A qualitative researcher is a personologist; someone who has developed abilities in the ‘sciences of persons’. We include cognitive, behavioural, psychodynamic, humanistic and social sciences among others.
These abilities begin with awareness in three key domains: self, others and the world. A quallie needs to be sharp, present and attentive in all three. H/she also needs techniques and listening skills to help access all three in dialogue with respondents.
However, simple awareness is not enough. We must also develop capacity to work with subjective experience, not just to report it but also to facilitate its expression & understand its impact at different levels of the person – any of which contribute to our choices and decisions.
- At the first level, there is general description, things like demographics, appearances and what people report about what they do, think and feel.
- Next, there is the level of character – the traits and stable elements which make up a person and how these shape them. Also how people respond to the character and personality in brands of good and services.
- Then, level three is the level of Personal Concerns. The things that matter to me or you. These include feelings, beliefs, values and commitments and our relationship with these things. If I prefer ‘organic’ produce where does my behaviour reflect that belief and where not? What makes the difference in terms of my commitment?
- Finally, level four is the level of Identity. This answers the question ‘who am I’ and is formed by the integration of past, present and future as a story of where I come from, where I am and where I’m going.
These four levels interact and work together to generate our actions. The ability to explore subjective experience at all four levels makes the perfect personologist – or qualitative researcher.