Samantha Brady and Julie Miller Talk Virtual Research Methods at NVio Conference

by Adam Felts

The COVID-19 pandemic has demanded that many professionals reimagine how they do their work – and scientists are no exception. To highlight how ways that qualitative research might be done successfully in a time of social distancing, AgeLab researchers Samantha Brady and Dr. Julie Miller presented on their experience in transitioning a focus group study to an online environment at the 2020 NVivo Virtual Conference.

The aim of the study was to understand and compare how members of two generations, Gen Z and Gen X, view work and careers, and how economic and world events, such as the Great Recession or the COVID-19 pandemic, influence how generations view and make decisions regarding their career paths. The study was initially conceived of as in-person focus groups but transitioned to the virtual realm using the Zoom platform in March 2020. The virtual focus groups also included a photo-elicitation exercise, in which participants were showed emotionally resonant photographs to more deeply explore the emotions participants attach to work and careers.

The results of the study highlight differing attitudes about work and careers among members of Gen X and Gen Z, but the study’s methodology is also a foray into virtual qualitative research methods that highlights some of the format’s advantages, including the ability to reach participants across geographic areas, greater financial feasibility, and increased convenience for participants. In its use of photos to elicit reactions from participants, the study also offers insight into how to engage virtual participants effectively using interactive tools and into facilitation techniques better suited for the virtual group environment.

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About the Author

Photo of Adam Felts
Adam Felts

Adam Felts is a researcher and writer at the MIT AgeLab. Currently he is involved in research on the experiences of family caregivers and the future of financial advice. He also manages the AgeLab blog and newsletter. He received his Master's in Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Boston University in 2014 and his Master's of Theological Studies from Boston University in 2019.

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