Austin Research Blog

Surveys Room 101: My pet hates about surveys

As an experienced survey designer I often see questionnaires that frustrate me in some way, be they too long, too complicated or just designed without any regard for the respondents who are asked to complete them. I try not to let these frustrations affect my mood. However, there are some relatively minor, but recurring, issues that anger me to the point…

Knowing nothing about your client's business could be an advantage

In his book Seeing What Others Don’t, Gary Klein describes how true insights are transformational. They change how we understand, act, see and feel. As insight professionals how can we maximise our chances of producing insights that really make a difference? Perhaps Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner (best known for writing Freakonomics) have the answer in their most recent book…

Think like a fox: Avoiding the direct approach to questionnaire design

The ancient Greek poet Archilochus was attributed with saying “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows just one big thing”. Hedgehogs move slowly and directly to where they want to go, leaving them vulnerable to death caused by predators and motor vehicles. Foxes, on the other hand, move quickly and tend to dart all over the place looking…

To pay or not to pay: using "incentives" in survey research

The use of incentives in research is widespread. Respondents frequently receive something in exchange for giving their views. But often the incentive is a relatively small amount of cash. Nobody ever became a millionaire from completing surveys. Increasing the value of incentives is likely to have a marginal impact on the level of survey response i.e. raising an incentive from £1 to…

Getting properly anchored: How to improve the accuracy of respondent estimates

Generally, humans are bad at making estimates without some form of context. If someone asks us how loud something is we can’t articulate our answer any better than saying something vague like “quite loud”. But ask us to compare two noises and we’ll definitely be able to say which one is louder and even give an estimate by how much…

The importance of piloting

When I started working in market research at what was then called BMRB, online surveys didn’t exist. Interviewing was mainly carried out face-to-face or by telephone. Online interviewing has, of course had quite an impact on survey research, making it cheaper and usually faster. However, one downside to the growth of online surveys has been a decline in piloting questionnaires….

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