Archive for the Qualitative research moderation Category

The Gestapo qualitative research moderator

Posted in Qualitative research moderation with tags , , on February 20, 2009 by Cristi Popa

Here’s something I’ve stumbled on. It’s a year old, so probably many of you have seen it already. I find the presentation very interesting and honest. I think it tries to talk of some subjects more or less avoided by people in the research industry. Here you can find the author.

One point he makes in this presentation is that research is, more often than none, a dull and unpleasant process for respondents. Of course there are many reasons for this, but to me this idea brought back the Gestapo moderator’s image (kind of a Soup Nazi from Seinfeld).

It is very easy to recognize this type of moderator: most of the time the Gestapo moderator is very serious and focused. He knows exactly why he’s there and these good for nothing respondents would better behave. Cause he’s on the job.

There’s nothing more important to him than absolute control. He knows the guide by heart and in his whole career he never forgot a question. Not even once; unlike his no good colleagues who sometimes think they are having a chat with their mates and not doing market research. RESEARCH. But he knows his job. And he always gets the info the client wants. The info the client wants and the guide can get, that is. Because the guide is like a contract. The client approved it and he cannot expect anything more or less than that.

Anyhow, he likes his job. Sometimes he wishes it were a more precise job, but in the end a job is what you make of it. And this is RESEARCH. It’s kind of like science. He’s a kind of scientist with his faithful guide at hand, trying his best to squeeze the information out of his lab subjects. Sometimes he catches one of these pests lying. In those moments he whishes they were just guinea pigs. How he would zap them. But, unfortunately, they’re people.

“You’ve just told me you consume chocolate twice a week and now you’re telling me you are on a diet? Well, which one is it? You either are on a diet, or you do consume chocolate.”

In a way, she loves these moments. Now she can prove to the clients that she can challenge the respondents. She only whishes she had an interrogation lamp. How she would get the truth out!
“So, which one is it? When did you lie?” “Well… it’s a new diet, in which you are allowed to eat chocolate twice a week”.

“Eat – they don’t even know how to speak right. I asked her what she consumes. The chapter is called consumption habits and not eating time. Savages. But that’s ok. I only have 26 minutes left and I’m out of here. Anyhow, they already want to go home. They’re bored. Well, what did they think this was? Oktober fest? Maybe they were expecting champaign and stripers. Now way, this is RESEARCH. Almost a kind of science. And those bastard clients… probably half of them left and the other half is sleeping or updating their Facebook profiles. What were they expecting? A show? Stand-up comedy maybe? Well, not tonight, cause in here we do RESEARCH. If not a lamp I have to get me one of those leather whips at least.”

This is the Gestapo moderator. But rest assured. This is not an illness that’s spreading from moderator to moderator. It’s just how some people are taught to think about qualitative research.

This happens when you believe that just having a conversation with someone on whatever topic is to degrading to call work. And that you were meant for science. The bad news is that, besides traumatizing even a professional respondent, this type of moderators doesn’t actually get the information the client needs. People get bored, scared, intimidated, so they give you whatever plausible answer they can come up with. They just want the thing over, so they can get away.

So: be yourself, laugh, swear, scratch your nose if you feel like it, but do not make your respondents feel uncomfortable in any way. And the information will flow. All you have to do is to show them the route. In many cases a conversation guide goes a longer way than 10 books on qualitative research.