There’s a piece of paper that I have kept with me since my first job.  In my early years as a researcher, it was perhaps the most useful piece of paper I had – my list of ‘what to take’ when traveling for focus groups.

I keep this close by me at all times!

Looking at it now, some parts are a little out of date (2 audio tapes for each group for example!), and some reveal my Queensland origins (Who knew we’re the only state to call them Nikko pens!), but by golly, it is still a useful list – so I’m posting it here for you to have…


  • Audio tapes – 2 for each group
  • Tape recorder – take two if possible
  • Digital recorder, microphone if you have one
  • Multiple copies of the discussion guide (particularly if there are clients)
  • Any stimulus material (e.g. videos, DVD’s/ USB stick, story boards, product – was there anything else??)
  • Self-completion questionnaires
  • Respondent Participant Incentive
  • Sign in sheets
  • Petty cash / cab charges / credit card
  • Nikko Permanent marker pens
  • Name tags
  • Job file / paperwork (e.g. the proposal, and briefing material)
  • The group specs / the recruitment screener
  • Any confirmations you have of room hire / AV arrangements (anything else you’ve organised for the group) – with names and contact details
  • Batteries for the digital recorder.

Things you might like to add to your own list…

  • Video camera / microphone / tripod
  • Pencil case containing glue, coloured pencils, felt pens, and pastels (these are great for drawing tasks, and the scan really well)
  • Separate pencil-case with scissors (are you going through airport security – can you take them?)
  • Art block – I like to take an A3 art block with me, so I know that there is paper for any art tasks, and I know that paper fits in my portfolio bag
  • A4 plain paper – it always comes in handy
  • A portfolio bag to bring it all home in (means you don’t have to fold collages, homework tasks etc)
  • Digital Camera – to capture any homework tasks / collages / other group outputs before they are folded or destroyed.
Here are a few of the other things I like to take with me to groups

Now there’s nothing revolutionary here, but I find it is handy to make the list, pin it up somewhere by your desk and run your eyes over it before you head out for a group.  Means you are never caught without that ‘one thing you need’!

What’s on your list?

5 thoughts on “A Qualitative Researcher’s travel kit

  1. Great list.
    Depending on what i am doing in the groups, i take a selection of colorful sticky notes, because the facility ones are usually boring (and in one horrid case, half the writing space covered with their logo!).
    Always masking tape.
    Sometimes pushpins.
    Stapler if i am not in a focus group facility.

    And yes, the digital camera! great for capturing flipcharts so i don’t need to take them home.

    My rolling briefcase bag to carry all this stuff in!

    I also take backroom materials — an observation grid, sometimes notebooks for the observers.

    If facilitating, I have some boxes of stuff already made up to give to each table that includes tape, markers, post-its, etc.

  2. A definite must-have these days is a smartphone charger cable & charger. Also remember to take an international plug if you’re travelling to other countrues. I often take a small multi-plug/powerboard if I’ll need to plug in multiple devices. It’s also very useful to have a portable USB charger for back-up if you have a long day away from power outlets. Finally, a car-phone charger if you’ll be renting a car. Just when we thought smartphone made things easier, the assorted paraphernalia will eat up some of your baggage allowance.

    1. So true Mike! Great additions to the list.

      I also take a power board when I’m travelling. It’s one of those things that has changed my life for the better (it’s the small things that make the difference!). Helpful in hotel rooms, where the power point is always somewhere ridiculously inaccessible – or there just aren’t enough, and fantastic when you’re travelling internationally, only one adaptor, rather than multiple!

      Car charger and phone mount so that I can use the phone as a GPS. More and more important as well! Thanks for adding 😀

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