Does Size Really Matter?

Sample size is a fixation in research. We fret about it, argue over it, and generally have very little to back up the relevance we ascribe to it. Rather than thinking about the outcomes and goals, we get hung up on the n, sometimesusing it as a weapon to bolster a preconceived belief rather than […]

Planning Basic Field Observation

When I’m sent to a setting, be it a country I’ve never visited before, be it digging through someone’s cupboard, watching them plan their next vacation, or cooking dinner with a family I’ve never met, one of the first things I do is think through how I will make sense of the environment and how […]

Obsessing Over Bias

Recognizing and understanding research bias is crucial for determining the utility of study results and an essential aspect of decision making in marketing. Research plans that lack clear mechanisms to minimize bias are unlikely to be viewed favorably and the end results dismissed. But what are the rules for qualitative research studies? Whenever I am […]

Presentation as Storytelling

The goal of any good presentation is to change thinking, to shake the client’s foundations of belief, to rattle his or her assumptions, to create a new state a awareness. The presentation serves to evoke a feeling in the viewers, whether a client or a project team, and bring them into the moment of experience, compelling […]

Liminality and Shopping

You will not find the term “liminality” in many dictionaries. For instance, at last check it is not in the Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. The Oxford English Dictionary does, however, have an entry for “liminal,” the adjectival form, which it lists as a rare usage: “Of or pertaining to the threshold or […]

Getting Over Ourselves: Make research meaningful

The other day I was privy to a discussion by a researcher who was decidedly upset about having to “dumb down” the research report he had completed. The client was impressed by the depth of the work, but equally frustrated with the seemingly academic depth of the language of the report and the use of […]

Poetry, Semiotics and Brand Building

Though the custom of memorizing poetry in public school is largely long gone, I was part of perhaps a last generation to have to go through the process.  And I will no doubt remember the following lines until my last breath: ‘TWAS a death-bed summons, and forth I went By the way of the Western […]

Ethnographers vs. Moderators: Know What You Are Buying

The other day I was speaking with someone about ethnography and was informed by the person in question that she too was a “moderator.” She, of course, practiced ethnography, such as it is, and informed me she had been “moderating ethnographies” for years.  Yes, it made my skin crawl. Not because someone was crossing disciplinary […]

4 Noble Truths of Research

With the overwhelming number of methodological devices used to uncover insights, it’s easy to become lost in thinking about how and when to use them.  Not to mention why. This is even more true for our clients, who have neither the time nor the inclination to dig into the subtleties of how we do what […]

Write What You Mean: Words Matter

Several days ago, while listening to a discussion on the radio about the future of education system, I caught a tidbit that made me shudder.  Oddly, it had nothing to do with how programs are designed, the abysmal math scores in the US, or budget cuts.  No, it was the repeated use of the word […]