Choosing Your Research Methodology

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Posted Oct 09, 2018

The most difficult aspect of deploying a market research project is answering the question, “What type of research do I need?” Selecting the appropriate research methodology is a vital first step in any market research process; it is one of the key factors make or break a project. Before deciding what the most suitable methodology is for your market research, it is important to first consider and comprehend all of the dynamics that go into selecting the best research methodology.

Goals & Objectives

Prior to determining what the appropriate research methodology is for your project, it is best to begin with what you desire from the end result. It is important to carefully consider what the research must accomplish in order to select a methodology that will prove to be effective. Take the time to better understand some key elements of the project; do the results need to solve “go” or “no-go” decisions, are you just looking for additional information regarding your product or service, do you need the information in one fell swoop, or will you the have opportunity for follow-up research? Ultimately, being aware of what type of information you need to gather at the project’s conclusions will help narrow the available research methodologies right from the start.

Statistical Significance

Once the goals and objectives of the research have been established, the next fundamental step to selecting a fitting research methodology is the statistical significance of the data. When results are statistically significant it means that it is highly improbable that the data outcome happened by chance alone. If there is a need for highly data-driven research results or you are looking for clear, statistically significant responses, then quantitative data collection, combined with a larger sample size, would be the optimal solution. Defining these types of key factors around statistical significance will inform research methodology.

Quantitative Versus Qualitative

Statistical significance is crucial when extrapolating results from a sample set to a larger population, so it’s important to reflect on whether you need quantitative data, qualitative data, or both. As previously mentioned, quantitative data presents results in a more black-and-white fashion. If you have a lengthy questionnaire, an online quantitative survey may be best as consumers can answer quickly and with ease. Moreover, with the advancement in online survey tools questionnaires can be much more interactive, helping to counteract survey fatigue. Conversely, if the need is to capture qualitative data methodologies then the use of focus groups would be an excellent method for gathering consumer insights and open-ended reactions. Understanding whether you require cold, hard facts or need to delve deep into the topic to gain information about people’s motivations, thinking, and attitudes will aid in the research methodology process.

Feasibility & Timing

When contemplating your research objectives, sample size, feasibility, and timing must be well-thought-out. Consider some of the following pieces before deciding on the correct methodology.

  • What sample size is needed in order for you to make confidence business decision based on the results? If it is determined that a large sample size is required, then it is possible to eliminate more time-consuming, qualitative methods such as focus groups and in-person interviews.
  • When do you need the results? If you need to quickly collect data, it would be best to conduct an online survey where national panels can field, and supply completed surveys in just a few days. If you have a longer lead time, methods that are more time-intensive, such as in-home interviews, are possible.

Developing a sample plan and timeline early on is essential as the decisions will strongly influence the research methodology.

The Takeaway

Thinking through all of these elements might seem overwhelming, but the time spent considering all of these factors will be invaluable. Of course, this decision-making process does not have to be an individual undertaking; dedicated researchers have the skills and knowledge to guide non-researchers toward choosing the best research methodology for their project. Alone or with assistance, a strong planning process will undoubtedly yield the greatest gains and help successfully navigate the research process.

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