Tuesday, 23 December 2008

The world's most interesting research presentation

This year's MRG conference had - in the usual way of conferences - a few really good papers, some average ones and a couple that explained how an extensive new research study had found out that bears after all, do sh*t in the woods.

All the research papers though, good and bad, had one thing in common. The first five to ten minutes of a twenty minute slot were spent explaining how a survey group was recruited, how many people were in the sample and what demographics they represented.

Methodology slides might be fair enough at the MRG. It is a research conference after all, but we do it to our clients too.

Whenever that slide goes up at the beginning (and it always goes up at the beginning) about how respondents were recruited and who they are, I can hear the presenter saying,

"we've got some really interesting findings for you, but you can't see them yet. We've only got an hour, so I'm going to spend the first ten minutes telling you that this study was done the way these studies are always done. And by the way, you know all this already, because you're paying for the project and it was in the proposal you signed off."

It's unnecessary. The client has appointed you to do their research because they believe that you know what you're doing. They've come into the room assuming you know what you're doing and telling them about methodology is boring at best.
At worst, you're going to prompt an awkward question and then confuse half the room trying to explain a technical point about significance testing.

News correspondents don't start their reports by explaining how they booked a flight and found a hotel. Survey methodology is what appendices were made for. Let's bury the dull stuff at the back and get on with something interesting.

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