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In February, FMG presented at the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA) annual conference in Phoenix, Arizona. FMG senior researcher Jon Strohl and I had the opportunity to present to a very engaged and welcoming group of attendees. Our presentation, When Qual Met UX: How to Combine Traditional Qualitative Methods and User Research Approaches to Satisfy Your Clients and Add Value to Your Findings, focused on how qualitative researchers can integrate elements of user experience research methodology into their work. For this presentation, we drew from our experience working with corporate and federal clients on projects that combined more traditional qualitative methods—such as focus groups—with elements of user experience research—like moderated in-lab testing—in order to provide the most in-depth, actionable data.

Here are some of our presentation highlights:

  • Use different methods across disciplines to answer clients’ research questions—both the ones they ask and the ones they don’t! If a client suggests focus groups on a website, but we think that a heuristic evaluation or task-based in-depth interviews could add value, we propose those.
  • Consider including specialized tasks and exercises in your data collection, to get beyond participants’ opinions on a product and dive deeper into how they use it.
  • Report observations of behaviors and metrics, such as time on task or completion rates, in addition to what participants say.
  • Require participants to “think aloud” when completing a task, and follow up later with discussion questions and standardized scales and survey questions. We often use the System Usability Scale (SUS) when examining online sites or systems.

Other highlights from the conference included insight into new moderating, recruiting, and study design techniques that will enable us to offer new expert, creative research solutions to our clients. Examples of insights we gained from the conference include:

  • In her keynote speech and workshop, Naomi Henderson, founder and CEO of the RIVA Training Institute, offered guidance on how and when to remove a participant from a focus group. If you do have to ask someone to leave, make sure to remove their chair and re-circle the group—otherwise, the negative energy from their departure will remain. (FMG focus group moderators are RIVA trained.)
  • An opportunity to hear about exploratory ideas that can be applied to a wide variety of new and innovative qualitative data techniques. For example, imagine a focus group in which during the first hour, one segment of your population discussed a topic in person at a focus group facility, while a different segment of participants watched online. Then, during hour two, the online group had a discussion about what they observed.
  • Several engaging and informative presentations from U.S. and international qualitative researchers on how to co-create products with clients and consumers, build online communities for qualitative research, and conduct packaging research in focus group settings.

The field of qualitative research continues to grow and change as new technologies and methodologies develop. The QRCA conference was a great opportunity to meet other experts in the field, and for us to learn about new techniques that can provide our clients with more insights and richer data.

About the author

Kinsey Gimbel

Kinsey Gimbel

Kinsey Gimbel's primary areas of experience are qualitative research, survey design and administration, data analysis and reporting, and program evaluation. She trained in focus group moderation at RIVA Training Institute, the industry's leader in qualitative research training, and as the lead moderator for FMG has conducted online and in-person focus groups with populations including veterans, medical professionals, federal employees, high school and middle school students, and military members. Kinsey has conducted research, training, and evaluation projects for organizations including the Department of Defense (DoD), Veterans Affairs (VA), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), General Service Administration (GSA), and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Before coming to Fors Marsh Group, Kinsey spent nine years at Macro International (now part of ICF International) working on data collections and program evaluations for the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health. She also worked at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she coedited the sourcebook Leadership Resources: A Guide to Training and Development Tools.

Kinsey earned a Master of Public Administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and received her undergraduate degree in History and Sociology/Anthropology from Guilford College in Greensboro, N.C. She also received a Graduate Certificate in Survey Design and Data Analysis from the George Washington University. She is a member of the American Association of Public Opinion Research and the Qualitative Research Consultants Association.

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