The analogy I always use to talk about qualitative research is that it’s the illustration to the quantitative story. What my own analogy assumes is that qualitative data on its own is an illustration. However, it’s really up to the analyst to bring this data to life.
Creating a visual story to display your qualitative data is an equally important part of the research process as the analysis phase, and something that is often rushed and not executed well. In my last blog post, I highlighted the fact that qualitative research is not just “quotes on a page.” You are doing yourself and your respondents a disservice if you rely solely on quotes and text to tell your story. Here are my tips to create an engaging report:
Kill your data darlings. My colleague Reineke Reitsma posted about this last month, and I couldn’t agree more. Don’t go overboard with numbers. Especially in qualitative research, too many graphics or percentages only distract from the story. Pick a few data points that strongly highlight your qualitative story, and challenge yourself to display them without using graphs and pie charts (i.e., via infographics.)
I have to share something with you — I’m upset. Why? Because many clients have no idea of the value of good, solid qualitative research, nor the investments needed. Recently, I was discussing a prospective qualitative research project; upon revealing the cost of such a project, one of the group members replied, “That is the same price as for a quantitative project; how can you justify that price?”
The conversation reminded me of my favorite quote from the movie You’ve Got Mail: Tom Hanks inquires about a book with hand-tipped illustrations and asks, “That’s why it costs so much?” and Steve Zahn retorts, “No, that’s why it’s worth so much.”
So, why is qualitative research worth so much?
Because there is a lot of skill involved in uncovering insights from qualitative research. Qualitative research is not about putting a couple of quotes on a page. It requires time, thought, and creativity to produce successful insights. What and who you put into your qualitative research process will determine what you get out of it. And it requires special skills. Unfortunately for us qualitative researchers, there aren’t many tools to help us with data analysis. Usually, it’s a manual process combined with a natural ability to read between the lines to pull out those impactful findings — combined with a creative mind to transform these into a compelling story.