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Essential traits of a good qualitative research moderator

Published on May 31, 2023 by Akanksha Singh

Qualitative research is an excellent way to gain deep insight on complex social phenomena and inductive data analysis. It relies on non-numerical data such as text, audio and visual data to uncover emergent design, underlying patterns and themes. Thus, one of the key components of qualitative research is the moderator, whose role is to effectively facilitate data collection and elicit insights from participants. In this blog, we discuss the importance and traits of a good qualitative research moderator.

What is qualitative research?

Qualitative research can be defined as a naturalistic study of social processes and meaning, using methods such as in-depth interviews, focus groups and observations and deducing the insights via text and images. Unlike quantitative research, where broad generalisations about populations are derived using statistical methods, qualitative research helps derive creative exploration and assessment of how and why groups think and act in a certain way.

This makes the role of qualitative researchers even more pivotal, as qualitative research can deliver interesting findings, but an expert’s facilitation of research, analysis and interpretation turns them into powerful insights. The following are some ways in which moderators are important for qualitative research:

  • Ensuring participant engagement: Ensuring a comfortable environment for participants is essential, as it encourages them to share their opinions and experiences with ease. A qualitative moderator must have good people skills to create such an environment, which results in more authentic data.

  • Facilitating effective data collection: A skilled moderator can use a range of questioning techniques to ensure participants provide in-depth and relevant responses. They can also adapt their approach to different participants, keeping the discussion focused while still allowing for flexibility.

  • Minimising bias: Biases can lead to unauthentic data; thus, a skilled moderator is aware of their own biases and works to avoid leading or influencing participants, while managing group dynamics and ensuring all participants have equal opportunity to contribute.

  • Efficient time management: When participants are sharing their opinions and insights, it is very easy to lose track of time or even the plot. Hence, a good moderator must be well versed in managing time and ensuring discussions stay on track and all research questions are addressed and discussed.

  • Ensuring quality data collection: A trained moderator is well versed in effective qualitative research techniques and can identify key themes and patterns in the data. Thus, they can probe for more information or clarification when needed, leading to further in-depth data collection.

Overall, a good moderator is essential in qualitative research to ensure the research questions are addressed effectively and the resulting data is of high quality. The following are essential qualities that would help them achieve the desired result:

qualitative research


Being a good moderator requires an amalgamation of skills, including active listening, flexibility, empathy, objectivity, time management, language skills and cultural competence. A good moderator can facilitate productive and insightful discussions that provide valuable insights for qualitative research projects.

How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help

We are a global one-stop shop for primary research services. Our tech-savvy, experienced and skilled qualitative research experts, with combined experience of more than 20 years, help businesses across the world identify the right audience, uncover buying and usage behaviour and get actionable insights with minimal cost and effort. We assure high quality in services such as in-depth interviews, focus groups, open-ended/verbatim coding and social media coding.


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About the Author

Akanksha Singh is a Delivery Lead within the Survey Programming and Data Processing line of business at Acuity Knowledge Partners (Acuity). She holds a PGDM in Marketing and Communication and has over 8 years of experience in business development and content marketing for various industries including IT and ITES, Finance Tech, Healthcare Tech, Environmental services, and the Insight industry.

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