Research Design: What Are We Doing Here?

The Cart Before the Horse

Just recently I had a potential client contact me about a research project. We briefly discussed my capabilities and what he wanted to learn. A few days later I received an email suggesting some activities to do in the group, and he wondered if they would be good to use.  This inquiry caused me to pause for a moment because I could not answer his question, as his research objectives were not clear. I could not assess whether or not the activities would be beneficial as clear goals for the research had not been established.

So, I sent him an email requesting his objectives for the research. I also thought since these were not clearly articulated, it would be good for his team to discuss them, so everyone was on the same page. Finally, I knew this would be critical for the ultimate success of the project.

Research Objectives Guide Research Design

I know this seems elementary, but as my recent experience reveals, sometimes people know they need to do research, but they have not clearly articulated the goals.

Clear objectives help me to design research that will answer the client’s questions. They help guide the methodology selection (e.g., focus groups, online, IDI’s etc.) that will best address those questions. In addition, they guide the choice of creative exercises and questioning. They also help me to allocate how much time can be spent addressing each objective.

Clarifying Research Objectives Drives Team Alignment

Back to my opening story. . . when it came time to review the guide on the day of the research, there were multiple team members present who had not been a part of the initial conversations. However, there was no questioning the research design or the discussion guide because the team was aligned on the research goals.  On the day of research, everyone was on the same page and in the end everyone got their information needs met.

Clear objectives with team alignment prior to the research allow for the research to run smoothly when in the field.  As a moderator, this helps prevent last minute changes in direction that divert focus and reduce preparation time.

Clear Research Objectives are the First Step to Success

Successful research in the field begins in the research planning phase. I like to have my clients start with the end in mind.  

A favorite question I often ask is, “what does success look like at the end of this project?”

I want them to envision a successful outcome.  It also then tells me what I need to accomplish in order to help them learn, advance their business goals, and look good internally.

All “horsing around” aside . .

Clear objectives with team alignment prior to the research will allow for the research to run smoothly when in the field, giving full benefits to all involved.