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Today’s tip is: let yourself be fascinated by what you are investigating!

If you are to get the most out of an inquiry or study, become immersed in the phenomenon you are investigating. More particularly, see if you can begin to reflect upon & empathise with the significance that it has in everyday lives. Do this particularly if the product or service you are exploring has little attraction or interest for you in your life.

Everything I have ever worked on has been significant in some peoples’ lives, it’s just a matter of letting yourself be open to experiencing it. It’s best to start this process long before the fieldwork actually begins. Get yourself some experience of buying, using, chatting about, taking the mick out of, finding some friends who love/hate the thing you are about to explore.

Take this on as a ‘way of being,’ not just a mere data collection exercise. Become someone who is embroiled in the laundry and all its related activities. See if you can take the automobile you’re hired to investigate for a test drive. If it’s an insurance product, get a quote and while you’re doing so, ask yourself what the most engaging and the most irritating aspects of that experience are.

Many of the products or services that qualitative researchers are asked to explore are ordinary, everyday things. Such things, although you personally may not use them, constitute significant small acts for their users and it is the researcher’s job to get under the skin of these acts in order to appreciate their weight and significance in the lives of others. Their significance will always have some psychological value too – from products that remind them of their mum or dad to those that offer hope for their children. Things as apparently commonplace and dull as washing powder and toothpaste can command this sort of significance.

It is often in the territory of ‘small significance’ that you will find the insights that can best help your client.