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How to Avoid Mismatch Between Data and Your Questions

A growing number of stakeholders have turned to qualitative research for answers. There are many reasons. But above all, this steadily-growing trend is due to decision-makers increasingly realizing that quantitative data does not, and cannot, always provide the answers they are looking for. With more people interested in harnessing the power of qualitative research, the most common question is: When should I use which?

The key to deciding which type of research to embark on is to identify what information you're trying to collect - the "what" or the "how."

Some examples of the "how" type of information include:

  1. I hired two additional individuals to work on this program. How does the additional input affect the performance of the program?

  2. Due to COVID, my organization has closed the office and moved all operations online. How does that affect the performance of my team?

  3. Our organization serves different populations. What is the trend of engagement across different populations over time?

In comparison, some examples of the "what" type of information include:

  1. What brings clients to my organization?

  2. How are my team members interacting with each other in the Zoom era?

  3. Why are so many minority employees leaving my organization?

Notice how I intentionally mixed "how" "what" and "why" in these examples? That is because how you frame the question does not matter. You can word it in whatever way. The difference lies in whether you're trying to find out how one thing affected another, or you are trying to find out the cause of something without knowing exactly what the cause is.

Next time your team proposes a research project, ask them: what is the purpose of the research? Having the answer before heading into research will save you lots of time and money.

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