Earlier this week, I was one of several people who presented at the NewMR training day. If you paid even slight attention to the speakers, you probably noticed that several of us mentioned the same topic.
Every research project must have a research objective.
Now, I know that seems blatantly obvious and you’re probably wondering why would anyone waste valuable seconds even mentioning it. I’m going to hazard a guess that the reason several people brought it up is because several people have recent experiences in trying to conduct research without an objective. As smart as we think we are, it keeps on happening.
Let me tell you that it’s not a good place to be. Much time is wasted, much brain power is wasted, and no matter how hard you work, you never seem to get ahead. So in an effort to make your life easier, here are a few tips that will help you determine whether you have a research objective.
Signs You Do Not Have A Research Objective
- Your survey is more than 20 minutes long
- You are carefully reading through 300 pages of tabulations and statistical tests
- You have spent more than 40 hours analyzing your data
- You’ve entered 500 variables in your regression and factor analysis
- You’re having trouble writing the introductory page of your final report
- You’re having trouble outlining the summary page of your final report
- The report keeps getting longer and longer and there is no end in sight
- You’ve felt the need to call your client more than 5 times to clarify the data analysis process
- You can’t explain the purpose of the research in 140 characters or less
- Looking at the data makes you feel confused and disoriented and like the day is never going to end
- You’ve actually asked yourself, “What am I trying to do here?”
If you visit the website of any market research company, large or small, full service or end service, you’ll find an array of product offerings.
Below you see the product offerings from two different companies. Company A gives an impressive list of everything from conjoint to perceptual mapping. Any company offering these products is sure to be able to meet all of your market research needs, whatever they may be. Company B also provides an impressive list of offerings ranging from In Home Usage Testing to sales forecasting. This too is a company that I know will be able to meet whatever needs I may have.
|Product offerings: Company A
||Product offerings: Company B
But really, only one of these companies appeals to me and it’s not Company A. Clearly, Company A has licensed a copy of SPSS or SAS for every one of their employees and that does impress me. But it’s clear that those employees are number crunchers and data processors and that’s really not what I’m looking for. You see, conjoint isn’t a product. Factor analysis isn’t a product. Maximum difference scaling isn’t a product. Those are buttons you press in SPSS.
The company I AM interested in Company B. They clearly know that clients aren’t looking for a really cool conjoint analysis or a wickedly awesome factor analysis. I seriously couldn’t care less if a supplier offered conjoint. What clients actually need is guidance on pricing decisions, package evaluations, and concept preferences.
You see, anyone can press a button in SPSS and generate pages and pages of output. But to actually apply those results to a meaningful business decision, well that’s a separate story.
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Which of the following options is a research object?
- Running shoes
- Running shoes and colours
- How much are pink running shoes
- Is the price of running shoes dependent on the colour of the shoe?
similarly vague non-goals. They’ve been told to “do something in social media” or “see what social media says” and they have no direction whatsoever. They’re bobbleheads spinning round and round in a sure-fire plan to find themselves sorely disappointed.
Option #2: Thank goodness the dizziness has stopped. The bobblehead has stopped spinning and it’s at least pointing in a general direction. There is still no specific goal but at least the changes of stumbling up one have increased by a factor of 10 000.
Option #3: Now we’re starting to see the light. A question has been asked and there is actually an answer to the question. If access to the right set of data exists, an answer can be found and provided. Of course, it’s not a terribly interesting question and answer but at least it is a question.
Option #4: Hallelujah! You are the lucky winner of an actual research objective. Not only is the dizziness gone, but now your bobblehead is pointed firmly in a very specific direction. There is an actual question that can be answered and it is more than simply a statement of fact. It’s a puzzle posed and potentially solved!
Here’s wishing you many puzzles and no bobbleheads!