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Insights with Impact Blog
Out and About: NEMRA Conference Goes Back to Basics with a Focus on Questions
June 8, 2017
At the New England Market Research Association’s (NEMRA) semi-annual conference, the Anderson Robbins Research team had the pleasure of connecting with, and learning from, our peers in the market research industry. All of the sessions were thought-provoking and centered around the theme of “questioning”.
Asking the right, well-developed questions, both before beginning a study and during the surveying phase, are crucial elements for successful marketing research projects. And so, it’s no surprise that these topics were touched upon in almost every session. Below are a few of the key take-aways on these important topics:
Asking the right questions before starting a project.
Many of the panelists stressed that the key to turning research into actionable results is to truly understand the research question you’re aiming to answer before you start a project. And this information is often learned by asking questions with key stakeholders, such as “what is the business decision you are going to make with this data?” Trying to glean valuable insights from your data without knowing this information, becomes much more difficult. This is second nature at Anderson Robbins.
Asking the right questions in a survey.
Just as important as asking good questions before starting a project, is the importance of asking quality questions during the surveying phase. As our first presenter, Ted Pulsifer said, “the data you get is only as good as the instrument [questionnaire] they [the respondents] are sent to.” This first session, on the importance of writing a good questionnaire, set the tone for the subsequent sessions and the topic was touched upon by many researchers throughout their presentations. Although we as researchers may think that we are always writing good questionnaires, it is easy to overlook some of the elements which are important to create an intuitive, thoughtful, and engaging questionnaire. David Harris explained four characteristics which are important for questions to embody. Questions should be:
1. Clear – Since you, as researchers, are not present to answer respondents’ questions as they are taking the survey, the questions need to be worded as clearly and unambiguously as possible.
2. Answerable – It’s very difficult to accurately answer a question for which you know nothing about. Ensuring that the respondent knows the information / topic matter that you are inquiring about will help to ensure that you get accurate data.
3. Easy – Tying back to the Clear point above, poorly worded and confusing questions are hard for respondents to answer, and additionally, they detract from having an enjoyable survey taking experience. Personalizing the question by wording it to ask about ‘you,’ (the respondent), is another way to make questions easier to understand and more enjoyable to answer. Additionally, personalization adds to the richness and depth of the given responses. As Frank Kelly demonstrated in his presentation, respondents were much more likely to give in-depth and thoughtful answers when the question was personalized, compared to when it was not.
4. Unbiased – Ensuring that your questions are not biased in any way is important to guarantee that your data is accurate and uninfluenced. The presenters raised caution around the use of Agree / Disagree scales as they inherently carry a positive bias. As David Harris mentioned, “people have more trouble disagreeing than agreeing”, and satisficing occurs all too regularly.Beyond the power of scales to influence respondents, Dr. Ronald Shapiro demonstrated the power of suggestivity, through question wording. In an engaging demonstration, Dr. Ronald Shapiro showed a volunteer a colorful birthday-themed bandana and then placed it over her eyes. Dr. Ronald Shapiro then asked the volunteer to tell him the color of the balloons on the bandana. At first the volunteer said that she did not remember any balloons, but when pushed and asked how many there were, without hesitation she said, “more than one and less than five”. Although it was a birthday-themed bandana and it could conceivably have balloons on it, there were none. This clearly demonstrates the power of questions to influence participants’ responses.
As researchers, it’s important for us all to consider the impact that questions have on our projects. The questions we ask and the questionnaires that we use to gather data are part of our professional discipline and should be treated as communication – as they are so important for the quality of our research.
- Specializes in consumer marketing research, brand and reputation management, and communications research for opinion influencers, executives, clinicians and consumers
- Designs and directs global qualitative and quantitative opinion research for corporations, non-profit organizations and trade associations
- Evaluates advertising, public relations and marketing campaigns with her clients and their agencies
- Began her career at Penn, Schoen & Berland (PS&B), pollsters for President Bill Clinton and Microsoft, among others
- Received a B.A. in Government from Colby College
- Active in the Boston business community, making new connections and mentoring young professionals
- Serves as the Vice Chair for the March of Dimes Board of Directors in Boston
- Volunteers time at her children’s schools with a favorite role as the “Mystery Reader”
- Challenges herself with distance running
- Loves to experience new places, cultures and cuisine, which includes at least one new travel adventure per year with friends or family
- Works on significant public policy issues across industries
- Incorporates quantitative and qualitative research elements for campaigns designed to resonate with clearly-defined audiences
- Held positions of increasing responsibility with Kiley and Company and Opinion Dynamics
- Earned a M.A in Statistical Analysis, Public Opinion and Political Science from Columbia University
- Received a B.A. in English from Colby College
- Serves as a member of the Fox News election night decision team
- Has an active membership in the American Association for Public Opinion Research (AAPOR)
- Serves as advocate and former Board Chair for Read to a Child: Boston
- Enjoys everything outdoors (skiing, running, fishing, hiking) with his family
- Appreciates time with a good fiction book or listening to live music
- Excels at the “nuts and bolts” of survey research, ensuring methodologies are designed realistically and executed properly
- Counts 5,000 research studies as the number managed to date, using telephone, Internet, postal mail, interviews, mall intercepts, focus groups, exit polls and door-to-door surveys
- Ensured research integrity and accuracy at Opinion Dynamics Corporation
- Began his career as the field director at Cambridge Reports, Inc.
- Earned a B.A. in Sociology, while studying Research Methods and Analysis at University of Massachusetts Amherst
- Volunteers at the Mary Ann Morse Nursing Home doing pet therapy for residents
- Helps transport rescue dogs regularly because he’s an avid dog lover
- Raised money for the Jimmy Fund for the past 20 years by participating in the Pan-Mass Challenge
- Appreciates time with his family, which also includes a dog, three cats and two horses
- Specializes in concept testing, message development, advertising evaluation, employee research, reputation management, communication research and multi-national studies
- Manages qualitative and quantitative research for healthcare, financial services, consumer and non-profit organizations
- Involved previously in global B2B, non-profit and international consumer research with KRC Research
- Gained experience earlier in her career working at Portland Research, honing her skills in methodology, philosophy and process
- Received a B.S. cum laude in Marketing from Bentley University
- Participates in activities for her children at the Waldorf School
- Enjoys traveling to beach destinations, cruising and exploring the Casco Bay Islands, particularly in the summer
- Loves spending time with her family, including three young, active children
- Thrives in fast-paced, innovative environments – startups and political campaigns
- Manages quantitative and qualitative research for political and public affairs clients
- Cut his political teeth working in field for the Obama campaign in North Carolina in 2008
- Specialized in Global Political Marketing while receiving a MA in International Affairs from the Fletcher School at Tufts University
- Received a BA in International Relations from Brown University
- Serves as a member of the Fox News election night exit poll team
- Lives in Denver to take advantage of ample craft beer, skiing, and hiking opportunities
- Loves to travel, highlighted by a six-month sabbatical through South America in 2015
- Equally happy writing complex Excel formulas or detailing a complex woodworking joint
- Creates and directs communications strategies for both traditional and social media
- Named a “Rising Star” by the Boston Business Journal in 2011 and nominated for an Emmy earlier in her career
- Held a variety of political and media relations positions with InkHouse, Solomon McCown & Co. and the State Treasurer of Massachusetts
- Began her career as a journalist at WBZ-TV (Boston), WNBC (New York) and NY1 News
- Earned a B.A./B.F.A. in Journalism and Film Studies from New York University
- Member of Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of TV and Radio Actors (SAG/AFTRA)
- Raises awareness and funds for March of Dimes through participation in the Falmouth Road Race
- Rode the Pan-Mass Challenge
- Enjoys hiking, biking and swimming with her three children and husband
A Nun’s Life Ministry
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Cambridge Health Alliance
Citizen’s Housing and Planning Association
Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
Dewey Square Group
DLA Piper LLP
Five Corner Strategies
Fox News Network LLC
Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce
Mass Food Association
Massachusetts Association of Health Plans
Massachusetts Medical Society
Massachusetts Nurses Association
Maura Healey Campaign
Michigan Nurses Association
Ogilvy Public Relations
PJA Advertising & Marketing
Right to Repair Committee
Screening for Mental Health
Stand for Children