Adapting Memes for Qualitative Research

Filed Under: Market Research, Tools & Techniques, Focus Groups, Qualitative Research


Shaili Bhatt

Alum, Online Qualitative Research

When writing a discussion guide, it’s wonderful to be able to tap into resources that already exist in order to craft a well-rounded discussion.

A treasure trove of creative activities to elicit people’s thoughts and feelings beyond a surface level already exist. They are readily available to moderators of all experience levels, so it’s a big research-geek thrill when inspiration sparks for a projective activity with a new angle!

Our online qual team here at C+R enjoys passing around new links, for information or sheer entertainment. Twitter searches, Pinterest, and social publishers like Mashable, BuzzFeed and Reddit are some of our current sources for inspiration. In fact, when I came across the “What I Really Do” storyboard meme in 2012, one of the Top Memes for 2012, with all of its visual glory and bite-size insights, I was very excited!

The sharing fad around this meme, “What I Really Do,” which you probably saw last year, surreptitiously inspired me to transfer the basic visual layout of the meme to adapt it for use in online qualitative research.

This meme consists of a stylish comic montage of people’s thoughts related to the author/participant and his or her occupation, and boils down to a self-aware confession of “what I really do.”

The visuals are compelling connotations of their perceptions when the author spends time to find just the right pictures. The honesty in that last frame is often insightful, and exudes just the right magic that we qualitative researchers like to capture. In short, this new projective gives us a multi-angle lens into consumers’ lives.

The “What I Really Do” meme works well for research in its multi-frame storyboard layout (usually six frames). For a lighter exercise, I like this twist for the meme-theme:

Participants individually select an image for each of the three buckets. As a flexible, thought-provoking format, it’s easy to change out the “What” to a “Where” or “How,” such as, “Where I Vacationed” or “How I Cooked”, even ask about group perceptions–just change the “I” to “We” (like “What We Watched” or “What We Played”) and refer to friend or family connections in the instructions.

The stories and depictions that people generate through these activities are almost always entertaining and insightful for all involved, and early results suggest these activities would float well across a variety of category discussions.

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