Thursday, June 01, 2006

Planning and prioritising research – the criteria


What is the fundamental question, or set of questions that need answered
• Your needs: Be clear about The four W’s
– why the research is being done?
– what’s if for?
– who is it for?
– (to) what use will it be put?
If you cannot answer all of these questions – then you should not proceed.
• Whether you can get analysis or outputs from existing information sources already, and to what extent
• The scale and importance of this work – the more at stake, the harder you need to work to ensure quality
Does the research add value to the business of your organisation?
• Will it be used to inform a decision?
• Will it be used to inform service or project design?
• Will it be used to find out more about a client group?
Has the research been done before?
• It is fundamental that any research project scopes out what research has already been done in an area or issue, that may provide a solution to the research need?
• Does the proposed research duplicate existing work?
• Or does it complement or add to existing work?
• Is there any review of existing work as part of the planning?
What is at stake?
• What is the type of decision or reputational risk that is dependent on the research outcome – the more significant the decision or higher the reputational risk – the more you should be scrutinisng quality and robustness
Who is the audience
• This is critical to understand
• Its not just doing the research – the findings need to be communicated in such a way as to be useful and relevant to the audience
• Many research projects fall at this hurdle – excellent work, but which no-one reads, or there is no presentation or press release of findings to advertise that the work has been done


What is quality research?
Basically, a good piece of research is something that meets a defined information or intelligence need, and effectively addresses specific questions or issues about the economy and aspects of our work. A quality piece of research is:
• Robust
• Objective
• Reports and analyses what evidence can confidently tell us – and is clear in what it can and cannot authoritatively tell us
• Well written, structured and is accessible for the intended audience
• Above all – is transparent, in that any analytical conclusions or findings are consistent with the evidence base
Does your research proposal have quality planned-in?
• How will you deliver or ensure quality?
• Have you considered who the final audience is?
• How will you ensure it is objective?
• Are you prepared to publicly release the research? Would it stand up to public scrutiny?
If you are not a research specialist – have you consulted one within your organisation?
• Be an informed consumer – speak to experts within your organisation. Policy and strategy staff specialise in conducting and commissioning research – it is their job to advise and support you


How to do the research
• Do you have a view on the most effective method(s) of research?
• Have you initially described how the research could be conducted?
• What research methods will you deploy?
Secondary research is analysis of existing reports and research findings:
• If there has been much research conducted before in your topic or area – it pays to conduct a literature or research review before going on to propose new primary research
• Much can be gained by exploring an issue first via secondary research – it helps focus subsequent research efforts
Primary research is collection and analysis of original data – e.g. surveys, focus groups, interviews, financial data:
• It is only necessary where:
– Existing research does not fulfil your needs
– Existing surveys and data sources (and there are a lot) do not fulfil your needs
• It is expensive
• If it is of significant scale, it might need management or steering group appoval or something like that
• There are substantial quality implications – any planning for such work needs the expert input of a statistician, research specialist or an economist


• Have you secured the necessary staff resource and expertise? You will need some input from research specialists
• Have you identified consultancy expertise?
• Have you designed a brief/specification?
• Have you thought about procurement routes?


• As mentioned already – identify the audience
• Ensure that there are mechanisms to deliver the main findings of research
• As part of project planning – design a comms strategy