UNDERSTANDING BASIC RESEARCH TECHNIQUES
Since the results of research will have an impact on your planning decisions, it is important to understand the purpose and methodology of survey and focus groups techniques.
There are two types of research. . . quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative research is conducted with a specific number (quantity) of respondents, using a specific and very structured survey instrument, asking the same questions of every respondent in a set routine.
In this way, we can analyze the results of that research and compare the answers (to specific questions) with those of other respondents.
In quantitative research the sample size and ability to generalize about a given population (or cell) is very important. The sample size is carefully chosen to provide a "confidence level" in the data. Industry standards are usually 92% +/- 5%; that is, the data will be accurate for 92% of the entire population represented by the sample, within 5% up or down on any given question. Industry standards also call for validation of about 10% of all completed surveys. In other words, 10% of all respondents are re-called to validate the responses on their completed surveys.
Surveys compile the responses to the exact same questions, asked in the exact same way, without deviation from methodology. Responses then are analyzed using computer software that tabulates the data and runs statistical tests of validity to assure consistency in confidence.
Reporting is straightforward; data results are usually reported by percentages of response for each option. Sometimes, when appropriate, averages (and/or medians) of numerical responses are also reported. (Median indicates half the responses were above that answer and half below that answer.)
Qualitative research, however, is much more free form, depending on the moderator and the participants to set direction and provides for flexibility in the topics, questions and discussions. Qualitative research is not statistically valid, but offers a means to explore and probe for information on an individual basis. Care is taken to assure the respondents are demographically representative of the market we wish to focus on.
In focus groups we take several people (usually 8-9) and "focus in" on questions we have regarding their experiences and perceptions. Sometimes those questions are suggested by the quantitative research, sometimes suggested by changes we are seeing in the behavior of certain segments of the population.
Unlike survey projects, each situation does not have to be exactly like the previous ones and allows for much more flexibility in the topics discussed and specific Questions asked. Focus groups are usually conducted in a facility specifically designed for that purpose. Respondents sit around a table, with the moderator controlling the conversation and introducing new topics and/or exhibits.
Participants are screened specifically to fit the qualities of our population. Usually, industry standards call for two focus groups to be conducted with each demographic or geographic group. This allows validation of results and accounts for any vagaries of a particular group session.
Clients (and other invited guests) are able to view and listen to the proceedings from a room behind one-way mirrors. It is important for respondents to believe in the neutrality of the moderator and for clients to not be involved in the process. In some locations, where focus suites are not available, small hotel meeting rooms are used and the proceedings are videotaped.
Each research method provides a different piece of the puzzle that we must complete in order to assist you, staff, and other volunteers in making informed decisions.
If you have any questions regarding methodology, facilities, etc., please don't hesitate to call: