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Tips To Successfully Organize International Research

This article discusses the different project management stages and special requirements of global projects.

International research always sounds exotic and exciting, but often seems intimidating and challenging as unknown cultures, different languages and mentalities will add to the normal processes of managing large-scale projects. It is important to understand the different project management stages and special requirements for global projects.

The start of the project is crucial

Include the entire team from the very first minute. Get all updated and involved. A team for a global research project often involves client representatives and researchers from multiple countries, maybe even continents, multilingual and multicultural. In addition to the global marketing manager or main sponsor of the study, there are indirect local clients that can play an important role. They know their own markets very well. They often struggle with local problems that are perceived to be minor in the global picture. They can be of relevant support to the project with detailed knowledge of the market and local challenges. It is important to have all those people integrated right from the beginning of the project, to make sure everybody will support at their best and be able to identify with the results.

Choose the best interpreters available

The language interpreter has the only voice the client hears. A moderator is only as good as the interpreter. The moderator’s role is to control the group so the interpreter can hear everything clearly and capture all important information.

Have all documents translated professionally

Stimuli translated badly lead to more discussion about words than about content. Bad translations lead to incorrect questions and misunderstandings.

Insure comprehensive information within entire team

Regarding the communication in the project team, make sure everyone has the same level of information. Collect information even if things evolve and change. Send information in bundles, and use a header that refers to the information in the email. Pass on all information to the moderators and interpreters, including local client websites, other reports of research that are available and the background of the proposal with the main questions to be answered for the client.

Think of the report before starting fieldwork

Full report or topline, overall or by country? Prepare a template for the final report as well as for note taking, and include structure and details using color-codes according to the countries, allowing for quick summary and better handling of huge amounts of data.

Start in your preferred market/country

Choose the one you know well culturally, and maybe speak the language to moderate yourself. Allow enough time for translation. With this experience you can then go global! Make sure to take the learnings from market to market and probe for differences that come up. Use the experience and cultural knowledge of the local partners to better understand the differences.

Try to attend to the research in person

This is the most effective option. However, web streaming also allows watching in real time, asking culturally-related questions and catching all non-verbal communication.

Always debrief with the full team after the last group in each country

Make sure to get the overall feelings and the key take-aways from the moderator. Check special words that the interpreter used for their meaning and context. Capture this and use it for the final report.

Keeping these tips in mind will help you to enjoy global research!


Ilka Kuhagen is co-chair of the International Committee for the Qualitative Research Consultants Association (QRCA). Based in Munich, Germany, she founded IKM and has specialized in business-to-business and international qualitative research. Clients of IKM are usually international corporations focused on the European market.

QRCA provides industry-leading resources that are essential to its members and the professionals who use qualitative research. As an association dedicated to advancing the discipline of qualitative research worldwide, QRCA’s nearly 1,000 global members apply their passion, creativity and experience to help clients tap into the power of qualitative marketing research.

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QRCA is a non-profit association of consultants involved in the design and implementation of all types of qualitative research.

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