Whether you are working with a research firm or not, don’t make these six common mistakes that can skew your research results.

When planning a research project, you’re aware of all the topics you want to explore with your audience, but asking your audience exactly what you want to know is not the best approach to gathering information. Here are a few things to avoid as you approach your market research project.

1. Asking Too Much
You have the project underway, so it’s natural to want to discover as much as you can about your target audience. Then you begin seeking feedback from your team and higher-ups, and soon you have a list of even more questions they want you to ask. The result can be a survey that is too long and too unfocused to be effective.

To prevent this mistake, start with a good, solid research plan. What decisions do you need the data to inform? What questions do you need to ask to get that information? Developing a clear plan at the outset can help everyone involved understand the goals of the project, keep research streamlined, and ultimately result in better, more useful data.

2. Leading Question
A leading question is exactly what it sounds like, a question that leads a respondent to a specific answer. It assumes that something is true without any evidence to support that idea.

For example, in the question, “How do our company’s state-of-the-art professional development opportunities affect your interest in attending our annual conference?” the inclusion of the phrase “state-of-the-art” can influence respondents’ answers, regardless of their own interest in participating in the conference. A better question would exclude the phrase “state-of-the-art” and result in more reliable data.

3. Double-Barreled Questions
Double-barreled questions ask your respondents to answer multiple questions at once. For example, asking respondents to “rate the quality of our brand and video production services” asks them to rate two different attributes, but allows for only one response. This not only confuses your respondents, but it also results in meaningless data. You can’t interpret findings without knowing specifically what the respondent meant.

For results to be measurable, stick to one topic per question. The same goes for qualitative research. If you find and/or in your question, you’re probably asking a double-barreled question. Often this leads to the respondent focusing on the first part of the question and forgetting about the second half. Give each of your questions one focus

4. Order Bias
Order bias happens when you order the questions in a way that the first question influences the response to the following questions. Here’s an example. Let’s say I asked you, “What is your favorite sport?” and then, “How interested are you in playing on a company kickball team?” If kickball is not high on your list of favorite sports, you are more likely to rate your interest lower in joining the company team.

In some cases, you can avoid order bias by randomizing the order so that all respondents don’t receive all the questions and response options in the same order.

5. Respondent Fatigue
When surveys start getting lengthy, respondents can become frustrated, especially if they were only planning to spend a few minutes filling out your survey. This leads to respondents rushing to fill out the rest of the survey and skipping optional open-ended questions, which ultimately skews your data.

The same goes for qualitative research. Qualitative research is built around a discussion guide to lead the conversation, but sometimes it’s hard to estimate how long the conversation will take. You don’t know how much the participant will elaborate. Therefore, it is very important to limit the number of questions to allow participants enough time to tell their story and describe the “why.” If an interview gets too long, the participant might start giving shorter responses or even end the interview early.

6. Asking Difficult Questions First
When designing research studies, you should carefully control the direction and flow of the conversation. Starting with broader, more general questions helps make the participant feel more comfortable and builds a bond with the interviewer. Then, by the time respondents get to the more difficult or sensitive questions, they have already thought about some of the basic, broad concepts of the topic that help to provide context.

Think of it this way: You wouldn’t ask a new friend to tell you his or her credit score, right? Similarly, you want to ease into the (research) relationship and build a foundation of comfort and trust.

Of course, there’s one more tip to help you avoid common research mistakes – contact Vela Agency to plan and execute your market research projects.