Research as an art and a science

Hello, readers! Today I’m coming to you live from the 53rd-annual Marketing Research Association conference in Washington, D.C. This morning I sat in on a three-hour workshop focused on mobile mixed-mode research. One of the presenters, Steve Murrill of Meta Research Inc., made a comment that stayed with me all day.

When questioned about the sample and statistical accuracy of the case study he was presenting, he very frankly stated that no, this particular project “would not pass muster in an academic study.” He went on to explain that those were not the goals and that clients are typically more concerned with the end (insights) than with the means (methodology).

I’m not at all suggesting – nor do I think he was! – that quantitative researchers play fast and loose with the numbers or that there isn’t a place for strict, by-the-book data collection and analysis. But I was intrigued to hear that there are practicing researchers who leave some wiggle-room to put deliverables and client objectives above all else, even if that comes at the cost of not “passing muster.”

His comment reminded me of a conversation I had with my doctor a few weeks ago. When I told her that I worked for a marketing research magazine she wrinkled her nose and said, “Sounds really science-y.” That was funny and a little ironic coming from a doctor, but I had a hard time putting into words why marketing research, in my opinion, is far from it! If trying to understand what motivates consumers – and why – is at the core of marketing research, it must be more of an art than a science … right? Tell me, researchers, what are you? Artists or scientists? Both or neither?

This entry was posted in Mobile Interviewing, Qualitative Research, Quantitative Research, State of the Research Industry, The Business of Research. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Research as an art and a science

  1. Tom says:

    Great point! I’ll take the cop-out answer and say both. Question design is an art–knowing which question to ask and how to ask it. The scientist in us comes out when we deliver the questions, gather data, and analyze it. The “wiggle-room” part, well, that’ just us being human.