Blueprints for the Best Studies: Research Briefs

Picture this: you’re in the market for a new home and after a wealth of consideration, you decide to build your own. You’re not a builder and you’ve never done any DIY projects, let alone a home building project, but you’re thrilled to see the final product and make it ‘home’. Would you move forward without a thorough blueprint? Let’s hope not! Creating a detailed blueprint ensures that all parties involved are well-versed on the plans, understand the goals of the undertaking, and agree on the timeline and steps to be completed.

In market research, the research brief serves the same blueprint purpose for the researchers involved, as the building blueprints do for the architects and builders involved in the home building process. Developing and finalizing a thorough research brief guarantees that key stakeholders and partners are a part of defining and agreeing on key components of the research to be conducted, whether it’s research objective definition, explanation of required deliverables, etc.

The research brief is typically created by market researchers on the client side, in collaboration with internal clients, and it may be shared with supplier side partners in the request for proposal, or RFP process.


Is this really necessary?

Arguably one of the biggest “troublemakers” in the market research process is improper problem and/or objective definition. Related to this, is the poor quality of research briefs these days. The unfortunate reality is that many marketers and market researchers don’t know how to write a proper research brief, and many don’t even bother to write one at all.

However, the research brief is of crucial importance because it provides a roadmap for everything that will happen from the present time forward. Furthermore, the research brief acts as an ‘accountability document’, holding the supplier accountable to conducting the agreed-upon research, and delivering actionable insights back to the client.

The research brief can also be utilized by the client side as a tool when deciding which supplier to award their project to. If, on the client side, you put a lot of effort and thought into your research brief, a supplier who responds with a proposal that doesn’t match the same level of effort and thoughtfulness likely means that they didn’t read it, don’t understand it, and probably won’t be capable of delivering on it. Arriving at any one of those conclusions is a valid reason to remove the supplier from the list of contenders and move on.


4 Tips to Write Top Notch Briefs

Don’t know how to write a research brief? Or even where to start? Here are 4 tips for writing your next research brief:

  1. Show what you know: as an expert of your business on the client side, whether it be pharma, energy, or finance, you are the subject matter authority – your supplier is not. Help them understand your brand as much as possible by sharing your thought processes, any previous research that is relevant to the current project, and any other materials that will give them vision for the research project that is as close to yours as possible.


  1. Tell them who the target is: specifying the target consumer(s) identified for the research project will help the supplier focus the direction of their proposal, as well as ensure that the right people (consumers) are covered in the study to be conducted.


  1. Clarify the desired actions to be taken: it can be helpful for a supplier to have some insight into what will be done if a hypothesis is proven or disproven, so tell them (as much as you are able) what actions might be taken in response to the results of their efforts. Doing this will also help the supplier better determine what information is required and how they should go about capturing it.


  1. Include a checklist: to save your future-self time, it can be helpful to include a checklist of objectives, pertinent information, and hypotheses from the get-go in the research brief. One way to do this is to ask suppliers to clearly map out how each part of the proposal ties back to the defined requirements (from the brief). Their delivery on this will aid in identifying parts of the study where key question won’t be addressed, when superfluous fieldwork is suggested, and when cutting down on research steps is needed to make sure you stay within budget.

 Suppliers and Research Briefs

Suppliers, how you respond to research briefs is just as important as the client’s obligation to write a strong brief.  Since most suppliers are often extremely well-versed in proposal writing, you all would serve as an excellent resource for the people on the client side tasked with brief writing.  Collaboration with your client-side counterparts will guide them to partnering with you in arriving at a better understanding of what the desired objectives and outcomes of the research project should be.

Key Takeaway

There are no hard and fast rules for research brief writing, but if you remember nothing else, remember this: research briefs are your friend and they are the blueprint for successful research. Many research projects can avoid a disservice by armoring them with strong and thorough research briefs. So, get out there and get your research brief blueprints going!


Done with your research and now need to write your report? Learn how to enhance your report with these tips

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Caroline Brown
A passion for learning and a natural sense of curiosity led Caroline into the marketing research field. She holds a degree from the Terry College of Business, and will soon complete the Master of Marketing Research program at the University of Georgia. When she’s not managing research projects through the MMR program, she can be found at her local hot yoga studio, camped out at a coffee shop with a good book, or planning her next travel adventure."