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Research methodologies

There is no one ideal survey methodology. It very much depends on the objectives of the research, the statistical reliability required, the location of respondents and, not least, the budget available. Each of the methods described below has its pros and cons.

Internet surveys

An increasingly viable survey method, particularly with Citizens' Panel research or groups of customers where a high proportion of members have provided their e-mail addresses and the representativeness of the sample can therefore be verified.

Internet surveys are extremely cost effective as there are no interviewer costs and no data entry costs - respondents fill in a form on line then submit it back to us and it is then imported directly into the analysis software. Regular updates can be provided on response rates and data patterns so that appropriate reminders can be sent and specific groups targeted to ensure reliable response rates are achieved.

Care needs to be taken when planning this type of survey as parts of the population may not have access to the Internet and this may bias the results.

We have conducted such surveys very successfully amongst employees of organisations as well as amongst residents of local authority areas as a supplement to other survey methodologies.

E-mail surveys

E-mail offers an increasingly viable survey method, particularly with Citizens' Panel research, where a high proportion of members have provided their e-mail addresses and the representativeness of the sample can therefore be verified. The e-mail can either include a questionnaire for completion or a dedicated url link to a specific web address where the questionnaire can be completed and submitted.

One disadvantage can be the lengthy response time where some people may access their e-mails infrequently

Face to face

Face-to-face Interviews are carried out in the street, on trains, on buses, in shopping precincts, at exhibitions, at major events or on doorsteps or in-home. This style of interviewing enables respondents to be easily matched to sampling quota - for example socio-economic group, age, gender or ethnicity. These are important considerations when seeking to include responses from hard-to-reach groups to match local demographics.

Face-to-face interviews are ideal where stimulus material such as photographs, illustrations or packaging need to be shown to respondents during the interview.

Qualitative in-depth personal interviews are also carried out, typically with senior executives and opinion formers, to explore issues and attitudes to specific topics. They allow the interview to drill down and explore in depth issues which might be a major concern of the client.

Telephone interviewing

Using a central telephone interviewing facility provides an economic and rapid research technique. It is suitable for shorter interviews and for those occasions where visual stimulus and prompts such as maps and illustrations are not required.

Sampling can be random or from selected populations, such as housing development residents or from a client's own customer database.

Postal surveys

Postal surveys are an economic method of offering a large population the opportunity to respond to a survey. Our experience of questionnaire design and our follow-up methodology ensures a consistently high rate of response. In a recent survey a response rate of 75% was achieved although this should be considered exceptional.

It is also a very effective way of conducting customer satisfaction surveys.

Focus groups

We develop advertising and promotion strategies to help you meet your company's development and profitability targets. We research the right promotional channel to make sure you can communicate effectively with customers and potential customers. We consider all opportunities from 'glossy' adverts to state of the art Internet promotion.

Topics covered have varied from leisure, cultural and transport strategies and attitudes to adult learning to communication and staff development.

Focus groups can often be used to provide local authorities with clear evidence of public consultation required by central government.

Qualitative research using focus groups is often used as a pre-quantitative research stage to identify and explore issues which are then included in the main quantitative survey.

Citizens' panel

Projects to set up, manage and operate Citizens' Panels have been undertaken to help local authorities meet the requirements for local consultation. The panel database is held and managed by Marketing Assistance Ltd, with regular refreshing of the panel to prevent respondent fatigue. Surveys have been conducted using postal, telephone and e-mail interviews and members have been recruited to take part in focus groups.

Market studies

Gathering information from published sources to produce market forecasts based upon expert opinion. Market surveys using on-line databases, the Internet and other published sources of information to map market structures and assess market size and trends. We recently completed a survey which reviewed the UK Market for solid state relays. It was completed in two days. MORE

Updated: 8 June, 2010
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