Please login to the form below

Certainly, not!

Conventional wisdom acknowledges the inevitability of uncertainty. And Socrates apparently said something about it too, so it must be right (“As for me, all I know is that I know nothing”). Uncertainty is a given, let’s be open about that, and give our ad-hoc research the best chance of being accurate by stressing independence in research design above all else.
Fashionable popular science topics – randomness; black swans; irrationality; failed predictions et al – all belong to the ‘let’s just accept uncertainty’ camp. Good research design and method can improve the chances of an accurate outcome, but of course we can never really know.

Given that most of the research I conduct is ad-hoc, one-off enquiries into a set of current and specific business objectives, I find the following chart somewhat disconcerting (but not unsurprising):Medical_studies-050It says that when we run a single study we don’t have a great chance of getting the right answer. It also says that if you’re a research buyer and are somehow able to magically commission seven different agencies to each approach the objectives in their own inimitable way, you might still be none the wiser!

So, why bother?

Well, because, ultimately – knowing something is better than knowing nothing. But what else is going on here? Are there other reasons why numerous single studies don’t converge as we would like, or imagine? Could it be because each single study has its own back-story, a leading part of which is the original brief; the framing of the objectives; the views in the room at design stage; the choice of sample, and its composition…

Potentially a lot of influences, all well-intentioned, combine when we state our research problem. If the reader has some sympathy with this contention then is there room for techniques / processes that seek, openly, to eliminate such confirmation bias? Could we ask our colleagues to review our thinking for bias? Could we re-read our briefs before sending? Could we review our language for ‘charged’ words? Could we imagine what we’d want to know if we didn’t have the agenda that we do?

Independence should, in my view, be regarded as research’s greatest attribute. Client/agency partnerships can be good of course, but how can we reliably recognise when independence has been compromised by creeping partisanship?

Bottom line: uncertainty is a given, let’s be open about that, and give our ad-hoc research the best chance of being accurate by stressing independence in research design above all else.


PDF File: 298.3 KB

25th March 2015


PDF File: 298.3 KB


Company Details

First Line Research

+44 (0)1904 799550

Contact Website

11 Carr Lane
YO26 5HT
United Kingdom

Latest content on this profile

Is Medical Market Research Serious About Science?
Detractors of market research have long tried to pin a "pseudo" science label on our methods. And whilst we might strongly contest such a tag, how convincingly can we argue that we actively embrace science?
First Line Research
Left to their own Devices?
Different types of UK Medics use different types of devices to complete online surveys, with almost 10% now using a smartphone. Taken together with tablets and iPads, almost one third complete on a mobile device.
First Line Research
The Doctor will NOT see you now
The recent BHBIA Members Exchange Forum on Customer Engagement was about as controversial as it gets for healthcare business intelligence.
First Line Research
Magic Numbers
If you are a user, a buyer, or a practitioner of healthcare market research, how would you reply to the following ...
First Line Research
How 'Smart' is your HCP survey
You give proper thought to questionnaire design, editing your ideas via a trusty “Word” document as you go. Once done you wait a while for programming, then test the online version. Naturally there are a few things to tidy up, and you spot others that have come out a bit differently to your minds-eye view. That’s fine – tweak, test again, and sign-off when happy. Actually, it looked and worked great on screen (better than you thought), so you can relax and wait for the completes to roll in. Yeh, right – if only…
First Line Research
Implicit Market Research Techniques: “What, Why, When, How?”
We’ve known for some years now that we don’t, or can’t, accurately express our motivations for doing the things we do. So what can we, and what should we, do about that?
First Line Research