I want to download your mind…

Descartes "Mind and Body" source Wikipedia Commons

When doing qualitative research there are so many nuances in the answers, that it often feels like: If you weren’t there, you won’t be able to really get it. Unless you can download the interviewer’s mind. Which – so far – is not possible. When I started developing and using Net-Map this didn’t matter much, because projects where small and basically I would be the person doing both, the interviewing and the analysis. Or I’d teach another research who would do another small project, doing both, the interviewing and the interpretation. But with this model you can only grow so far and I know we should be able to do better than this, to work in a bigger team of researchers, facilitators, interpreters and benefit from each others’ experience and insight, without plugging a USB cord into each others’ ears.

In an ongoing project evaluating a small business intervention (supporting female rice parboilers) in Nigeria, Jennifer Hauck and I developed a data entry sheet (46 KB) that is both structured and open enough to allow people who are not in the field (like me in this case) to understand and analyze the data and get a good understanding of the issues. I’ve attached it here for you to have a look at. I think one thing that really helps is to not only have categories for the interviewer to write down everything that was said but also to add a question like this:

“What is/are the most interesting lesson/s learnt from this interview (look for the thing that surprised you most, where you feel like the project needs to learn a lesson, something that made the interview partner most emotional or that looks really crucial for making or breaking their business)?”

Asking a question like this means that you take your facilitators seriously and are interested in their judgment and gut-feeling in a situation as much as you would be in your own, if you were the interviewer.

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