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Techniques for Online Qual Research: Circle of Voices

Structured Collaboration and the 'Circle Of Voices' Technique

Most weeks I'm asked to recommend new and exciting online qual research techniques, so I'm going to tell you all about a research technique that works very well within online research communities, called the ‘Circle of Voices'. It's not brand new per se, but it's likely to be something you've not seen or tried for some time.

The Circle of Voices technique that you can use in your online communities or online qual studies that will help you to surface insights in relation to more abstract themes - for example, to explore the underlying factors driving behaviour, or when looking to reveal opportunities to promote behavioural change.

Implemented well, benefits include richer emotional context and greater depth of feedback.

How it works

The Circle of Voices technique requires careful planning and sample management. It leverages the natural human desire to hear and share stories and works best by engaging smaller groups of participants, ideally no more than five or six, separately contained ‘within segments’ (using Dub’s research community platform). These smaller ‘circles’ enhance levels of rapport to encourage greater intimacy / depth of sharing.

Unlike most research community strategies which have many varied activities and themes, we suggest that your short-term community or online qual study is focussed on a singular topic / theme (e.g. healthy living, a popular client topic that we’ll take as an example).

This is crucial as it will increase the level of topic sensitivity and intensiveness due to your participants having greater time to consider and reflect over the course of field.    

Online Qual Research and Insight CommunitiesPrompting stories

Each day we encourage you to share stories with a single prompt / request to feature as a closed discussion amongst each small circle of members.

In your instructions encourage one participant to take the lead in each closed group by posting their story, and request that other participants pick this story up further, one after the other, building on the story by connecting, relating to, and further developing the content using their own experiences.

Story prompts should be clear and concise, so here’s some examples of prompts that you might consider and the style of requests applied to the ‘healthy living’ example:

  • Day 1: tell us your stories about the highs and lows that you have experienced in the pursuit of leading a healthier lifestyle...
  • Day 2: tell us your stories about the healthy living choice or decision that you made that have actively enhanced your life and lifestyle...
  • Day 3: tell us your stories about the healthy living challenges that you have faced during the past week..

To illustrate, here’s an example to reveal how the member to member dialogue might evolve in relation to challenges, snowballing to reveal greater levels of depth with each entry:

...Yeah Fred, I know what you mean, it’s hard to let things slip at the gym, I’m actually more of a fan of those German chocolate covered biscuits, fantastic product, probably the king of biscuits. Sometimes it can be really hard to resist, in particular late morning just before it gets to lunch...

...Nick, your food trials and tribulations sound very much like my own. I too am a fan of the occasional naughty snack and it’s really starting to show...

I experienced a similar situation yesterday, a bit like Brian, a colleague recently returned from hols and brought back some of those mini madeleine’s. I got a bit peckish and just couldn’t resist. Smashed 10 in a row..  My fitness regime has totally gone to pot, I’ve put on 2 inches since December. Should probably hit the gym later after work, but then again with the weather continuing to look the way it is, maybe I’ll just chill...  

A few more things to help you along

We recommend running your online research community or online qual study over a one week period, with single, daily prompts. This will help you establish a steady rhythm and keep the topic front and centre of members minds.

Run discussions amongst multiple segments to gather rich and varied responses (e.g. four groups of five). Increased segment targeting and ‘similarity’ within each individual group will encourage better sharing (research shows that project outcomes are more effective if members consider other members to be similar or ‘like-minded’).

I've also written about other research techniques so be sure to seek further inspiration here.

That’s it for now! I’ll be following up with further tips to enhance member to member interaction over the coming weeks (do feel free to share / like!).

If you have any questions do feel free to reach out and contact us, we'd be happy to help.

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