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Thursday, 26 November 2015

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Setting research free


An interesting debate although I think it is not really useful to talk about DIY research in such general terms. To stick with the analogy, the fact that professional power tools are now readily available at affordable costs does not mean that everyone has the skill to use them. As tempting as it sounds, hiring a bull dozer and knocking down your wall and building an extension requires more thought, planning and experience than just having the right tools. Similarly, the ability to communicate with respondents doesn’t make someone a great communicator or even researcher. Surely, DIY research has been around for years by using paper questionnaires or untrained call centre staff. DYI research is even easier when it involves monitoring and visiting social networking sites and engaging with respondents in a web2.0 context, but - as we have seen many times - it can dangerously back fire if rules and etiquettes aren’t observed. So if the real new development is fast access to respondents who couldn’t be easily contacted before, than the CINT model makes sense if it was free - which makes me wonder whether the model is more about allowing those who do have access to people to monetize these contacts. Creating online surveys is not rocket science from a technical perspective, but there are many aspects which need careful consideration. Data Protection and data storage and backup is one of them. Other aspects are respondent experience and questionnaire design (beyond flow and wording) – layout design, cross browser compatibility, randomization, rotation, filtering and all the techniques that researchers use to ensure sound data quality and enhance respondent experience. ‘Professional DIY’ tools ensure that users are prompted not to forget these important aspects when setting up and testing questionnaires and allow researchers to concentrate on the research objectives. DIY tools which result in unsatisfactory respondent experience are a big problem and will further reduce response rates and willingness to participate in research, which are essential to our business. Surely, DIY research is tempting when it’s not obvious where researchers add value - when they act merely as fieldwork facilitators and pocket the margin. Companies have research needs which can be satisfied in-house without compromising on quality with today’s technology - especially if they involve continuous, repeat or tracking surveys and as long as attention to sampling is not neglected. But companies also have research needs which can only be met by research professionals and require complex or at least carefully designed research and analysis. Researchers need to concentrate on these core skills - the times where projects are run by junior staff and yield large profit margins in fieldwork and data collection might be coming to an end as clients become more cost conscious and aware of technology solutions which allow them to bring this aspect in house at lower costs.

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