Research Toolkit

I'm working on a contract with a local company. Most of the time I'm asked to rewrite their surveys and make them less bad*, but I also prepare research project plans for A/B tests, program evaluations, qualitative discussion guides, and employee engagement benchmarking. Another project I've been asked to do is to give the marketing department a basic understanding of research practices with a research toolkit.

The toolkit was written to give the team a basic understanding of the use of research so that they can properly advocate for it in stakeholder meetings without having the benefit of a researcher in the room to advocate for it themselves and to teach the basics of research to junior members of the team. The topics I covered include:

  • The Research Process - What is market research? How to get the most from working with a research department.
  • Formulating a Research Problem - What is a research problem vs. a management problem? How to define a research problem:
    • Specify the research objectives
    • Review the environment and the context of the research problem
    • Explore the nature of the problem
    • Define the variable relationships
    • Explore the consequences of alternative courses of action
  • Writing a Research Objective - What is a research objective and how to establish a research objective
  • General Research - What is market research? Why conduct market research? When to conduct market research
  • Qualitative Research - What is qualitative research? Data analysis, Confirmation, and Methods of qualitative research:
    • Focus groups
    • In-depth interviews
    • Open-ended survey questions
    • Ethnography
    • User Research and Testing
  • Quantitative Research - What is quantitative research? Quantitative methodology, and statistical analysis.
  • Questionnaire Design - What makes a good questionnaire? Survey design elements, questionnaire introductions and conclusions, question wording, testing, and basic best practices:
    • Keep it short
    • Do not require respondents to answer questions
    • Do not abuse grid questions
    • Adhere is available stye guides
    • Randomize your answer options
    • Always make your rating scales Likert (odd numbered) scales
    • Scales should move from lowest to highest
  • Sampling and Sample Sizes - What is a sample? How to calculate sample size, sampling and statistical testing, and types of sampling:
    • Random (probability) sampling
    • Systematic sampling
    • Stratified samples
    • Quota sampling
    • Cluster sampling
    • Area sampling
  • Analysis and Reporting - How to analyze data, qualitative data analysis (coding and analysis), quantitative data analysis (cross-tabulation and filtering, benchmarking, trending, competitive data, longitudinal analyses, statistical analysis), and how to report research findings:
    • Tell a story
    • Don't get fancy
    • Keep your slides simple

Maybe I'll do a deep dive into one of these subjects in a future post. Setting up an internal toolkit for your organization is dependent on the goals and functions that already exist, but there are universal best practices that can be applied to any given situation.

*Surveys are almost always bad. When was the last time you got a survey invitation and squealed with joyous excitement? It just doesn't happen. I've gotten very good at making surveys less bad.