I started research in 2001. As part of their 60th year, the AMSRS’ Research News has asked various researchers to summarise their experiences through the decades – below is the article I wrote summarising my first 10 years. The Naughties….!
When Victoria Gamble started her research career in Brisbane in 2001, she was joining an industry that was changing quickly.
Workplaces everywhere were changing, as shiny new Dell computers now took pride of place on every desk, and email had started impairing social skills. People had stopped picking up phones or getting up to talk to people sitting in the same office. ITunes launched in 2001 and offices quickly became full of people surreptitiously listening to music and sharing burnt CDs. Headphones helped us all concentrate as cubicles came down in favour of more open plan, collaborative working environments.
Surveys were CATI, but there was excitement about the possibilities that online was offering. It wasn’t until the middle of the decade that online started to become the methodology of choice. Online surveys offered a wealth of possibilities that CATI did not – visuals, prompt lists, as well as an attractive lower cost per interview. But this new visual medium required us to re-think the way we wrote our questionnaires, for a respondent who was now reading, rather than being asked.
Over in Quallie-land, focus groups continued to be our bread and butter. These were generally still 1.5 hours, and we were paying people $40 for their time. Through the 2000s there was a shift away from groups to including a wider range of methods, with ‘ethnography-inspired’ methods in particular gaining popularity as the decade progressed.
I remember being given my first online qualitative project in about 2004, for no other reason than ‘I was young, so I understood technology’. This was very much still in its infancy, with forum style platforms being the norm.
Again, this quickly developed and changed through the rest of the decade. The buzzword of the late 2000s was ‘Web 2.0’. Facebook launched in 2004 but only really gained momentum in about 2007. This prompted a great deal of innovation in both qual and quant technologies as we looked to include more elements from the social web into our own interactions with participants.
The first report I worked on in 2001 was a 70 page word report, which I then printed and bound to deliver to the client.
(Should anyone need binding done, it’s something I’m excellent at, but a skill I rarely get to use these days… the offer is there).
Word reports (long, long Word reports) were still the norm, but this was changing quickly as PowerPoint became popular. The nature of our reports themselves continued to change as we, as an industry, became more aware of the limitations of what our respondents told us. We moved from pure ‘reportage’ of the findings to a more consultative style and approach.
The 2000s were also a decade of expansion and change in the industry. There were a few notable startups in the late 90s and early part of the decade that redefined what a research company looked like, how it talked about itself and what the offer should be.
As the decade progressed, and technology lowered the cost of entry, growth continued, leading to the larger and fragmented industry we see today. Towards the end of the decade, phone rooms started to close or move offshore, as the demand for CATI decreased.
The GFC created a tighter and leaner industry, as companies looked for the most efficient way of doing things. Research budgets got smaller, but the challenges were bigger and this forced us to become more creative in the way we approached our client’s issues.
The 2000s were a decade of change, both for research and for broader working life. It’s amazing to think that at the beginning of my career only 42 percent of households had the internet – Google wasn’t even a verb until about 2002 – and by the end of the decade around 1/3 of the population were on Facebook.
This decade of change has bred a generation of researchers who are adaptable and innovative, quick to harness new technologies and seeking better ways of doing things. Ready to take on what the 10s throw at us!
This article originally appeared in AMSRS’ Research News