Do better research

Posted On: 07/8/24

By: Jay Zaltzman   

I just got back from the QRCA Worldwide Qualitative Research Conference in Lisbon – there was a lot of great content packed into 2.5 days, as well as a dinner at the amazing Palacio Conde d’Obidos, shown here.

It occurred to me that we were all there for the same reason: to learn ways to do better research.  And I think we did!  Here are a few of the highlights for me:

Lucy Foylan gave a great presentation about the differences between conducting research online and in-person.  Her agency, The Nursery in the UK, compared the two and they found the people were more likely to work to build consensus during in-person focus groups and more willing to disagree with each other during webcam groups.  While some might think that’s a reason to conduct all focus groups online, remember that consensus building also happens in real life.  Witnessing how participants persuade one another can provide valuable insights for our clients.  Depending on the objectives of the research, we might benefit from in-person groups, webcam groups, or a mix of both – where we examine the differences between the two.

There were several sessions about the impact of AI on qualitative research, including presentations by Daniel Berkal and Sidi Lemine, followed by a panel discussion which I moderated, with Simon Shaw, Tom Woodnut and Paul Kingsley-Smith.  Some of my takeaways:

  • Daniel talked about ways AI can be used so we can do our work better and more efficiently.  He uses Chat GPT to help with screener development, with ideas for discussion guides, and to summarize responses, and Adobe Firefly to create images for proposals and reports.
  • Sidi talked about using AI tools to recognize emotions in research participants and how they’re surprisingly accurate across cultures.  While a smile or a frown may mean different things in different cultures, it turns out micro-expressions are remarkably consistent throughout the world.  Specifically, Sidi said he likes the following tools:, Emozo, Immersion.
  • While there are many great ways AI can help us in our work, our panel participants focused on what AI can’t do, and why we researchers are still needed.  One example: in a recent focus group project, participants all said they liked one of three concepts best, but I realized that was because it was the shortest concept, not because of the content of the concept.  If we had relied on AI to conduct the research, it would have taken those responses at face value and not probed further.  Simon said that we qualitative researchers are too humble and don’t do enough to explain the value we bring.  I agree!

Those are just some of the highlights.  The Worldwide Conference reminded me of how important it is for us to keep learning and adding to our skills.  The next opportunity is coming up soon: QRCA’s annual conference will take place in Denver, January 22-25, 2024.  I recommend it!  Register here: .

How can we add value to your next research project?  Email me at info at and let’s discuss!


SourcesQRCA 2023 Worldwide Qualitative Research Conference: “A Hybrid Future: Exploring Human Interactions On- and Off-line,” Lucy Foylan; “Navigating Qual in the Age of AI,” Daniel Berkal; “Can Emotion AI Remove Bias in Global Research?,” Sidi Lemine; “What AI Can – And Can’t – Do For Qual,” Jay Zaltzman, Simon Shaw, Paul Kingsley-Smith, Tom Woodnut