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Research is always a compromise

April 11, 2011

Research is always a compromise, because research budgets are always limited.  You will never be able to ask everyone you’d like to speak to about everything you need to know.

In any research project on any budget it is necessary to make the trade-off between project scope and methodological rigour depending on the resources available. 

Anyone planning to commission a research expert or undertake some research themselves will need to think about where it is acceptable to compromise.

A lot of first-time users of research decide to use a questionnaire-based methodology.  Doing this, there is actually plenty to compromise on: how to contact respondents, how to get them to participate, what methodology to use, and what to do with the findings when they come in.  As long the limitations of methodologies are understood it is possible to gain plenty of information to inform evidence-based decisions.

But where is it never good compromise?

If a questionnaire isn’t unbiased, meaningful and accessible, the whole process is pointless.

  • Questionnaire design is a fine art and writing a good questionnaire is not as easy as it looks.  Learn how to write a good questionnaire, or get a research expert to write it (or at least look at / advise on it).

If response is too low to draw conclusions from, the whole process is pointless.

  • In a quantitative project (one that is designed to generate statistics) aim for 100 respondents, so that when it comes to analysis 1 respondent = 1% … less than 50 is really too few to report on.
  • Don’t waste time chasing meaningless statistics.  If quantity is not an option, focus on depth instead.  Try focus groups or depth interviews to source verbatim comments, case studies and testimonials.
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