Five things you should know when conducting international qualitative research

Consistency is key

Consistency, from project setup, through to analysis, is key to ensure that your global research findings are comparable and meaningful.

  • Use the same core research approach in all markets to ensure that there is no methodological bias influencing local findings.
  • Develop one master version of all documents (screeners, discussion guides, etc.) that is used in all markets. Even though these master documents will need to be edited to meet each individual country’s specifications, it is important to ensure that syntax, logic, and flow remain consistent across markets.
  • Provide an analytic template to all global research partners to ensure that research analyses are comparable and focus on the key areas of interest.

Take nothing for granted 

When Media & Entertainment Strategies conducts qualitative research overseas, we partner with some of the top local qualitative research agencies.  Even so, we never assume anything.  All translations of field materials (screeners, discussion guides, concepts, messaging, etc.) are back translated in the US to ensure that nothing has been lost in… translation.

Never stop talking

In today’s world, it is very tempting to conduct all communication via email, messaging and social media.  While these are valuable and vital tools for the international researcher, it is important to engage your international partners (moderators and/or project managers) in verbal communication at key points during the project.  At a minimum, these include: upon commission, prior to recruitment, when reviewing the discussion guide and immediately prior to fieldwork commencing.

Taking the time (even if that time is 2:00 a.m. where you live!) to talk to the project team, and listen to their questions and assumptions can often reveal misunderstandings that never would have been apparent in a written communiqué.

Timing is everything           

It is very easy when scheduling a global research project to assume that every country has a similar calendar to that in the US.  This, of course, is not the case.  There are hundreds of unique holidays and festivals around the world that need to be avoided for the purposes of qualitative research.  From Carnaval do Brasil in Rio, to the Holi Festival in Mumbai to Songkran in Thailand, these events are a must-see for tourists, but a no-no for focus groups!

Listen to the locals

You conduct global research because you understand that consumers are not the same everywhere.  Their attitudes and behaviors are influenced by culture, language, religion, economy, government and a myriad of other factors.

Similarly, qualitative research techniques are not exactly the same worldwide.  Even though consistency is key, it is important to listen carefully to your global research partners, and allow them to advise you on how best to address a specific question or topic in their markets.  Local research partners should feel empowered to provide input from the earliest stages of the project.


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