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I don’t know about you, but at the end of each year I think about research practices that worked well for me and areas that didn’t go as smoothly. After years in the field working on teams with fellow researchers, I know we all run into situations that can be a challenge.

A review of my recent work reminds me of some practices that worked and some that could have been better along the way. Do you do the following?

1. Share your final survey with the team prior to launch and take action on the feedback

Because this is a very early step in the research process, it can be easy to try to rush it or to fall for the temptation of thinking that your plan will work from a data and fielding perspective.  Ask your teammates who are subject matter experts, statisticians, fellow researchers, and quality control testers to help you fill any gaps or logical errors in your survey.

Additionally, creating a specific analytical plan before a survey is programmed and ready for launch will help to reveal areas where you may have missed a question.  If you are conducting a research study for the first time or on your own, paying a professional to review your survey will be worth every penny.

2. Allow extra time for tasks and know about hard-stops in the deadline

I can’t tell you how many times the old adage “haste makes waste” comes to mind as a research project comes to a close.  Things always seem to take longer than you think they will and then at the end of most projects, there is a little bit of a rush to finish… and at the same time, this is when all of the hard work comes together and the best analytics and data visualizations are put into place. 

Building in a day or two at the end of each phase and allowing the dust to settle will give you the chance to wake up in the middle of the night remembering a detail you want to add – and there will still be time.

Good researchers and clients stay busy and deadlines can change, so it’s important to confirm the schedule a few times as a project progresses. 

3. Continuously add to your team and learn their strengths

Good use of your team’s availability and skill set will help your project be the best it can be.  Understanding everyone’s skills and abilities along with the development of a backup plan will help you when you are in a pinch and your workload is heavy.  If your research plan involves expensive software that you do not have in-house or other elements that you do not typically do, consider hiring a programmer or other expert for that component. 

Research is pretty unforgiving when it comes to last-minute substitutions, so, plan carefully to be sure that the workload will be covered.

4. Collaborate on analytical deliverables

My best work is with clients who take the time to review and provide early feedback on sections of reports, share their vision, and engage in ongoing communication about the work.

Sharing plans, outlines, and preliminary work through tools like Google slides is a great way to allow teammates to participate as signs of progress.  This does come with a caveat that very early drafts do not always look great, so, an alternative is to schedule review time as stages of work are complete.

5. Trust your creativity and use new techniques

One of the coolest things we can do as researchers is in adding creativity and fresh interpretations to our custom projects by using techology that constantly evolves to make this process user-friendly.  We are also working with graphic artists and others who add polish and fresh ideas to the visualization of our work.  Don’t be afraid to add personality to your data and to create stories that explain your market and product or service.

In addition to enhancements to basic survey research, we have more and more software to support video diaries, one-on-one interviews, text surveying, journey maps, eye tracking, survey gaming, concept design, simulators, concept tests and so much more.  Make a point of learning about them, testing them, and using them to support your work.  

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