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Clear Objectives Can Improve Your Research

Objectives at a Glance

  • What do I need to learn?
  • Start with the end (goal of your research) in mind.
  • Define at the beginning.
  • Consult them throughout the research process.
  • Helps keep the whole team on the same page.

Research objectives serve as the foundation and guideposts for conducting market research.

What's the objective of the research? This is a question that should be asked at the beginning of every piece of research; qualitative or quantitative. Often this is not a simple question as it requires some thought on the part of the researcher. This question can be further complicated when multiple functions are contributing to the research or have questions to be answered. However, the answer to this question will determine who to recruit, what stimuli to show, how to show the stimuli and how the questions should be addressed.

Clear objectives can serve as guideposts throughout the research process from discussion to presentation. It is very easy to lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish during research, especially if your target audience does not respond as you expect or if you receive unexpected input from team members and senior management. Even throughout the research, revisiting the objectives or stating "these are the objectives of the research" can help you stay focused.

Clear Objectives Help Your Moderator

Often moderators are hired to assist a team in achieving their research objectives. As an outsider, a moderator will not be intimately aware of the details of your project. Clear objectives assist them in quickly getting up to speed. They also aid in the creation of an effective discussion guide. Having clear objectives helps the moderator during the discussion. Good qualitative research is essentially a conversation among the respondents guided by the moderator or between the moderator and the respondent in an in-depth interview. When the moderator has internalized your objectives, he or she knows how to guide the discussion to help you learn what you need. Then, the moderator truly becomes a member of your team.

Suggestions for Defining Clear Objectives

  • Determine what information is critical to advancing or terminating the project.
  • Start with the end in mind. Ask yourself, "At the end of the research, what do I want to have learned?"
  • Take time before the research to solicit questions / objectives from other team members prior to meeting with the moderator.
  • For multi-functional teams, establish an owner of the research through which all requests are funneled. This is the person who should review research changes and new stimuli.
  • Ask your moderator to include the research objectives at the top of the discussion guide. This will ensure that the moderator understood and internalized your objectives. In addition, when observers come to the research and review the discussion guide, the first thing they will read will be the objectives of the research.
  • Review your objectives with senior management to ensure their agreement and gain their endorsement.
  • Once your objectives have been set, take time to review them once more before the research. Make adjustments if necessary.


Understand What Kinds of Objectives Can Be Addressed Through Qualitative Research

Simply put, any objective that starts with the word "quantify" is not appropriate for qualitative research. On the other hand, objective statements that begin with verbs like "explore", "understand", "identify" and "learn" are truly appropriate for qualitative research.

Too Many Objectives

Sometimes, teams have more objectives than can be reasonably accomplished in a two-hour focus group; sometimes three hours would not be enough. A good moderator can help you to match your objectives to the amount of time you have with the respondents. Having too many objectives may require additional research to completely address them. Trying to accomplish too much will sacrifice the depth of understanding.

How Do I Know If I've Met My Objective?

Take time to evaluate if your research plan is helping you to meet your objectives. Don't be afraid to make changes to your research design if you realize that you are not learning what you need to learn. Unlike quantitative research where a number tells you if you've met your objective, qualitative research requires listening and discerning.

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