In this section
In this section we outline some practicalities of conducting qualitative research. It’s accompanied by a detailed downloadable ‘how-to’ guide with top tips.
For every qualitative research method (apart from observation and informal interactions) you’ll need a topic guide. The topic guide lists areas that you want to explore with your group or individual and is linked to the brief – it must be designed to answer your research question.
Focus groups/mini focus groups
A focus group is a facilitated group conversation and led by your topic guide. It has to be recorded; for this you need permission from the participants and assurances about confidentiality. For the findings to be meaningful, it’s essential to conduct more than one focus group; you need to compare what emerges from different sample groups.
Interviews are used for more sensitive subject matter or time-poor participants. It’s a similar process to a focus group: use a topic guide, record the interview (getting permission first) and keep to time (usually 30-40 minutes).
An impartial facilitator allows participants to be open and honest, and lets the conversation develop without influencing participants’ responses. If you’re doing your own facilitation you need to be open to hearing criticism and negative opinions – your organisation can learn from these.
Observation and informal interactions
These can be a cheap and useful way of gathering data. It’s essential when observing your audience or users that you take field notes of your impressions and reflections. In informal interactions, try not to lead the conversation but keep it open.
Most arts companies regularly survey audiences and users after an event or performance to gather evaluation data. The key to getting a good response and not kill the connection you’ve just created is to keep it simple, short and open-ended. Be creative in your approach.