If you are planning a market research project, how much time should you allow and what is a realistic expectation of when you can see some results?
First of all, let me clarify what we’re talking about.
There are plenty of companies out there who can pose suvery questions to a large panel and provide quick data points and results in a day or two. They have their place and can be useful for a quick temperature take, but this isn't the kind of research that we do. At Insightful Research we help our clients with bespoke research projects that ask in-depth questions to provide deep insight on a range of issues and ultimately provide some strategic direction to whatever question or issue your organisation faces. Our experience is based on our work in and around the education and learning sectors, conducting research in the UK and internationally.
So, having got that out of the way – how long will it take?The answer (as you may expect) is that it depends.
There is no one-size-fits-all but here are a few things to bear in mind based on typical research projects we carry out for clients.
This advice applies broadly to a straightforward single-stage qualitative project – mixed methods research (e.g. running both qual and quant research), multi-stage research with different audiences, and more complex projects take longer!
Generally it helps to think of a research project as having 3 or 4 distinct phases:
1. Planning and set-up
The set-up deals with everything that will help to define your research project:
Finalise the research objectives
Agree the participant profile and sample design
Design the research approach, including developing discussion guides or other tools
How long this takes can depend on the client as much as the researcher – how many people need to be involved in the decision making? What’s their availability? How long do you need to sign things off?
But typically I would say most for most projects allow an average of 2 weeks.
This can be the slightly tricky bit and a lot depends on how easy (or otherwise) your participant sample is to find.
However, depending on the methodology you use recruitment can overlap other stages of a project (e.g. we are often still working on recruiting people for interview whilst early interviews are going on) so although it can take 2 to 4 weeks, sometimes this overlaps other stages.
Otherwise known as the “talking to people” stage (fieldwork seems a slightly outdated term when these days going ‘into field’ usually means a Zoom call…)
Again, this depends on a number of things including:
Are you running interviews, focus groups or online communities?
How many people are you aiming to speak to?
Are there any timezone issues/limitations if it’s international research?
How busy are your target audience likely to be?
What might disrupt the fieldwork period (national holidays, exam periods, school holidays etc)?
For an online community, I would usually allow 1 week (but the recruitment can’t overlap fieldwork in this instance!). For interviews and focus groups, about 3 weeks would be average.
4. Analysis & Report writing
The final, but often most intense, stage of the project. Carrying out all the analysis and writing the report and presentation - don't underestimate how long it can take to make sense of a large volume of data, transcripts and recordings in order to get to some useful insight.
I generally allow an average of 2 weeks to get to a final report (including a draft for comment before the 2 weeks are up).
So, in short, there are lots of variables but an average qualitative project with a relatively straightforward sample could deliver your results in 6 to 7 weeks. But beware some of the potential difficulties and pitfalls we’ve pointed out which could increase the time needed to get you results.