It’s all a question of accuracy

Asking the right questions can prove the difference between valuable and worthless information, as Noel Dyson discovers in the third of the series on market research.

GARBAGE in garbage out. It is a term that took prominence with the introduction of computers but it also has real application to the market research industry.

By putting together poorly constructed questions, researchers run the risk of failing to gain the information they are seeking and, in some cases, even alienate the people they are trying to gain information from.

The danger is the information may look very reliable but not answer the questions an organisation needs answered.

The order of the questions can also affect the information the respondent gives and, if done badly, increase their confusion.

The key to putting together any form of market research lies in putting the questions together in simple language to make it easier for respondents.

Asset Research CEO Ian McKenzie said respondents needed to have a distinct thing to make a response to.

“You have to make sure you are not throwing a whole lot of other things into the pie,” he said.

“It comes down to the issues you are looking at.”

It is also important to avoid putting more than one issue into a question.

Paterson Market Research CEO Keith Patterson said this could severely skew the data.

“For example if you ask the question, ‘Do you like driving your car in Perth,’ the answers could be problematic because people may think: ‘Well, I like driving my car but I don’t like Perth roads’. It depends on what you are trying to find out,” he said.

Another important thing to take into account is the time it takes to fill out a survey.

There are three main ways market research is conducted – either face to face, over the telephone or in a postal format.

The latter format has broadened to include email and Internet polls.

Government program evaluator and former Colmar Brunton managing director, Mark Jessop, said the format chosen had to suit the questions being asked.

“Over the telephone, anything more than 15 minutes is too long,” he said.

“With a face-to-face interview you can go roughly twice as long as a phone interview.”

Mr Prior said it was best to pilot a survey before using it on the general public to identify and rectify any issues that might emerge from it.

He said another issue to watch out for was the order of the questions because even these could skew the results.

p Next week: Methodologies

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