A Glimpse Behind the Scenes
I write semi-regularly about the human side of my life as an independent researcher — both the highs and the lows.
“There is always a story in the data—you just have to find it.” This simple advice from an old boss got me through last week, when I got a desperate call from a client I hadn’t worked with for awhile. The problem: “We’re working on this report, but right now it reads like we’re just dropping a ton of numbers
Here is a sample of topics I’ve done surveys and focus groups on in the past few months: Challenges to immunizing children experienced by health workers in 14 developing countries “Pitjazzlement,” or the customization of one’s underarms Differences between nurses’ and physicians’ views on patient safety in hospitals How women are affected by bad hair days What it’s like to
When I teach Survey Design Boot Camp, I like to remind students that open ended questions are like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. I once had a client who wanted to ask 1,000 Americans: “Where do flowers come from?” She wanted to prove that people didn’t know that the US was a major source
I meet a lot of people who tell me their company or organization can’t afford research. I almost always tell them, “Actually, you can’t afford NOT to do research! What kind of decisions is your organization making on the fly, or based on your instincts alone? Do you ever make a decision after consulting a convenient but inappropriate group, like doing
When I ventured out to work on my own, I was really excited about working from home. I quickly learned, though, that working alone all the time is not for me. So, over the past year or two, I’ve gone to coworking spaces wherever I am: Paper Street in Detroit; Sandbox Suites in San Francisco; Uber Offices in DC; Office Squared in Burlington, Vermont; HUBBA in Bangkok; and LaunchPad in New Orleans.
After qualitative research, my clients often ask questions like “What were the key take-aways from respondents in this market?” This is what they’re concerned about, and rightfully so; it’s their job. But I try to remember that, just like my clients are more than their jobs, our respondents are more than just respondents: they’re people with lives and families and
I recently did a week-long juice fast at a wellness center. Upon arrival, I was handed a questionnaire asking about my eating habits and how often I suffered from each of a long list of ailments. “I’m really struggling here,” one of my fellow fasters confided one day. “It might be because I lied on my questionnaire,” she confessed. “They asked
Survey design is a linguistically intense undertaking. Every respondent should get the same meaning from your questions—and it should be the meaning you had in mind when you wrote the questions. A client wanted to know about feelings of security in different neighborhoods, and wrote the question “How safe do you feel in the area where you live?” In pre-tests,
I’m still looking for the perfect description of what I do. “Research” conjures images of white coats and Bunsen burners, and “survey” often leads people down the path of topography. True story: After hearing what my PhD was in, someone once asked if I had been a waitress for a long time. I must have looked perplexed, because she clarified,