Qualitative Analysis…What Joy!

Since my last entry, we have definitely progressed so much with our research project! Last week during our second week in Chile we were able to complete all of our five focus group discussions. We weren’t able to have the total number of participants or focus groups as we had hoped, but like with all research, especially when abroad, we had to remain flexible and utilize the resources we did have. As it was my first time ever facilitating focus groups, I definitely was able to learn about the various challenges that arise during such discussions, such as participants that dominated the conversation and off-topic conversation. Although it was sometimes hard and unclear when to intervene in the conversation, it was a great hands-on experience that helped me understand the importance of gearing the conversation in the direction of providing us with answers to our overall research questions. For the purpose of our focus groups, we wanted to understand the participants’ knowledge, perception and utilization of the existing nutrition label, as well as learn about their preferences of our example warning messages, color combination options, font options and location of warning message on packaging, and how these warning messages would impact their purchasing decision.

Overall, it was great to be able to moderate all five focus group discussions, and interact directly with the participants who were providing us with their valuable opinions and feedback. Despite the smaller sample of women that participated, we still gained so much information and it was fulfilling to see our investigation unfold.

Some of the Universidad de Chile INTA (Institution of Nutrition and Food Technology) Staff that has helped us so much with our research and focus groups!

Our example warning messages with various font, color combination and locations on the packaging, as well as different messages.

Following the completion of all the focus groups, we had to begin the process of analyzing the information we gained from our focus groups. Due to our unfamiliarity with qualitative research and analysis, it seemed like a daunting and overwhelming task. We began with the tedious task of transcribing each individual discussion, in which we had to listen to our audio recordings of each focus group and write down all information provided to us. It was definitely time consuming and exhausting; especially without great audio recordings of every aspect of the discussion, in addition to it being in Spanish. We tried our best to capture all the different feedback provided to our various questions, and after hours of transcription we were able to have our focus groups on paper ready to start analysis.

Throughout the last week, we were really excited to move forward with the analysis of our program but it was essential to learn about the qualitative analysis program we have decided to use: ATLAS.ti. After two different trainings we were able to successfully code our different transcriptions for the different topics and opinions discussed. It’s definitely been hard so far and our goal is to map out the associations we see between preference of warning messages and the decision to buy a specific food product. Although, we are still not done analyzing our data nor do we have established conclusions, we already have an idea of what trends and conclusions we expect to get from our data. The reason being is that we have become so familiar with the data through carrying out the focus groups and the transcription and coding processes. Our familiarity with the trends is really cool and for me truly shows how much this project is ours! Just through these last two weeks, I have been able to learn so much about qualitative research methods and value it as a way to truly capture what a specific population thinks about a certain topic. I know this last week in Chile is going to be stressful in formulating our evidence-based conclusions and showing our map of the different associations between our variables, but I’m definitely excited to see OUR results finalized!

In addition to the challenges of learning about our qualitative analysis program, this past week was definitely challenging in different ways but can be looked at as part of my experience abroad. I caused a minor car accident when I opened a car door as another car was passing by outside of a busy intersection, resulting in broken mirrors and car doors. During that same afternoon I realized I lost my debit card, but fortunately it wasn’t used by anyone so I was able to cancel it without any additional issues. We moved into our third and final hostel for the remaining two weeks and after a few days after moving in I awoke with bug bites that I think were caused from bed bugs. Finally, we experienced the very common earthquakes that occur in Chile twice within this last weekend. The most recent one was earlier today during the afternoon and was actually a 7.2 earthquake that occurred 135 miles south of Santiago, but we were really lucky in that it didn’t actually feel that strong. However, just knowing about the devastating 8.8 quake that occurred two years ago, I was definitely scared during both small quakes and I have been thinking about how I need to be prepared in case something does happen. All and all, it has definitely been an eventful third week in Chile, although not in the best of ways, but I can only hope that as our fourth and final week begins things will be get better. Ready to stay motivated and enjoy our last few days in Santiago.