NEWS9 June 2010

Trading ‘purity’ for ‘pragmatism’ – Communispace makes case for new model MR

North America Trends

US— “It is time to decouple the notion of ‘quality’ from purity. Today it is more important for research to be actionable than irrefutable,” says research community builder Communispace in a paper calling for a new model of research better suited to the social media age.


Authors Manila Austin and Julie Wittes Schlack argue that researchers should no longer be aiming “for the perfect, bias-free study” but instead for an approach “that pragmatically applies a range of methods to generate and test hypotheses”.

“Good enough” research is good enough, they say. “Rather than itemising the statistical significance of individual data points, we need to focus on synthesising findings that are relevant, insightful and actionable.”

Austin and Wittes Schlack point to a number of areas where researchers should look to make trade-offs in moving to a new model of research. As mentioned above, they advocate abandoning purity for pragmatism in research design. They also question the relevance of concerns surrounding representative samples, particularly those who fret that the online population is not reflective of the general population.

“If relevancy of insight is an important quality factor (which we believe it is), then researchers have more to gain by listening to the ‘right’ group of people than they do by trying to generalise findings to a generic population,” they write. “If you want to deepen customer loyalty, who better to engage than members of your brand’s loyalty programme? If your goal is to broaden your brand’s appeal, then hearing from fans of your competitors brands may be the most useful approach.

“Researchers can be more confident in taking action when they trust they have the right people assembled to address their specific objectives,” say Austin and Wittes Schlack.

The Communispace executives seek to challenge other research paradigms, client anonymity for one, with the paper pointing to research conducted previously by the company which found that branded research communities outperformed unbranded ones. “Over time, members do come to view company sponsors more positively,” say the authors, “but this does not affect their ability to provide valuable – and critical – feedback.”

Austin and Wittes Schlack also call for a re-evaluation of “the dreaded practice effect”. Pointing to a study released by the Advertising Research Foundation, the paper says: “There is mounting evidence that practiced research participants – people who are motivated and engaged, and well-versed in how to best contribute – actually produce better results.”

Download the full Communispace paper here.

“The online era challenges many of our assumptions about data quality… and it represents a significant change in how we think and go about our work,” write Austin and Wittes Schlack. “As an industry – and to varying degrees as individuals – we are being nudged, or shoved, out of our comfort zone.”


1 Comment

14 years ago

While I may not see eye to eye with you on methodology specifics, I do have to agree with your main premise. A lot of 'traditional' researchers are so stuck on whether or not online sample etc. is truly representative, that they forget the end goal is actionability and to make the client more $. If research purity is their main master they should head on over to academia.

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