An excellent briefing yesterday on a new study I’m excited to be involved in. Massive team of us involved, but the interesting thing is the project is a proper piece of longitudinal qual. And it’s inspired me to mix geometrical metaphors like William McGonagall sharing a third bottle of Talisker with Kevin McCloud on the set of Grand Designs.
I’ll be following two or three families over a year, with diaries, catch-up calls and quarterly half-day visits to their homes. Because of the timescales and costs inevitably involved, longitudinal research is under-represented really in the ledger of what gets commissioned out there. But I’ve always learned things longitudinally that I couldn’t have got from a standard project.
I recall one study I did in Edinburgh with old colleagues Ann Whalley and Louise Skowron of the People Partnership, where I followed several individuals over two months looking at their financial decision-making. The morphing from how people presented themselves to me initially to how they talked about their finances by the time of the third of fourth contact was fascinating. There was a building of trust and a familiarity – with some, not all, I should point out, as some kept their guard up or even raised it – that gave me and my colleagues a privileged view into what was really happening.
As I’ve noted elsewhere on this blog – see Creating Memories: Jonah Lehrer and Faux Monty Python and shorequalblog.com: Knocked Unconscious – what we hear from people in any one interview is not some definitive statement of truth, but is necessarily contingent and inchoate. Researchers need to triangulate – draw upon other reference points – in order to get a firm interpretation of what we have heard or seen. This is why qual researchers like me usually propose mixed methodologies: not because we’re just wanting to do more research or try out a new technique, but because we need to see people from several angles before we can understand what they are doing and why.
Longitudinal research is really a form of triangulation: its real value is in being able to use our earlier encounters with participants to help interpret our later ones – and vice versa. I will understand my first meetings with the families much better once I’ve had my second and third. The opportunity to follow up on hypotheses like this is, for an analysis-focussed qual researcher like me, hugely exciting.
- Lehrer plagiarizes himself (politico.com)
- Monty Python’s letter to the haters for ‘Life of Brian,’ 1979 (dangerousminds.net)
- John Cleese, Monty Python Icon, on How to Be Creative (openculture.com)
- Longitudinal studies demonstrate that tw (seanwhitenack.wordpress.com)
- The advantages of face-to-face research (wheresthesausage.typepad.com)
- An Insight on Qual Analysis: from David Brooks’s “The Social Animal” (shorequalblog.com)