Conducting Global Research

I find conducting qualitative research in multiple countries to be fascinating, but international projects also present some unique challenges.  Here are some tips for the next time you need to conduct global research:

Involve your local research partners.  Don’t assume you can simply copy the research you’re doing in the US and do the exact same thing in the other countries.  Work with your local research partners in each of the countries.  Make sure they know the objectives of the study and share the discussion guide with them early.  Does it make sense to ask the questions that way in their country?  The researchers in each of the countries understand the locals’ mentality as well as the local background.  Encourage them to let you know if something in the discussion guide doesn’t make sense locally.

When it comes to logistics, again, make sure to consult the local research partners.  Are there any holidays that could impact the research?  At what times of day is it best to conduct the research?  If you want to do things differently than local custom, make sure to check if it will present a problem.  For example, when we asked for table tents in England instead of name tags, that was no problem.  But in the Netherlands, when we asked to keep the objectives of the research vague, we got strong pushback, because participants there want to know what they will be discussing in advance of the focus groups.

Plan your itinerary.  Always arrive at least a day before the research, to leave room for flight delays.  And take into account that jet lag might hit you hard: you might find you can’t keep your eyes open in the back room.  I like to take one or two little bottles of 5-Hour Energy with me; when I have one of those moments where I feel like I can’t keep my eyes open, I drink a half-dose, and it works wonders!

If you need to conduct research overseas, we would be happy to help!  Call me at 818-752-7210 or email info at