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The Rosenfeld Review Podcast: Prayag Narula on AI’s Role in Qualitative Research

Prayag Narula is the founder and CEO of Marvin, a tool for qualitative researchers. Prayag will also be a speaker at the Advancing Research Conference where he’ll share the stage with Rida Qadri, a research scientist at Google.

Humans have been doing quantitative research for thousands of years – well, for as long as math has been around. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is fairly new to human history, emerging only in the 20th Century. And qualitative research has taken a backseat to what Prayag calls “the tyranny of math,” the prevailing attitude that if research is not math-based, it’s not valid. But that doesn’t diminish the importance of qualitative data. Decisions at all levels are made based on qualitative data every day.

Here are some characteristics of qualitative research:

  • Qualitative research is scientific and has been used in the social sciences for scientific discovery for six decades.
  • Qualitative data is highly variable and semi-structured, so creating software for it has enormous challenges.
  • Taking notes and asking questions are inherent parts of qualitative research, and tools that can search and synthesize such data can dramatically enhance productivity and outcomes.

It’s time for qualitative research to be given its due. Enter Marvin.

Software not only gives validity and legitimacy to qualitative research, it makes it more useful. Marvin uses AI to add context to the conversation and to help with analysis. The tool is free for individuals and teams of two researchers.

Prayag is excited about the use of open AI and ChatGBT. He’s not worried about these tools replacing researchers, but they do give researchers another data point, that is, what AI can glean from the data. AI can help us find patterns that we didn’t see before or might give an interpretation of the data or ask a question that hadn’t been previously considered. With tools like Marvin, it’s an exciting time to be in research.

What you’ll learn from this episode:

  • How software brings legitimacy to processes and data
    About Marvin, a tool that “automates the tedious parts of qualitative research”
  • How AI can augment research
  • What to expect from Prayag’s upcoming talk with Rida Qadri at Advancing Research – “HCI 2.0: Humanity Deserves the Attention that UX Research has to Offer” – which will include implementing technologies in a socially responsible way

Quick Reference Guide:
[00:00] Introduction of Prayag
[01:07] Upcoming talk at Advancing Research March 27-29, 2023
[01:29] Prayag gives a history of his entrepreneurial experience
[05:15] Prayag explains why he felt driven to provide a centralized place for data
[08:53] Does having software to support qualitative research contribute to its perceived legitimacy?
[11:00] On the nature of qualitative research being highly variable and semi-structured and what that means when it comes to writing software
[16:12] Break: Rosenfeld Media Communities
[18:16] Prayag describes the Marvin tool, available for free for individual researchers and teams of two
[0:19:52] The role of AI in research software
[0:25:04] On AI’s ability to synthesize data across various sectors of an organization
[0:29:08] More details Prayag’s upcoming talk with Rida Qadri at Advancing Research in March
[0:32:33] Prayag’s gift to the audience

Resources and links from today’s episode: