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2 Essential Questions You Need to Be Asking Your Data Provider

Big Ideas author Melanie Courtright discusses the two essential questions you should ask your data provider in order to gain a better understanding of research participants - and why it matters.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of our Big Ideas Series, a column highlighting the innovative thinking and thought leadership at IIeX events around the world. Melanie Courtright will be speaking at IIeX North America (June 12-14 in Atlanta). If you liked this article, you’ll LOVE IIeX NA. Click here to learn more.

I’ve heard it said in many corners that the Market Research industry is in a state of transition and transformation. Lately, I find it curious that there seems to be a growing lack of deep understanding and concern for research fundamentals, specifically who is participating in research and where they come from. With so much focus on data collection tools and methods, are we losing sight of where research participants come from and why it matters?

We all know data quality begins with the people who we ask questions of, but, before you begin asking them questions, are you asking the right questions about how they get to you? From my experience, I feel there are 2 essential questions you should start with asking your data provider in order to begin to gain a better understanding of who you’ll be asking questions of.  

Before we dive in, it’s worth pointing out that the world of sample providers is more complex than it used to be. You have river sample or intercept providers who fish for participants online in a number of ways, aggregators or distributors who sell sample and hook into various sample sources without owning any of them, panel companies who own and manage their data sources, and some that don’t neatly fall into any of these categories. No matter where you get your sample, you should be asking…

1. Where are people coming from?
Are people coming from the river, meaning that they may be “fished” from an online source, whereby you don’t know much about them and once they are surveyed and put back into the stream they are unlikely to be caught again? Or are they sourced from a panel whereby, to continue the metaphor, they can be fished out of a discrete pond where they are tagged and can be found again if need be? Participants from these discrete ponds add a level of comfort for researchers as they are vetted and typically thought to be of higher quality. But you shouldn’t check your curiosity at the door at this point. It is worth asking your provider how they recruit people. How do people make it into the pond? Panels should be meticulously managed and maintained by implementing consistent recruitment methodology from a variety of sources. Variety in recruitment is key, as you don’t want your participants to come from a single, specific source, one that lacks diversity.

2. Who are these people?
The more you know about who you are reaching, the better off you are. Thinking of how you source research participants, the depth to which they are profiled allows for more accurate, efficient, and quicker targeting while reducing the need to screen for everything. So, ask about profiling methodology, what areas relevant to your research they are profiled on, and how this data can be used to conduct smarter research.

You’re not going to capture everything you need to know by asking just the two questions above, but they a start. In my presentation at IIeX, Sourcing Research Participants: Opening the Black Box…or Pandora’s Box, I’ll be further diving into how survey traffic is generated, how it is routed, and how approaches to conducting research change depending on how people are sourced – and why this matters for building a solid research foundation.

If you’re interested in reading further on this topic before the event, make sure you check out Ron Seller’s GreenBook blog piece, “How Do You Assure Online Panel Quality?”.  

I hope to see you in Atlanta!

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