If you work in qualitative research in some capacity (human-centered design, UX, ad agency planning, or market research consulting) and you’re looking to sharpen your moderating and facilitating skills, it can be frustrating to know where to start. There are many different styles of training programs out there, so if you’re looking for the qualities that define the best market research certification programs, first consider the following factors when searching — because for qualitative research training programs – one size does not fit all.
Qualitative research training program tip #1: In-person versus virtual
The pandemic moved most training programs to online formats, and many of these training programs have decided to stay virtual. After all, it’s much more cost effective for the training programs who run the workshops to simply stay virtual, as this makes their programs more profitable. However, for students, this is a clear loss.
The core of qualitative research is that researchers are studying humans. Humans. Not just spreadsheets and data, but actual humans. And while it’s true that a lot of qualitative research is now done online, that doesn’t mean that the training should be.
Being an effective qualitative researcher involves a pretty thick skillset: Interviewers need to have training in psychology, anthropology, marketing, and for those in UX – user interfaces. To learn how to observe participants, set up questions correctly, pick up on non-verbal communication skills, and to manage groups – well, that requires some training. And practice. And feedback – from experienced instructors. Watching webinars online and getting tips and theory simply isn’t robust enough to cover the skillset that qualitative researchers need to succeed.
If you’re serious about understanding the fundamentals – and more advanced skillsets – in qualitative research, it’s worth attending a program that offers in-person coursework.
Qualitative research training program tip #2: Nimble and contextual research training
At one point in time, most qualitative research that was outsourced was done in focus group facilities or research labs. There are many advantages to hosting interviews and group sessions in these locations, but there are also downsides, depending on the study. For example, in some cities, there simply aren’t research labs or facilities available. Another downside is that these settings can be too formal or even “sterile” when studying certain topics or products. Most facilities have a giant mirror that clients sit behind to observe. And while this is a fantastic way for clients and stakeholders to observe research, it can be uncomfortable for participants, particularly when the topic is more casual in nature. Finally, facilities and research labs can be expensive, and often research needs to be done nimbly.
For this reason, look for a training program that actually teaches how to do research in-context, at various locations. For example, research can be done at co-working spaces, such as WeWork, or even in hotel conference rooms. The key thing to learn here is how to set up recording equipment so that interviews can be live-streamed, and there are numerous considerations to learn about how to arrange logistics and help participants feel comfortable.
Now this is not to say that focus group facilities and research labs don’t have a place: They most certainly do, and they offer fantastic advantages. Learning how to do research in labs and facilities is vital and it should be part of the qualitative research training program.
The main idea is to look for a program that teaches how to do research in various locations – and actually trains students in these contexts so that students are not just learning theory, but are actually practicing interviewing skills in different contexts and settings.
Qualitative research training program tip #3: Look for training programs that teach how to incorporate research technology
Qualitative research today is inseparable from technology. Mixed-methodology studies, online user testing, and using tech-collaborative tools are the norm, not the exception. So when you are searching for qualitative research training programs, make sure that in addition to teaching how to conduct qualitative research studies, they’re also teaching how to use the technology that is so vital to qualitative research.
For example: Mobile ethnographies. Mobile ethnographies are an amazing tool to capture in-context feedback, whether it’s studying people’s behavior and patterns, or if it’s seeing how people use technology. Some of the best studies start out with mobile ethnographies, and then end with in-depth interviews or focus groups to do a deep-dive into the learnings.
Another vital research tool is learning how to use online collaboration tools, such as Miro boards. When gathering input from stakeholders and clients, and when presenting research and hosting workshops, knowing how and when to use online collaboration tools is a key skillset that qualitative researchers need to understand.
So tip #3: As you’re searching for qualitative research training programs, make sure to investigate whether they’re teaching the technology with the training.
Qualitative research training program tip #4: Learn by doing, with real participants
A final key point to look for when researching qualitative research training programs is to make sure that you’re getting to practice moderating and interviewing skills with real participants, based on real-world research scenarios. (Yet another reason not to enroll in a virtual program!). There simply is no substitute for learning by being in front of participants, asking questions, and getting feedback from instructors. Additionally, a research training program should incorporate case-studies and actual scenarios that qualitative researchers will encounter – with training on how to respond.
Are you ready to sharpen your qualitative research skills?
The pandemic has eased considerably in the U.S., and for those of you who have been stuck at home on Zoom meetings for the last two years, now is the perfect time to brush up on your qualitative research skills and attend a workshop. Make sure you look for a program that offers in-person training, teaches using the latest research technology, and takes place in various locations and contexts.