In the role of the participant
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I recently participated in the MRIA course: Moderating Tool Box which focused on projective techniques. Projectives (or the use of indirect questions or activities to explore respondents' deeper feelings) certainly aren’t new. They include familiar exercises like:
- Creating collages: using pictures and words from magazines or newspapers to create a poster reflecting perceptions and feelings about a topic.
- Personification: describing a brand or a product as a person. How would they dress? Where would they shop? What kind of job would they have?
- Storytelling: respondents tell a story related to their experience with the topic.
What was most beneficial about the course was how it was taught. Our instructor would introduce the basic premise of each projective technique and then she would ask one of the students to moderate a discussion using the specific technique. The rest of the group completed the activity as respondents.
This was illuminating!
First – it confirmed for me how effective projective techniques can be. I continually found myself thinking how effective the different exercises were at getting me to focus and organize my thoughts – and not in a linear, rational way – but in a way that could capture fleeting or disconnected ideas.
Second – it helped me to understand the respondent’s experience. I tend to favor projective techniques that will be most comfortable for respondents and I shy away from anything that might feel risky (anything that involves drawing for example). But, wouldn’t you know it, the projectives that made me feel most uncomfortable were the ones I found to be most effective.
Participating as a respondent gave me valuable insights into how to be a better moderator. I now understand how best to introduce these techniques and I also know when respondents are going to need some gentle reassurance to give them the confidence to fully immerse themselves in the activity. I can speak from experience and tell respondents that while it might feel awkward at the beginning, it will all come together by the end of the exercise.
Projective techniques also leave you with fantastic visuals, carrying the emotion from the focus group to the report.
Let me share with you some of my worksheets as examples of the great visuals that come from these exercises. In this personification exercise, we were asked to draw and decorate stick figures representing customers at specific outdoor/camping stores. I won’t tell you the stores I was depicting.
Immediately following that exercise, we did another projective technique called the 3 Panel. The 3 panel exercise is used to depict how you feel before, during and after a specific activity. Our task was to draw how we felt while completing the personification exercise. At the end of the two day session though, I thought this 3 panel exercise could apply to any of the projective techniques.
You can see how these visuals will bring life to a written report.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, I learned that some projective techniques interfere with the sharing of information, overshadowing the research. For example, writing exercises designed to explore the relationship between brands or concepts and the consumer (e.g. Write the resume for brand X, write the obituary for product Y) could take respondents off on a tangent. When completing these exercises, I found myself focussing on creating something that really looked and sounded like a resume or obituary – rather than thinking about the attributes of the product were focussing on. For me, these particular exercises became more about form and not enough about function.
At the end of the course I found myself thinking about what a great investment of time and money it had been. I have a much better sense of how the projective techniques work from the respondents’ perspectives and I have some new tools for my toolbox ... and I have thrown a few out.
POSTED BY SANDRA JOHNSTON
Posted in: Qualitative Research Techniques