Education market research is a skill that takes years of training and experience to master. An inexperienced or poorly trained researcher could fall victim to any of a variety of sloppy mistakes. When it’s time to hire a market research team, it’s important to know the pitfalls of the science; with that in mind, here are five of the most frequently-committed market research errors.
Sampling Error. A sampling error occurs when a market research professional observes an improper sample of a studied population, which may misrepresent population itself. In other words, it’s a poor selection of potential respondents. Sampling errors might result in misleading results, since they don’t accurately reflect the thoughts, opinions and feelings of the group the research team means to target. In truth, most surveys involve some degree of error, and whenever a researcher attempts to compile a small group that represents a much larger population, an occurrence of sampling error is always possible. But experienced education market research professionals can minimize that risk.
Problem Definition. Sometimes a researcher will improperly define a term, a situation, or an issue at the outset of his research. This can have a variety of unfortunate results: The researcher himself can proceed under false assumptions, invalidating much of the data collected thereafter; respondents to market research surveys or focus groups will respond to questions that make false assumptions; those same respondents might not be well-equipped to answer questions based on faulty information they’ve been given; or the raw data may be analyzed improperly. It’s important for researchers to perform thorough preliminary work before embarking on a knowledge quest — this includes properly defining your terms and issues.
Questioning Error. This can include any improper delivery of questions by the researcher in a survey or focus group. Questioning error can mean unintentionally leading a respondent to a desired answer, wording a question in a confusing or misleading way, or even imbuing questions with a tone-of-voice that implies a certain answer is “correct.” Because of the possibility of questioning error, it’s important to have a researcher you trust running your focus group, and to ensure that workers issuing surveys stick to the script.
Respondent Error. Sometimes even the best intentions can go awry, and respondents are one of the biggest X-factors in any researcher’s project. Occasionally, in a survey or a focus group, one or more respondents may give answers that are untrue, either because they didn’t take time to understand the question, or because they’re deliberately giving incorrect answers. This seldom happens with a specific pattern; usually it’s only one or two respondents. But a streak of respondents giving false answers may be cause for alarm; in that case, it’s time to start rewording questions.
Report Error. Once a team of education market research professionals has gathered all of its raw data, it’s time to analyze that data and derive conclusions. These conclusions can be used by the researchers’ clients to determine or alter a marketing strategy. But if the data is analyzed incorrectly in , it can lead to incorrect results — which can in turn lead to a faulty marketing strategy. Fortunately, as long as the original data hasn’t been compromised, this is a relatively simple error to fix, as it doesn’t necessitate starting over from scratch.