PD Presenters: Bob Kahle on Digital Qualitative Methods

Hello! I am Bob Kahle and I have operated Kahle Research Solutions for nearly 20 years. I am a program evaluator and specialist in employing qualitative methods. I have written and trained extensively on managing difficult behaviors in groups (see Dominators, Cynics, and Wallflowers: Practical Strategies to Moderate Meaningful Focus Groups), but more recently have developed ways to think about and choose among new qualitative methods.

Not long ago qualitative researchers had little choice. The array of choices included focus groups, individual interviews or ethnography. As ethnographic approaches are generally long term and in-depth, short timelines or tight budgets usually necessitate the group or individual interview.

Today, there are many more options available.

Cool Tricks:

1.) Computer Aided Telephone Focus Groups.Using special software, all participants can hear each other via traditional phone lines and see images or video on a shared screen. This allows groups who have common characteristics but are geographically distant to interact. Key features include:

  • Moderator uses software to “see” who is talking
  • Can use chat, polling or electronic white-board
  • Can be done with or without webcams

2.) Bulletin Board Focus Groups. These are asynchronous discussion forums typically lasting 3-7 days. The moderator pre-posts questions and can probe individuals or the entire group. Participants can upload photos or short videos to illustrate their points and usually are required to login 1-2 times per day.

3.) Mobile Qualitative: Any data you collect via computer, you can now gather via mobile devices, smart phones, and tablets. The mobility inherent in these devices allows for capturing data (text, digital audio, images or video) as respondents experience a place or event, rather than based on recall like many traditional methods.

Hot Tips: Assess whether Digital Qualitative methods are right for you.

  1. Does your target audience have Internet access and do they use smart phones? If yes, consider digital approaches.
  2. Is there a need to protect the confidentiality of the client’s stimulus, or any other aspect of the evaluation? If no, consider digital qualitative approaches.
  3. Is providing participants a sensory experience essential? If no, assess new qualitative techniques for application.

Rad Resources: Free training is available. Since much of this methodological innovation is going on in the market research space, check out these vendors for information, training, and access to tools. Most tools are easily portable to the evaluation context.




New Qualitative Research Methods & Tools and companion NewQualitative.org website are produced by GreenBook with the support of the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA). Check out this site for blogs, companies who offer software solutions, and an active blog discussing application of these new methods.

Want to learn more from Bob? Register for his workshop Qualitative Research Design in the Age of Choice at Evaluation 2013 in Washington, DC. 

This is one in an occasional series of posts by people who will be presenting Professional Development workshops at Evaluation 2013 in Washington, DC. Click here for a complete listing of Professional Development workshops offered at Evaluation 2013. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to aea365@eval.org. aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

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