Advice for commissioning research


If you’re looking to carry out or commission research below are a few suggestions for getting the most out of it.

Get a research professional

There’s a science and an art to good research design, and they will ensure your results are valid and useful. The worst thing you can do with research is get an answer, but not realise it’s an incorrect answer. A researcher will help you avoid this. Get them involved as early as you can; they will save you time and money in the long run.

Know what you’ll do with your results

Knowing what you will do with your research after you’ve carried it out is perhaps the most important part of the process. Start with knowing why you want to carry out the research, and work backwards. Ask yourself:

  • What will you do with your results when you have them?

  • What do you plan to understand, achieve, or change?

If you can’t answer these questions, maybe you don’t need to carry out the research?

Write down your goals

Once you can clearly answer the questions above, write the answers to them down. By doing this you can refer back to it and ensure your research project remains focused so you get the right results and don’t waste time, effort, or money.

Writing a research brief

When writing a research brief state what you want to achieve, not how you want to achieve it. Knowing how to answer your research question is your researcher’s job. I’ve seen a number of briefs in my time where the method requested is the wrong one for the job, which means time and energy is spent on negotiating this rather than on the research itself.

For example, you might assume a focus group is the way to go, but a researcher might suggest a survey is the best way to answer your research question. Just focus on clearly stating what you want to achieve from the research.

Use The Results!

Having spent time and money on your research project, make sure you dedicate sufficient time to implement the findings. Research on its own can’t improve your business or organisation without further action or intervention.

Further reading

If you want more help with your research planning there is a guide to commissioning research available from the Social Research Association.