Ask a Simple Question, Get an Encyclopedia

Broadwater Focus Group

Image by Nebraska Library Commission via Flickr

If you want to be an excellent market researcher, you need to know a lot about many different topics. You need to know what makes a good survey question or focus group discussion guide and how to avoid writing a horrid one. You need to know about research methods, sampling, weighting, and sample size determination. Knowledge of statistics is essential and it must go beyond t-tests, chi-squares, and p-values. There is a ton of very detailed, complicated information you must know to do your job well.

But here is the problem. When people ask for research advice, they don’t always want an essay on the pros and cons of various options and techniques.  They know they’re asking a complicated question with a complicated answer but sometimes they just want a quick and simple answer. They want to know that they’re pointing in the right direction, that they’re generally thinking the right thing.

So what do we do? We don’t try to understand whether it’s a request for a simple answer or an in-depth consultation. No matter what they’re looking for, we give people a three hour lecture about the intricacies of research and make everything far more complicated than it needs to be. Our strange technical languages serves to scare off some people and bore others to tears.

Isn’t it time we considered what people really want? Perhaps just a simple answer to a simple question?

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