19.May.2020

Donna Van De Water
Chief Operating Officer

Is Now A Good Time To Do Research?

Here's How To Decide.

In the midst of this pandemic, several of our clients have approached us to ask whether it’s still appropriate to move forward with some of their plans. One major question that’s arisen: is it OK to conduct research now? It’s a good question, and we ask it ourselves all the time—not just in situations like this.

Typically, when Lipman Hearne counsels our clients not to conduct research, we frame this decision around factors related to the specific project: research objectives, sample, timing, the planned research methodology, or the research questions.

Sometimes we suggest delaying because the objectives or purpose of the research haven’t been hammered out. Other times, there’s disagreement about how the information will be used (or by whom). These are foundational issues, and the answers must be agreed on before the study can proceed successfully.

If you’re unsure whether your organization should conduct research right now, asking yourself these three questions can help you decide.

  1. Has the current situation forced you to modify your objectives? If so, then take a break. It’s essential that the data you gather is useful.
  2. Is the information you seek to learn just “nice to know?” If so, then now might not be the optimal time. If it’s to drive a process improvement, shape your outreach, or help make things better for others, then moving ahead can be a good idea.
  3. Will your target audience be able to participate easily? If you anticipate having difficulty reaching your audience, we may suggest postponing.

The first two questions are internal concerns, so determining the answers should be relatively easy. However, the third point raises additional complications. How can you know whether or not your audience will be responsive? Here are some factors to consider:

  • Do you have good access to your audience, and will you be able to generate a representative sample?
  • Will your final sample be large enough to perform the analyses necessary to inform decision-making?
  • Is your audience able to access the survey instrument and complete it safely and securely? This is essential in order to have confidence in the data.
  • Are they able to answer your questions?
  • Are they occupied with other matters? Do they have the perspective to answer your questions? Will their ability to answer your questions honestly and completely be hindered in any way?
  • What’s in it for the research participant? Do they have an interest in the topic?
  • Do they believe that the information they provide will make a difference? Do they believe that someone will pay attention to what they have to say and take action based on their input?

Granted, there are many factors making research participation difficult right now. Not only are we in the midst of a pandemic, we are also in an election year. Your audiences are the recipients of all sort of inquiries and sales tactics, some trustworthy and some not. Ensuring that your outreach is connected to a trustworthy source in times like these can be critical. Sponsor identification can help quite a bit. Even “old school” methods such as mail surveys may be appropriate to add that extra layer of trust.

On the whole, though, your audiences are likely very interested in helping, learning from the research process and making a difference for others. So, share the purpose of your research, let your audiences know that you value their input and respect their time, and thank them. If you can, share back what you learn. If you make participation valuable, you’re more likely to experience a good response rate, regardless of what’s happening in the wider world.

So is now a good time to do research? The simple answer is yes, as long as you take the time and invest the effort to get it right. Use the questions we’ve provided here as a guide, and our most recent research study as an example, and you’ll be ready to evaluate each opportunity thoroughly to get as much value as you can from it.