Last week we gathered a small group of development professionals for our first ever qualitative research training course – The Art of Investigation – and what a group it was!

Participants joined us from eight different countries and numerous specialisms (including housing, agriculture, nutrition, gender, tourism, agriculture, skills, environment, forestry and aquaculture!) but there was one area where this group wasn’t diverse – every single participant was open-minded, keen to learn and committed to engaging fully in order to improve our qualitative research skills together.

We started off by debunking commonly held myths about qualitative research – including one implied by the title of the course (join the next course to find out what it is!).

After a bit of time spent separating fact from fiction, we were all on the same page about what qualitative research is, why it’s worth investing in and when in development programming we might want to use it.

It was time to get down to the nitty gritty and dig into methods…but first, there was another misconception to address: Did you know that you need not one, but three toolboxes of methods? To do research well, we need tools for sampling, tools for data collection and tools for analysis.

The purpose of the course was to learn practical skills that can be applied on-the-job, learning how to wield our research tools to improve our development practice. We wrapped up the week with an exercise that involved drawing on all the learning from the week, choosing from amongst the tools we had learned to use and pulling together a comprehensive research plan. If the results – from just an hour and a half’s exercise – are anything to go by, our pioneering cohort of Art of Investigation participants more than fulfilled that purpose.

Four hours is an intimidating period of time to spend in front of a screen for training every day, but thanks to whip-smart participants, honest reflections, humorous stories, and lots of live discussions, the time passed surprisingly quickly. In fact, one of the mostly common themes on feedback forms was a suggestion to make the sessions longer!

More importantly, though, we all (trainer included!) learned things we can apply in our day-to-day jobs. Each participant came with a different level of experience in research, and each had something different to offer, whether that was providing expertise on sampling methods drawn from quantitative research experience, sharing examples of previous successes and failures in qualitative data collection, or simply asking a question that started a discussion about analysis that everyone benefited from.

At the end of the course, in response to the question “Was the level of course content suitable for you?” feedback was unanimous that the course was pitched “just right” which just goes to show that everyone can benefit from working intensively and interactively in a diverse group of professionals, learning good practice principles, and practicing our skills – whether long-used or newly acquired.

Much of development practice depends on our ability to gather and analyse qualitative data and apply the findings.  It was an enormous privilege to work last week with talented development professionals on improving this critical and too-often underrated set of skills, and we’re already getting excited to meet our next group of participants.

If you think you or a colleague would like to be part of that group – or if you just want to find out how we managed to connect Snoop Doggy Dogg memes with research methods theory – then sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear when the next course dates are announced.

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The pitch of the training was just perfect in terms of drawing out the less experienced folks, making them feel more confident, but plenty of good content for someone 'experienced but not professional' with regards to research methods.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

Small groups so lot of interaction, very good trainer, with great and extensive feedback on our work and questions.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

This was perfect. Not too basic/simplistic, but reviewed the key issues. The right amount of time to dig into detail when appropriate. It had the right balance of theory and practice, breakout and individual work.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

I thought it would be learning ideas or just theories but the application part of the training where we zeroed in on how we can apply this knowledge in our jobs was exceptional.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

Thank you for the interactive training, you helped me think back and look into how to apply the new knowledge I have gained in my work going forward.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

The course met my expectations especially around the process of doing QRM, the art of doing Interviews and FGD and the research plan. I also benefitted from the rich knowledge and examples shared by the facilitator and the participants.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

The course has been life-changing. I can never do QRM the same way after this course.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

I thought it would be learning ideas or just theories but the application part of the training where we zeroed in on how we can apply this knowledge in our jobs was exceptional.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

I was expecting to get practical insights on qualitative research methods, tools, experiences, and I got all of those. It was really helpful for me to understand how the qualitative research is built and functions toward the project needs.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

The way Rachel transferred the knowledge was superb, professional, practical, easy going. The atmosphere created within the group was so comfortable that the exchange was so fruitful.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

The course materials provided were more than I expected and completely relevant to my work. The knowledge shared was both theoretical and practical and presented clearly and very enthusiastically from beginning to the end by Rachel.

Participant FeedbackApril 2021

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