As a researcher who has been involved in many a traditional qualitative study, often as the moderator and analysts, I have found that in most instances I walk away from a group or interview satisfied that I asked all my questions. Just in case I missed something I would also throw in the “is there anything else?” question at the end. However, since working in the Research 2.0 (marketing research’s response to web 2.0) paradigm, I have come to realise that perhaps I should not have been so satisfied with myself back in the traditional day.
One of the communities I am currently moderating has managed to surprise me on two different occasions this past week. We have been exploring one particular employee-related issue for the past three months and my conclusion was that we have covered this topic from every possible angle. Next thing a respondent starts a discussion (this is the neat thing about our MROCs and Research 2.0, respondents can start their own discussions) and I realise that the particular issue he is raising is something that has never crossed my mind and is a very valid point to discuss. It would be naïve from a research perspective to assume you would have covered all the angles if you yourself are not part of the life world you are investigating. Not to get to PoMo (post modern) but in fact, if you are not part of that community/consumer group/demographic, how can you ever expect or conclude that you had all the angles covered?
On a similar occasion this week another respondent started a blog that drew many passionate reactions from other community members. It was a slightly sensitive topic and I thought that if I or another moderator initiated this discussion, it might not have been received so eagerly. It was like “one of their own kind” raised this issue and suddenly they were more candid to talk about it.
As a researcher, these occurrences never cease to amaze me. I find comfort in the fact that I can cover a topic from most angles by encouraging members to share and contribute beyond the topics and discussions I set.