Planning field research

Good planning is essential if you want to get the right results from field research.

First you need to decide how to collect the information you want. Popular methods include:

survey, using a fixed set of questions. The most effective way of carrying out a survey is typically with face-to-face interviews, but phone interviews, online questionnaires and postal surveys are also possibilities.

discussion - often held in small focus groups. Discussions are good for qualitative research as they allow you to explore people's attitudes in more detail.

Observation, to investigate what people do rather than what they say. For example, look at how shoppers react when they pass a particular point-of-sale display.

An experiment - you might, for instance, run a blind taste test of your soft drink against your competitors' products. Alternatively, you could lend your new product to a customer and ask for feedback.

Once you have decided how you'll gather the information, you'll need to work out how to make it happen. Budget how much time and money will be needed, as the time involved will normally be significant.

You'll need to design your research. For example, drawing up a questionnaire or deciding how you'll run a focus group.

Then there are the logistics. If you want to carry out street interviews, make sure your researchers have the required local authority licence and identity card. If you want to run a focus group or conduct face-to-face interviews or product tests, where will you hold them? Where will you find the participants? And who'll run the session?

Consider carefully whether you have got the skills in-house to do this. If not, it's probably a good idea to get a market research agency to do your research for you.

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