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National Law Review: When Is Research Misleading?

By Sue Stock Allison
January 6, 2011
National Law Review: When Is Research Misleading?

The National Law Review recently featured Sue Stock Allison's article on "When Is Research Misleading?". Read below for an excerpt or click here to read the full article.

When Is Research Misleading?
By Sue Stock Allison

Sometimes, when it comes to opinion research, what you see is not necessarily what you get. For instance, focus group moderators can inadvertently (or purposely) create bias among recipients. Or when questioned about buying habits or intentions, people may tell questioners what they want to hear, rather than what they actually feel.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve cautioned against considering all research valuable or even accurate. But there are ways to ensure that your findings are sound when undertaking research among your clients, your organization members or your markets.

Here are five tips for making sure the research your firm is using is useful:

1. Know your Goals

I know you’re thinking, “Of course, we need goals!” but, alas, research can be initiated for nutty reasons. My personal favorite: “Everyone else is doing it.” That everyone else is doing it may make initiating a new study an excellent recommendation, but you still must match your research goals to your business goals. Do you define success by a measurable return on the research investment, or do you just want to touch your most loyal clients? Are you trying to guide or justify a specific marketing expenditure or, more loosely, gauge awareness in a particular market? Knowing what you want to achieve is crucial to obtaining the data you need. Detailing the specific information you want to know, even using hypothetical statements of finding, can help you to make your objectives clear. In this case, the cart (what you wish to carry away from the research) truly comes before the horse.