Schottler Consulting Social and Market Research Knowledge Centre
How much time is needed to conduct social or market research?
Conducting a social or market research project in a large organisation often takes much more time than people expect. This is often because companies and public sector agencies also need time.
This is typically because it takes organisations time to identify stakeholders for interview and to undertake internal stakeholder discussions about the research.
On the stakeholder or research participant side, many people will also need advance warning to take part in research interviews. For this reason, research timelines should be carefully planned with these things in mind.
Tips for success in estimating the time required for your research
The following provide guidance on the timing issues associated with different stages of a research study.
1. Research design - While it may not take a professional research consultant long to design a survey or discussion guide (in some cases, perhaps only 1-3 days), it is important to consider timing factors during the research design phase of a research study.
For instance, if multiple internal staff have an interest in the research design, they may want to provide input. This may take your organisation more time than anticipated.
Internal consultations are also a very useful process as they help to get people on board with a research project (increasing acceptance of findings).
2. Survey programming and testing - Whether an online survey or CATI study is being undertaken, it is important to thoroughly test the design and survey program to make sure it collects data as intended.
This is not a process to skip, as it can lead to missing data.
Some complex programs may need several days of checking including time for you as the client to approve any design changes. If senior executives are required for approvals, this can also take considerable time.
3. Qualitative interviews - Many organisations need time to identify stakeholders for interview and then time to contact stakeholders to raise awareness that research will be occurring.
In some cases, this may involve emails or hard copy letters, all of which may need to be organised prior to stakeholders being contacted.
Once a stakeholder list is ready, a research consultant then needs time to call and book interviews. As everyone is typically very busy, it is also important to give stakeholders a reasonable amount of time to participate.
For this reason, it's often appropriate to give stakeholders a week or more at the very least to ensure that interviews are convenient and not 'forced' upon a stakeholder.
4. Focus groups - With focus groups, research consultants can be handy to use as they have access to research panels that enable rapid recruitment.
This can allow recruitment of participants for a general population focus group in a week or less!
However, if your research has a 'difficult to recruit' participant, recruitment may take much longer and should be factored into research project timing.
5. Data coding - If you have a research study, it can be time consuming to code open end qualitative responses. These are where respondents write text to explain their views, beliefs or behaviours.
If you have a survey with 10,000 open end responses, this could be very time consuming to code and can literally take a single analyst several days to code into themes.
This is also why consultants may charge extra for open end coding.
6. Data analysis and reporting - Analysis and reporting on research findings can take time. This is also a stage that should not be rushed, as this is ultimately the main deliverable from the research project.
It is important that reporting and data analysis is checked, that the content of the report is clear and that statistical techniques are used to reduce insights into a manageable number of key findings.
If qualitative and quantitative research are being undertaken, some time may also be need to roll up overall findings.
7. Review of research reports and convening presentations - Reviewing a research report will often take agencies commissioning research much more time than they anticipated.
It may also be the case that an organisation may want a diverse range of internal stakeholders to review and discuss findings before providing feedback.
When all these factors are considered, this highlights the range of factors to consider when developing a research time line.
While research consultants can turn around research design, data collection and analysis extremely quickly, there are many other factors that contribute to the overall time required to conduct a research project.
For this reason, it is useful to estimate the time required of a research project by considering BOTH:
The time your organisation may need to complete relevant tasks within its scope (e.g., approving research design, list provision if appropriate, reviewing reports etc.).
The time a research consultant may need to design research, collect data and analyse and report findings.
Experienced researchers will be able to help you estimate a realistic timing. So if you hear of an unrealistic time frame, consider all the factors outlined and ask the consultant if they had incorporated these factors into the timing.
How long will my social or market research need without rushing?
Estimate the time estimate in BUSINESS DAYS below to estimate an ballpark timing for your study!
Keep in mind, this is ONLY a ballpark estimate to assist with forward planning. Some tasks may occur concurrently, so this may also reduce timing.