort factor of being in a non-sterile. not sure about that The viewing facility is lingua franca in so many markets in Western Europe and has also been adopted into other developing markets such as China (but to a much lesser extent in India as yet).. “The first time I did it. especially if they meet the client. Subsequent experiences serve to eradicate the initial fears but some still would not deem this type of venue their setting of choice in which to conduct research. Similarly. it is also accompanied by confusion over why the session needs to take place in their home: this negates the whole 'going out for the evening'. Neither does it feel as if they are being pampered and taken special care of – going to No. United States and China. Their location in office blocks which become deserted after office hours and lack of parking are a pain especially given that research sessions often finish late into the evening. respondents articulate the advantages and disadvantages of viewing facilities too. So our rationale for using the respondents' own home – to see their behaviour in situ and the truths in their lives – comes up against the barrier that respondents do not always want to share this with us. allow total focus on the subject matter and are neutral ground for everyone. in both cases there are some initial fears. By contrast. convenient because I do not lose time travelling to the venue but I do not feel very safe. These issues are compounded by having more than two or three people coming to their home. Viewing facilities are less prevalent in India: video links into a separate room are used as an alternative. Moreover. The addition of comfortable furniture would go some way to dispel this feeling. respondents are slightly more accepting of them: they have become more desensitised.Peeping out from behind the trees into our gathering – hmmm. London. Perhaps it is worth a phone call to the respondent several days beforehand explaining the purpose of the session. Apart from the emotional discomfort there are also practical issues. Let's visit someone else's patch in the Garden – but try not to intrude on them Using a recruiters' or someone else's home is not prevalent in all markets. fractious children need to be kept out of the way. Then. They represent a welcome break from the distractions of home. We touch on these issues in Part 3. the first experience in a viewing facility is often rather daunting and scary as respondents simply do not know what to expect and these feelings continue even when they are actually inside the facility. Going beyond initial reactions. On the plus side. respondents themselves are not – it is akin to being 'the latest batch to be processed in the sausage factory' (and arrogant staff in some facilities do nothing to assuage this feeling of being the latest in a long line of lab rats and guinea pigs). it still feels akin to invading someone else's personal space especially if the sessions over-run. Hence facilities make them feel their opinion is valued. easy to access with good parking facilities. in China viewing facilities feel professional and well suited to focusing on a subject but feel a little too much like a work environment and not terribly relaxing.. often close to work or home.e. But whereas for men these are later assuaged. they lend an air of seriousness and professionalism to the proceedings and set up a 'work-like' mind set whereby respondents feel they ought to behave and 'do the job' for which they have been paid. it is very rare in the United States and China. The other issue with viewing facilities is that even though their opinion is valued. All of this leads us to believe that such environments are a welcome element in the venue repertoire but we as moderators need to be sensitive to how respondents may curtail their behaviour to fit in with the environment. especially if video taping is involved and includes children.4 Western Road does not sound half as good as going to the Hotel Du Vin: it feels more like the research is being done cheaply rather than professionally! In India. In the United Kingdom. what is expected/not expected of them to put the respondents' mind at rest. Eve is coming to my patch in the Garden – but can I get rid of her? Across the United Kingdom. As part of the fieldwork for this paper. abetted by standard chairs and tables which feel less than welcoming. e. The downsides are the somewhat sterile and bland environment which creates a rigid atmosphere for the discussion. However. it does mean they have to be on their best behaviour and cannot get too rowdy. However. There is clearly a need for some further thinking around making viewing facilities more amenable and the experience more enjoyable for respondents. in the United States. once the interview is underway.

The change in media (rather than purely content) helps them focus. Here. the ability to rely on waiters to answer to the respondents' beck and call is flattering. In the latter two markets. serve poor food. free association. This can lead to discomfort in the session: “It's like being back at school. stimulus can defeat its main raison d'être – to stimulate discussion – by killing the discussion altogether if used inappropriately. Tools Designed to Bring out the Flesh of the Apple are not always Welcomed Stimulus is a double edged sword Stimulus is acknowledged as playing a useful role in the research process. good food (not petrol station sandwiches but nicely made ones) and wine. It also suggests that we have become lazy and assumptive in our approach to stimulus using the same old approaches time and time again. videos. build your own ideal . friendly. All about Eve – there are Eves that Serpents like and those they do not like Given their rather substantial experience of research. That sounds scary doesn't it? Again the prominence of creative techniques in qualitative research requires that we think long and hard about how we use them and where we use them in the session (middle vs. female respondents feel hotels can also create suspicion from family members that they may be having secret assignations with strangers and for both males and females there is the feeling of being slightly outclassed and out of place in some overly extravagant hotels. But there is the added irritation of being distracted by other customers if the session is taking place in a communal area or the risk of meeting someone they know (in the United States). Part 3 delves into these issues in more detail. according to respondents. Respondents have their own ideas about what constitutes a 'good moderator' or a bad one but most of their commentary is based on how moderators behave in groups rather than depths.. Thus the experience can be a great one if the place is comfortable and gives respondents the impression of being pampered for this fits in with their mental template of 'being a night out'.It would appear that hotels are not frequently used for research in the United States and China but in the United Kingdom and India it is a different matter. On the upside. hotels which are run down. are easy to relate to and have plenty of energy to keep the group lively and involved. But it is not just about the type of stimulus or the stimulus vehicle but the amount. for respondents. Not only do they foster creativity. The rationale for using them and instructions on what to do are not always articulated clearly. Good moderators are comfortable with respondents. United States and China similarly positive observations surface and they are often more relaxed. your heart just sinks to the floor” (UK) This subtly but definitely alters the role of the moderator from a facilitator of discussion to a 'foam board jockey' who surfs into the group on the back of a pile of boards. they can help break up the conversation away from exchanging mere words verbally to actually doing something more interesting and fun. and the world of . a few respondents claimed they had 'made things up' when asked to project onto an item. And in markets such as India. they also stimulate interaction with other respondents in the session.e. the task itself can feel 'weird'. i. brand personifications. plus the neutrality of the venue are part of its reason for success. the moderator. Stimulus can be rather undynamic especially when it comes to advertising research. role play. stimulus is also a double edged sword for them.. not nervous or afraid of them. or undesirable clientele can ruin the whole night out experience. They would prefer to have a video/DVD to play even if it is a crude film of the same outline given on the above storyboard but with a 'properly detached' voiceover. It is critical to the testing of an idea and more useful than a straightforward description on paper. ads. They get very frustrated at having to comment on minutely different details on packaging. It is implicit that the nature of the moderator has a big effect on the respondents' experience of the research session. We have taken the approach that as long as we give respondents 'something to talk about' that will be sufficient rather than 'give them something to help them talk'. However. And it sets up expectations (often borne out by reality) that the discussion is about to nosedive into tedium with eight rather bored people hoping the ground can swallow them up as an alternative to looking at all those boards. static storyboards held aloft by a moderator desperately trying to do a multitude of voices in the voiceover do not appear to do justice to the ad in the eyes of respondents. Ample parking (or transport to the place). An occupational hazard of this is the inevitable repetitive questioning as moderators try to find differences where none exist in the respondent's mind. Second. However. end?) to maximise their usefulness. have poor lighting. They are personable. What does all of this tell us? Well. Respondents are genuinely terrified by copious amounts of stimulus: “When you see 20 foam boards piled up next to the moderator. ads and products which are almost invisible to the naked eye. Where bars and resultants have been used in the United Kingdom. In India. artificial and difficult as not all respondents believe they are creative and imaginative. It wouldn't interest me at all but I guess they get new ideas from them” (UK) “Some people were quite freaked out at the thought of turning a bag of flour into a person” (UK) Across all of the markets.. respondents have a number of interesting observations on Eve in the Garden. It suggests the research is not being done on the cheap and confirms their need for status enhancement. Projective techniques are seen as weird and unnecessary Most respondents have been subjected to projective techniques at some point in their 'research career' including: collages. .. So how do we resolve this issue? Some suggestions are presented in Part 3. Varying formats such as visuals. distinct from the moderator's own voice. have a good sense of humour. storyboards and products to test are all welcomed. brand parties. But this stock in trade of moderators is not always recalled fondly by respondents. But there is more. reactions to hotel venues can be polarised based on the quality of the venue and its ability to deal with the demands of research (especially group discussions or workshops).

There is some preference for them being in the same room although this is counter-argued by the intimidation factor of being overtly watched and thus being unable to express their views openly. attitudes. The appearance of moderators is also worthy of comment. So why is this club metaphor useful? Well. What is the purpose of this club? . a vocal client is a pain. They also stick to the script to the point of being boring and monotonous. The latter disrupts the flow of the group and is seen as undermining the authority and skill of the moderator (who they often like to see as their ally). a bad moderator is the converse of this and lacks balance of control. Respondents also expect clients to behave in a certain way – they should be seen but not heard (or not heard very much): a silent client is a boon. It is infinitely more than this. In the worst case scenarios. In short. Members are rewarded for their participation in the range of activities they are invited to attend. being confrontational. our Serpents. Above all they are always in control of the session and are viewed as akin to a respected teacher – firm but fair. We feel that underlying the Serpents' experience of research is a set of intellectual and interpretive frameworks that can be used to make sense of their feelings and these are outlined below. it helps us frame our knowledge of our Serpents into a set of parameters that can be further developed. in whatever form they come. Loss of control also works in other ways: it pertains to being unable to manage time in the discussion leading to late running or rushed pace and it also translates into being intimidated by respondents.e. yet they then choose to interfere in the session. when technical product knowledge needs to be conveyed or to appear at the end of the session to give respondents a sense of importance and value in their participation. Second. It offers them a life beyond their normal day-to-day work and family lives and helps them develop skills. Either they are more like an authoritarian headmaster who only applies the rules of the game selectively or they are like a trainee teacher who cannot control the class. interaction with clients is worthwhile and value-added as long as it is within clearly defined boundaries that do not disrupt the existing relationship dynamic between the key players and on the respondents' terms. the Eden Club has members. We have called this the Eden Club. PART 2: MAKING MEANING FROM THE SERPENTS' EXPERIENCES So we have discovered that respondents enjoy the experience of research. The 'trainee teacher' moderator's loss of control over the group opens the door to dominant vocal types to take centre stage: they spoil the research experience for 'normal respondents like me' and. there is a leader or chairperson – Eve – our moderator. And. putting down respondents and not allowing everyone to have their say. courtesy and in a non-judgemental fashion which allows emotions to come to the surface naturally. Bad moderators. Being Part of Research is like being Part of a Club – Welcome to the Eden Club The whole experience. cheating. It also runs counter to the idea that clients want to hear frank and honest views. behaviours. these types of moderators sometimes don't even want to be in the research session. But there is also much more about their experience that we have not covered thus far and it is to this area that we now turn our attention. respondents understand their role in the group much better than we expected. like all clubs. Their probing is carried out in a soft. Allowing everyone to convey their views (nurturing silent types and dampening dominant vocal ones). Thus no one wants to be caught out breaking the rules be that by lying.They listen to respondents carefully with empathy. They deny respondents the opportunity to have 'a laugh'. attending too many sessions or disrupting the rules in any other way. you have guessed it. There are status levels and privileges available to reflect this value and worth. are a source of concern for respondents. inviting and cajoling tone and it is not repetitive. Far from being naïve. conceptualisation and perceptualisation of research is akin to being part of a club. barking orders. They also note issues with female moderators wearing revealing clothes: many who have to sit in a room for several hours in the presence of an eyeful of cleavage can surely tell you about the havoc this causes with their concentration and hormones! Other Characters in the Garden that Serpents do not see very much – Clients of Course The opportunity to meet clients does not arise that often and few can recall meeting clients. Here respondents are puzzled as to why they are behind the mirror and suspect they could be making rude faces behind their backs. It helps us understand how and why Serpents behave as they do at present. This club has a physical space in which to meet although the specifics of this vary each time. nobody's fool but with just a twinkle of collaboration in their eye. After all. But the Eden Club is not just any old common club – it is not just a club where members meet. There is a set of shared values about how one should behave in the club and with other members. They like to feel valued and concomitant with this is the idea of having a slightly more involved relationship with the research process. Again these are all nonos which de-stabilise the pleasure of attending the group in the first place. there is a password for entry (the recruitment criteria) and a gate-keeper (the recruiter) who allows/denies entry. This club touches on some very fundamental dimensions. politeness. Being a member of the club bestows a sense of intrinsic value and community feel. Client involvement is acceptable under certain circumstances. If they do meet them the most likely touch point is in viewing facilities. they allow respondents to follow the rules and play the game of research. Like other clubs. The authoritarian headmaster-moderator is also disliked for being impatient. So what characterises this club? Well.e. it guides us in terms of any suggestions we may have for future development in research – using the club metaphor we can decide whether any of these suggestions should be introduced into the club or not introduced as the case may be. “Someone like us but clearly in control” (USA) By contrast. they only want one person to ask questions. i. Respondents like moderators that are attractive and well presented – it makes the time in the session pass more quickly especially if the subject matter happens to be rather dull. meet people and debate issues that they otherwise would not be able to encounter. It has rules of engagement some of which have been laid down by the organisation behind the Club (the agencies and industry) and others which have been devised by Club members themselves as they have gradually learnt the way things work in this club – a sort of self-policing for self-preservation. first. disrupt the otherwise flat structure of the group into a hierarchy. hence the need for objective external moderators. i. asking questions in an interrogatory tone.

One of her chief tools in this endeavour is the promise of intellectual validation. Discussing this task leads us neatly onto the topic of Eve's role in the Eden Club? What does Eve do? How easy or difficult is it? Eve Seduces Serpents via the Discourse of Temptation Eve's role is simple in theory but immensely complex. that is.Playing the Reality Game is the Raison D'être of the Eden Club We argue that the Eden Club is an environment where realities are traded. as the interpreter of these realities she projects herself into the 'intellectual. Grounded and more refined. for example. the hyper-real and the meta-real all come together in this club. Eve uses her wiles and ways to get members to transport themselves into a different reality from the one they are in – a little scary for them but not as scary as for Eve who needs to do this in the most fruitful way possible. We are asking them to also consider the realities of other members. practical reality as it applies to the subject of discussion. re-shaped and mastered. Using her skill. Eve's task is to tease out these realities from Serpents. via creative and projective techniques – taking them into the realm of the surreal – and then re-connecting them back to a different sort of reality. The real. she is a reality deployer. This is not a surreality now but a more distinct. This is the kind of reality that helps answer client objectives for the research. emotional and physical space' of the respondent. (See Figure 3. confirmation of emotional worth and the promise of seeing future realities (work in production and pre-launch) for the Serpents. charm. we play to their desire to learn as much about the world as we Eves do. But in doing so we are asking them to do a bit more than this. expertise and knowledge. the surreal. how they see the world and. specifically. interact with it and negotiate their way around it. practical reality outside the door and enter into a world where their reality is suspended as we spend two hours talking about the topic in hand. translated. this topic area. or it can be a dilution into the less distinct and more surreal. They want to learn as much about the world as Eve does. even intangible. it helps propel clients forward particularly when all the member realities are moulded into one and a single reality takes shape. In doing so. This process of considering alternative realities then helps to heighten their sense of their own reality by giving it a point of reference and a frame of comparison against which they can evaluate not only their own reality but also how it changes as the discussion progresses. The way we do this is to touch their emotions and imaginations. wit. challenging and demanding in practice. they are immensely proud of it but they wish to validate it in two ways: q Emotional reality – what kind of emotional reality should they be experiencing and expressing? Are they feeling about things the way everyone else is? Are they as loved and valued as the other members in attendance by the moderator? By other respondents? By the client? By family members when they go home? Intellectual reality – are they thinking about things the way everyone else is? Is anything anyone else is saying causing them to reevaluate their own sense of intellectual reality? Do they know the right quantity and quality of information to appear sensible and composed? Or are they going to look like a complete and utter fool? In undertaking this process of validation they want to feel accepted and acceptable to others. they leave their hard sense of daily. We have called this the discourse of temptation that Eve uses to get her own way – make them feel they are special. negotiated. unique and prized and rewarded for their membership and efforts enough to openly . even harder reality that has been shaped and informed by the surreal experience of creative techniques. Not only do they attend the Eden Club to meet other members – they also want to validate their own sense of reality and confirm to themselves that they are 'normal'. Such a change can be intensification into a more distinct sense of hard. Our Serpents enter the club doors with one reality in their head – their own hard reality of the outside non-Eden Club world.) Figure 3: Eve as a deployer of realities As Figure 3 shows. Both of these strategies go some way in teasing these realities out of them. It is not as if they are not proud of their reality – indeed. she brings out these realities further forward than they are to start with. taking Serpents out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to confront the realities of others. Her second important tool is empathetic understanding. far from being a 'passive experiencer' of different realities. q Once they enter the club. By this they mean as normal as they can possibly be or in line with the average definition of normality (whatever that may be).

then for us to 'call it a day' and sever our contact with them. in our Garden it is not necessarily the Serpent who is tempting Eve all the time. Unable to access the realities of Serpents most of the time as they are not really seen as a true part of the Garden. first time responses are so important? Well there is the obvious reason. the hardest of all – as she translates these into answers to the clients' objectives at debriefing stage and serves them up primped and preened with (hopefully) copious amounts of insight. PART 3: TOWARDS A NEW GENESIS IN THE GARDEN OF EDEN So we have established the nature of the Garden of Eden. What she does not want to deal with is untrue-realities (lies). Hence. What do you think? The last piece of the puzzle is Eve's own reality. It is a kind of 'courtly-dance' designed to lure. although. So unlike the Garden of Eden in the Old Testament. not only does this mean that Serpents are more comfortable about being subjected to this process. this heralds a shift from a purely client-focused approach to research to one that makes the needs and desires of the respondent more central in the process. All we have to do is indicate to them that we value them enough to want to nurture a relationship with them even if it is only for the evening. In addition. And it is a reality to which one character in the Garden has most access of all – the client. Eve's discourse of temptation is by no means indiscriminate. They can offer us so much more than just sit around and chat for a couple of hours. being fooled by the 'wrong' sort of realities. Not only does a germinating relationship prior to the research session starting bestow upon her greater understanding of the Serpents. But there are other dynamics operating in the Eden Club as well. it is Eve who is tempting the Serpent. it also means that they can expect some interaction outside the immediate session. Precisely what form this interaction takes is something we delve into in Part 3. and resist. Reality Seductions and the Discourse of Temptation are about Forming Relationships Given the lengths that Eve has to go to intellectually tease and flirt her way into and around these realities. the Eden Club and its various members. This is the realm of business reality. Serpents' realities are pinned onto Eve's reality to give her a frame of reference by which to judge true-realities from other ones. These aberrant realities need to be left alone. what implications does this have on what we call the sessions? Is focus group still the right way of describing these interactions? Is depth interview still the right way of describing it? We pick up this thread in Part 3. From here stems their sense of almost-professional pride in what they do within the Club. the reality presented by the heavy frequency respondent who acts like a consultant which leaves Eve feeling a little puzzled – what should she do with this? A special type of heavy frequency respondent who may be able to offer more insight on the topic. Some Serpents do not see anything wrong with manipulating their realities when it comes to articulating frequency of product usage or brand repertoire to include those brands that they have not actually used. need to consider as we lead the Eden Club. It is very targeted and specific and.and willingly share their realities with her and others. it also means she can more readily and quickly tease out the realities she is looking to bring to the surface during the session. virgins are needed to renew the Garden and start the Genesis all over again but why do we think that pure. it is time to explore other directions that need to be pursued. True-realities are re-worked into a harder sense of reality – in fact. But aren't there other rationales for why it may sometimes be better to accord this prized status elsewhere? We think there are. as an industry. they may choose to be more expressive and articulate about their views (unlike other HFRs who may decide to say just enough to keep the moderator and fellow respondents happy). Eve has feared the realities they offer and. there is. In turn. Serpents in the Eden Club want to feel they have a relationship with her and with the general activity in which the Club indulges. in practice. totally inebriated-realities (as opposed to those only mildly drunk) and/or bullshit-realities (from dominant vocal types). i. But this also raises another set of issues. So how can we address this relationship-value-respect dynamic? In dealing with such issues. nonsensical-realities (totally weird and unintelligible to everyone in the room). If Serpents are looking for relationship development in the Eden Club and Eve could be quite keen on this as well. respondents. She does not want them to corrupt the other true-realities that she is so delicately and sensitively nurturing. Traditionally. an alternative and perhaps even more sophisticated reality than that presented by other respondents? That calls on us to raise the issue of the reality of the 'virgin respondent – what should she do with this? Of course. And this desire to have a relationship is not something that will just stroke the scales of the Serpents and keep them happy. Are they correct in this assumption? Are we simply being too stringent in our application of the rules of engagement from the Eden Club and ignoring their interest and enthusiasm? Are these criteria really as sacrosanct as we can sometimes claim they are? These are some of the issues we. she is hoping that she can sift through these realities to ensure that true realities are being presented. our industry sets a great premium on the reality of the virgin but should this really be the case? Is their reality over-prized relative to its usefulness? Yes. we underestimate the value of respondents. at best. Admittedly that may happen every now and again.e. clients and the industry? How can we all benefit from what we have found out? During the course of this research it has become implicitly and explicitly clear that. taken with a pinch of salt. namely. She has to be aware of. the market research industry as a whole. This is especially the case where heavy frequency respondents are involved. in making it so. we now present a number of strategies with supporting solutions that can: . In their own minds. it is small wonder that there is more to the interaction than at first we might think. However. But should this be the way it remains? Can Eve openly embrace their reality and interpret it for what it is. This acts as the canvas against which the other realities are seen. that is. This happens at the gates to the Eden Club as well. But essentially. Now that we have led you on the path of respondent experiences and interpreted the meanings underlying this path. has maintained this stance for many years. as Eves. discounted totally or. we would like this relationship to last for the duration of the project. of course. they ascribe more value to being in the Eden Club than we had at first realised. to take a temperature gauge of a representative sample from the universe and hear from those who have not been exposed to the research process. What are the implications for researchers. their only in-road into this world is via Eve and the research process. research. It can also be beneficial for the Eves. entice and cajole. But there is also Reality Manipulation at the Point of Entry into the Eden Club The encounter with Eve is not the only time that Serpents' realities are re-shaped and re-presented.

The second benefit is that this session acts as a vehicle to impart research norms and values such as the need for honesty. Current practice around warming up respondents usually lasts about 10 minutes of which only four to five minutes focuses on honest responses. all how did the process make them feel? Valued? Respected? Under-valued? To increase the value of this approach even more. what we envisage will be. the post-research encounter could take the form of a follow-up phone call. there is a crucial difference. Deriving more value from Serpents Our initial steps on this journey of relationship and value are to draw more out from our respondents by re-shaping the format of the 'research evening' and providing more reassurance for respondents who take part in research for the first time.q Increase the value of respondents Draw out more value from them Look again at the content we put into research Explore the changes we can make to the role of the moderator Understand the implications for the role of the client q q q q Central to all of these is the core principle of building a relationship with respondents and exploring the notion of value and being valued and we deal with each of these in turn below. the moderator would call all the respondents the following day and conduct a short 20 minute depth interview to cover the issues cited above. the bar or café. Precisely what would this involve? Well. Again respondents would be recruited for two stages – the first interview and the follow-up tele-depth interview. Asking them to arrive 30 minutes earlier means that the moderator can spend this time warming them up. Which areas/questions worked well for them? Which areas/questions did not work so well? How was the flow of the discussion for them? Too fast? Too slow? Just about right? What about stimulus? Appropriate for the task to be performed? What suggestions can they give for improving subsequent sessions? And above. It then becomes much harder for them to behave in a disruptive way in the session. Rather than send respondents home straight after it is finished and welcome the second group in. for three hours if the actual group is for two hours (plus the 30 minutes required by the pre-research acclimatisation session). it then becomes more difficult for them to be too vociferous. The main purpose of this first workshop is to act as a true qualitative pilot that is diagnostic in its role and insightful in its nature. how they have been specially chosen to take part in the prestigious endeavour of market research. respondents would have the opportunity to quiz the client first hand about their work and plans for further development of the ideas once they have aired their experiences to the moderator. Post-research experience workshops to capture learnings and lessons from the first night Our second suggestion is to run post-research experience workshops. mini-group or workshop would take place in a viewing facility or via video link into another room of the hotel where facilities are not available. If the sessions are longer than this. Hence respondents enter the group/depth room with a different frame of mind and. This would run for its normal duration. But what it does mean is that we can invite them into our norms and values. confidentiality and anonymity. These would take place on the first night of research. But in viewing facilities this often would not happen and respondents would have to 'do their own warm-up'. To tackle this we suggest additional training and briefing of recruiters. Such a conversation would draw respondents' attention to how bona fide research is. However. free from the vested interest of the recruiter. it would involve chatting informally (even about inconsequential things such as the journey or the weather) to respondents in a relaxed environment. They . It is not enough to hand over the invitation card with the number for the research industry contacts in each market. Pre-research acclimatisation sessions to 'share the love' before the research begins Our first suggestion is to invite respondents to arrive a little earlier to the session. The senior buddy. first time respondents are still quite afraid about what will happen to them if they attend a research session. and. for example. In this case. Giving more reassurance to virgins at the recruitment stage We have already established that despite the invitation cards and recruiters' reassurances about the bona fide nature of research. it then becomes more difficult for them to remain silent. such training would highlight the kinds of feelings experienced by virgin respondents and explain the rationale behind spending more time with respondents detailing what will happen in the session. The merit in asking the moderator to do these things is that it helps create a bond between the moderator and respondents even before the main part of the session begins. Furthermore. Based on the findings from our research. policies and regulations in place to protect respondents explained in a consumer friendly way. above all. We are not there to train them on how to respond as such but to give deeper guidance on what we see as the template for respondent behaviour within which they should operate. we can underline the importance of their contribution to the research not just by saying it but by tangibly demonstrating it via the extra time spent with them. we would ask the first group to stay on for an extra hour. more mentally receptive to the task at hand. could provide the virgin buddy with a more on the ground view. Who would take the trouble to ring them anyway? Another technique worth exploring is 'buddying-up' virgin respondents with those who have been to research before. This task is usually performed by the hostess if the session is in a hotel or in-home. In the case of depth interviews. who has been to research. it would mean a depth lasting one hour and then an additional 20 minutes for the follow-up to take place on the first three depths for a project. for example four hours. that is. We know that anyone who has lied their way into the session at recruitment is not going to suddenly confess to their actions and beg eternal forgiveness. To facilitate this. respondents would be recruited for the entire evening. The first group. During this hour we would explore their experiences of the session.

advertising strategy or corporate secrets. offer a service where viewing facility staff accompany respondents to their cars. Going to a pleasant but often un-glamorous home in the suburbs of the city is not 'going out for the evening': being invited to go to 'X Y Z Hotel' is a much better approximation. we know that some clients may not be comfortable doing this but if they want to have the privilege of seeing respondents perform for them and share their views in this most artificial environment perhaps they owe it to respondents to meet their side of the bargain. this can also be applied to other types of venues too). Of course. However. personal recommendation and experience can be the best antidote to such negative perceptions and can easily outweigh any more formal PR exercise on behalf of the industry. spacious venues which are easily accessible: they also do not want to intrude on anyone's privacy (including their own) which often happens in in-home venues. serious research taking place in a proper research place' they do not endear themselves emotionally to respondents. We can however. This plays directly into respondents' desire for selfvalidation and respect for their endeavours. it will generate brand warmth and positive associations in general and also increase their regard for the client by underlining the clients' commitment to the people who took part in their study. We know viewing facilities do not meet all respondents' needs. Whilst viewing facilities send the message of 'this is proper. Both of these strategies would also go some way to help tackle the rather dubious image of market research as pressure sales or some other undesirable venture. it does mean that we will also make fostering the relationship with respondents the focus of the research too. although it can be taken into consideration when new facilities are set up. Also these venues most closely resemble the mental template carried around by respondents that attendance at research is akin to 'going out for the evening'. If that is the case. Leaving the communication loop open after the research session has finished by sharing findings with respondents Respondents are keen on research and the intellectual and emotional benefits they derive from it are clear to see once the right questions have been asked. If this is likely to worry clients then let us add this: the very act of sending something can be highly effective. the fact remains that clients have been weaned so effectively on to them that they will never really give up their love of viewing facilities. why should they gain something at the expense of respondents but not give something in return? Why should they peep into the world of respondents like voyeurs but not allow respondents into their world? One other obstacle that we cannot overcome easily is the location of viewing facilities. Being situated in office blocks which feel scary during evening time cannot be helped. all of this means additional costs to add to the clients' bill but what would they rather have? Happy respondents who go and . They would leave the facility en masse and the entourage would wend its way around to the different areas where cars are parked. For neither of these terms feel particularly egalitarian and close to the respondent in an emotional and intellectual sense. This does not mean that we will stop focusing on the topic or the client. Conducting research in more amenable physical surroundings We are fully aware that there are currently no perfect venues where research can be conducted: each has its own pros and cons. This will help respondents feel that they are 'one-up' on clients as they have a more spacious and well-lit room – something that would not be achieved if clients came into the respondents room. how we reward them and the use we make of different types of respondents. depth interviews are about exploring a subject in depth and/or obtaining depth for a client although in this case also understanding the respondent in detail – but does this justify the current terminology in use? We don't think so. How about using the term 'collective relationship sessions' to depict a group based methodology? How about 'individual relationship sessions' to reflect depth interviews? Using the term relationship in the name of the methodology forces us as moderators to keep this important element of the respondents' agenda top of mind and allows us to constantly reference it whilst we conduct the sessions. What are the solutions then? What terminology can we use that will help improve the nature of the information captured by drawing out qualitatively different material? We believe that different terminology may help to get better and more insights. But a better alternative would be to offer transport home. therefore. They are especially interested in increasing their involvement to beyond the actual research session and they cite sharing research findings as one of the mechanisms to facilitate this. Furthermore. This is because respondents are keen to come to comfortable. how much information we share with them. A short one-page summary of the key findings is all it needs. After all. plants. where do we go from here? The answer is we work within the viewing facility framework and improve it in line with respondent needs and desires. However. Attributing more value to Serpents Our subsequent steps on this relationship-value journey are to demonstrate the respect with which we hold respondents through the terminology we use for the sessions. (Incidentally. if not more so. it is hard to reconcile this with the feeling that viewing facilities continue to make respondents feel uneasy and suspicious of the types of clients behind mirrors and their roles. it does not have to give away confidential new product development plans. We strongly believe that such a venture will enhance their relationship with the research. not be best placed to describe the process and experience as a fellow respondent. than the recruiter's explanation as the recruiter may never have attended a research session before and would.could give confidence to the virgin and answer any questions they may have about what happens in the research process. The issues around viewing facilities can be remedied by developing more comfortable viewing facilities that actually do resemble a living room environment complete with comfortable sofas. This is potentially as valuable. candles and decorative items. A rose by any other name? Cultivating new terminology for focus groups and depth interviews We feel the term focus group does not do justice or attribute respect to respondents – it implies a focus on something but this is likely to be on the subject matter or on the client rather than focusing on the respondent per se. where we hold the research. Likewise. One way of dealing with this issue is to insist that clients meet respondents at the beginning of the group via a visit to the client viewing room. relaxed. Of course. Whilst we might prefer not to hold any research in viewing facilities to save respondents from the artificiality and pretence of this venue. After all. Hotels and private rooms in restaurants and bars go some way to meet respondents' needs and we encourage clients and agency side colleagues to use these types of venues more often and more effectively by utilising the range of facilities available in them. This would mean that the incentive is lower as the travel element is taken out but it would mean that respondents feel safer.

in a strange sort of way. That is not to say that we are agreeing with how they choose to behave and attend research on a repeated basis – we think this is wrong. so think about other incentives that can be offered Nothing will ever replace giving hard cash for participation in research. if you ask respondents. we need to educate clients about this issue too and encourage them to be more discerning about their recruitment criteria rather than adopting the 'one size fits all' mind set. . we do not jeopardise the flow of the group by persisting with a projective technique even if it is clearly giving respondents anxiety. They can draw upon their knowledge of a topic if it has been gathered over a series of groups and genuinely add an alternative dimension of value to the data. The other alternative is to use the post-research experience workshops to test the amount and type of stimulus that should be included. it is quite the opposite. we are not advocating that virgins are excluded from research. The format of stimulus also needs to be re-examined to make it more dynamic. It is linked more strongly to drawing the clients' attention to stimulus issues and convincing them of the potential problems. Heavy frequency respondents – are they treated unfairly? Steps towards making more use of their 'expertise'. They are not something that is randomly included in a discussion guide to liven it up – they need to have a specific purpose linked in with the clients' objectives. why do we continue to use them? Could the advertising industry leverage its creativity to re-work the format of stimulus for creative development? If they can't within their green houses of creativity then what hope for us poor qualitative researchers? Being more judicious about using projective techniques Respondents would have us believe that projective techniques give them a massive headache and we are inclined to believe them as well. help create 'better practice'. But if we continue to treat them like criminals we will never get to the bottom of the deception they are operating. Re-visiting Research Content The less is more approach to stimulus Based on our own experiences as moderators and the comments made by respondents it is self-evident that stimulus is a potential problem area and a possible cause for ruining the enjoyment of the research session. so we have to think of the best way we can use the techniques without creating discomfort for respondents. This should have been an integral part of our training as qualitative researchers from the very start or reinforced by senior colleagues. There would also seem to be a strong case for researchers to lean back on clients and ad agencies and resist the temptation to acquiesce to 'death by foam board'. They claim that they are forced to persevere with techniques that do not appear to work. Both of these strategies can also test how much repetitive questioning is possible and where the line should be drawn in response to respondent boredom. we need to ensure that. Respondents taking part in research on beauty could be given their monetary incentive as well as a voucher for a local department store where they can buy beauty products. when this sort of frequent attendance will not jeopardise the findings or may positively enhance them. So what can we do about this? Well. as moderators. They can give us a window into how other moderators handle a topic and thus. That way we can make a choice about when to include them in our forthcoming research. That said. We advocate that stimulus be introduced earlier in the discussion (that is. the thinking behind it and we check they are comfortable in attempting to project. (It is worth pointing out that this process of piloting the stimulus not so that moderators can decide how much to put in – they already know based on their experience). Indeed. And they can subtly help bring nervous respondents out of their shells. perhaps our techniques have got too old and worn out. the question is will they do it. Fourth. the conversation we should be having with them is perhaps how little stimulus can we put in. First. in some cases. If sent after the research has happened and in the post. this is about minimising the worst effects and optimising the best ones instead. we cannot throw out what we feel is one of the most useful devices in the qualitative researchers toolkit. By fostering a more accommodating approach. They are useful but just because they are virgins does not mean that they will be of great value to the research – indeed. We do not hold virgin respondents in quite the same degree of awe as some of our colleagues in the industry nor do we put them on a pedestal. and other respondents. we are encouraging them to be more open about the amount of research they undertake. we need to be much more judicious in our use of projective techniques. It also goes without saying that we. experience and knowledge We do not necessarily concur with the wider belief in the research industry that all heavy frequency respondents should be excluded from research. We should no longer be forcing board after board down the throats of unsuspecting respondents. there is scope to build in more inventive gifts and incentives to give respondents a warm glow about their participation and make them feel more appreciated for their efforts. Yet. We are saying that we need to think more carefully about when they are truly needed rather than just take a blanket and blinkered 'virgins are best' approach to every project. that is. Third. this means we take the time to explain their purpose clearly. this could be a very pleasant experience not to mention a huge surprise. If respondents find it hard to relate to animatics mounted on boards. These could be products or vouchers from the client company or from another reputable company. However. multi-dimensional and user-friendly. We need to ensure that this explanation is sufficiently detailed but does not overwhelm them: neither should it position the task as too difficult to attempt. e.share their experiences with their friends? Or unhappy ones who are unhappy because they have had to walk around alone late at night? Would they rather have respondents speak lyrically about the clients' brand? Or would they rather have respondents lambaste them? And finally do clients want those who are keen to return to a research setting in the future? Or do they want to put respondents off from taking part in research in the future? We know what we need them to do. Money is not the only motivation. Getting a virgin – is it over-rated? Re-evaluating the value perceptions we hold This also raises the topic of virgin respondents and their position. The outcomes would be fed back to the client or better still the client would watch.g. they will tell you that it does not happen like this. Second. Perhaps we need to develop some new ones that will be more dynamic and illuminating. do see a value in their contribution if they are thoughtful in their feedback and do not remain silent or become too dominant. Imagine the good will that would generate for the client brand. And moreover. They can become 'consultants'. Or they could be items that are difficult to acquire (although not necessarily expensive). towards the middle) than is current practice to negate the effects of respondent tiredness if it is shown at the end. The optimum number can be derived from running a pilot session with internal non-research staff acting as respondents. We need to encourage a climate of honesty where these respondents are not automatically vilified and treated as criminals. Essentially.

It is laudable that clients wish to get closer to respondents but we have also established that this is not always what respondents want or need to give of their best. This is exemplified in several ways. We do not want to sound derogatory of our colleagues in the industry but consider this: who wants to go out for the evening with someone who looks like they haven't shaved in three days. Now based on respondent feedback we know that there are means to achieve this by enhancing the respondents' experience. richer data is clearly a desirable goal as well: it helps them meet their needs more effectively. helps them sell more and helps consumers develop better engagement with their brands. we have revealed that aspect of research that is so often hidden from us – the experience of being a respondent – in all its multi-dimensional complexity. And lest we forget the trouble respondents have concentrating in the presence of moderators who 'let it all hang out'. respondents have more mixed feelings towards them. we have shown that although financial incentives to take part in research are strong. personal and emotional benefits are also prevalent to a greater degree than we at first imagined. There is little point in meeting them 10 minutes before the ethnographic session is about to begin. Deeper insights into consumer motivations are the name of the game. Finally. Concluding our Argument Our journey around the Garden of Eden is now completed and on the way we hope we have instigated a re-evaluation of how we qualitative researchers think about what we do and how we do it. But how would they be different? If the moderator took the feedback of respondents into consideration there are a number of strategies she would deploy. in actual fact. it makes sense for the moderator to make an effort with their appearance. other social. All of this amounts to encouraging clients to think of respondents as people with whom they should build relationships and not as mono-dimensional objects of study who are seen in isolation as 'things' that interact with their brand or product. This helps eradicate respondent fear about who is behind the mirror and helps them see clients as real people rather than people with funny shaped heads. Building on this thinking for conventional group discussions held in viewing facilities. Fundamental to the research experience is the need to feel valued and respected and this leads onto them wanting to build a deeper relationship with the moderator and research process. From the client's point of view. For example. We always strive for this and feel that this should be the culmination of what we endeavour to achieve. The pre-research acclimatisation session we mentioned earlier in Part 3 can go some distance in helping to achieve this outcome. But beyond this the enhancements to research which we recommend here will increase the return on investment that they make. How would this make the client feel? At the very least. It could also make for a useful pilot of the interviews. four legs and wearing strange looking laboratory coats!! It helps them realise that clients are not aliens!! In many matters. Amongst other things. So whilst it may feel like our suggestions are going to mean the price of projects goes up. . We suggest that if clients (and actually researchers as well) want to use ethnographic approaches they spend time with respondents before hand. no revealing or suggestive clothing please!! Transformation of the client Our findings have some major implications for clients and their behaviour. This translates into adopting the persona of a friend to the respondent rather than a purely dispassionate observer. Over the course of this journey. In doing so. willing to share their own life and research experiences without giving the game away and revealing anything that could bias responses. Groups offer the most fulfilling environment for respondents as they ease the pressure away from any single individual to talk all the time and are the best setting in which they can quickly build workable relationships and validate themselves. Despite clients' love of viewing facilities. But what we are saying is they temper this with an open and more personable stance. sharing anecdotes from their childhood or their own life helps to make them appear more human and helps respondents feel more confident about sharing their views. we are not saying that moderators lose their sense of objectivity – no they have to hold onto that very tightly. There are Consequences of Implementing these Initiatives The consequence of these initiatives being put into practice are multi-faceted but fundamental to this is the idea that as researchers we will be able to acquire richer. in some cases. Building on the mental template that respondents liken research sessions to 'going out'. preferring to opt for the pamper and comfort of a good quality hotel instead. Who wants to go and meet someone who appears to have been in their clothes when they put themselves inside the washing machine while it completed the spin cycle. Thinking about ethnographic or immersion approaches the direst example we have heard is where clients have not realised the respondent may feel overwhelmed at having five or six members of the marketing and product team pile into their house!! Perhaps there is a serious argument for turning the tables and asking five or six researchers to visit the client in their own home to watch them carry out some tasks of interest to the researchers. guidance from moderators can be invaluable in helping clients behave appropriately with respondents and we feel listening to them will make all the difference. the discomfort created by some research content – notably too much stimulus and use of certain more taxing creative techniques – also runs counter the need to be intellectually and emotionally comfortable in order to yield their best learning value to us. Perhaps take them out for a drink or go for a coffee and get to know them a little better as well as explain the purpose of the ethnographic approach. the amount spent for the benefit gained is going to tell a different story which indicates that they are getting more value for each £ or $ spent. hence they came out with clothes that look like they have not been ironed for a decade? 'Not me mate' says the respondent!! So the moral of the story is for moderators to also treat going to moderate as a special occasion which requires additional effort to woo respondents. Ideally we suggest this is done a few days in advance to encourage the respondent to get used to the idea of the visit. perhaps there is scope for clients to mingle with respondents before hand as well and get to know them a little better. we can ensure that ethnographic approaches are used in a more sensitive way. Each £ or $ spent on research can stretch that bit further. They would be striving much harder to create and retain a relationship with respondents. This is not a 'revenge of the respondent' exercise but instead an opportunity to share experiences that respondents have to sometimes endure. more insightful and meaningful data as we tap into the emotional and rational side of the respondents' sense of self. In advocating this.Re-birthing key players Eve is born again A re-birthed moderator could be rather different from the one that currently exists. We feel clients need to think about respondents differently and not as lab rats that can be scrutinised. it may help them understand how respondents are human beings and will feel intimidated by the experience.

if we can rise to it. Robson. Feldwick. archived or shared electronically either within the purchaser’s organisation or externally without express written permission from World Advertising Research Center. Pre-research acclimatisation sessions and post-research experience workshops draw respondents into the research process in a much more meaningful way by sharing certain research values with them such as the need for honesty and allowing them to constructively critique the session respectively. Wendy and Robson Sue. re-interprets. pgs. taking them into the client viewing room or using more comfortable seating. 297–305. Fax: +32 (0)27 40 0717 All rights reserved including database rights. Paul and Winstanley. She transforms and translates them into the hard business reality of the clients' objectives and presents them with copious amounts of insight. Mike. International Journal of the Market Research Society. e-mailed. Sue and Hedges. Vol. Vol. Analysis and interpretation of qualitative findings: Report of the MRS Qualitative Interest Group. Qualitative recruitment: policy and practice. the challenge. All of this begs the question of what should we do now? Taking as our core the relationship-respect-value dynamic we have advocated a number of initiatives that will address precisely this configuration of factors. It may not be reproduced. Wendy and Rose. as we have described it. Lyons. Gordon. Hayward. Vol. In the case of the moderator. (1986). it is about thinking about themselves as a respondent but also thinking of respondents as human beings and not just mono-dimensional consuming objects. Both need to relate to respondents in a deeper. Respondents through the looking glass: towards a better understanding of the qualitative interviewing process. Alan. (2007). John. But this Eden Club. Robson. posted on intranets. Jon and Owen. This electronic file is for the personal use of authorised users based at the subscribing company's office location. Issue 3. What's in it for them?' Research . (1989). 30. The exciting challenge this offers to us is to move our thinking away from old paradigms and open up the possibilities that the Garden of Eden has presented to us. more meaningful way. Mat. Who's watching whom? A study of the effects of observers on group discussions. the crux of the matter is for us to do 'better research' which generates more and better insights and better helps our clients run their business. 32. Brand Whitlock. Journal of the Market Research Society. (1993). MRS Conference Papers Qualitative Philosophy. Bringing respondents centre stage and making them the focus of what we do can help us achieve this. for example. Brussels 1200. She facilitates the validation of emotional and intellectual realities. Genesis to revelations the evolution of qualitative philosophy. we also call for an investigation into the roles and behaviours of the client and moderator. and absorbs respondents' realities using the discourse of temptation. And then there is the terminology we use to describe our sessions: this needs to change to reflect the way we should now be looking at what we do. it is about making respondents feel that the moderator is a part of the group and behave like a friend Who is out with them for the evening yet still maintain their objective distance to avoid biasing the data. We'll meet again. Lorna. Judith. extranets or the internet.': repeat attendance at group discussions – does it matter?' Journal of the Market Research Society. 333–359. reassessing how we use viewing facilities and taking into account respondents' reservations about them. Wendy. Issue 3.Participation in qualitative research is akin to being in a club – our Eden Club. In other words. is a club where the moderator draws out. Issue 1. So where do we go from here? At the end of the day.warc.. 17. Sue and Wardle.. Fundamentally. pgs. Gordon.< © Copyright ESOMAR 2007 European Association of Communications Agencies 152 Blvd. Likewise. Issue. In the case of the client. Qualitative research – new or old discipline?' Good thinking: a guide to qualitative research. we suggest a number of infrastructural and process-based enhancements that make the whole experience more comfortable and amenable for them. SELECT BIBLIOGRAPHY Chandler. Market Research Society Conference. Belgium Tel: +32 (0)27 40 0711. understands. August. pgs. is to recognise the potential for a more dynamic and insightful paradigm in which to understand and practice qualitative research. 35. (1982). (1990). MRS. www. Market Research Society Conference. 377–407.

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