Types of research

Types of ResearchThe type of research you will need to undertake will also be governed by the field in which you work.

If you are a scientist, your research will involve reading scientific journals and papers, getting up to date with the latest developments, discoveries and advances in technology.

If you are involved in bringing consumer products to market, you are more likely to research using interviews and focus groups, analysis of sales figures or responses to advertising campaigns.

Most research today is done using the internet. But there are other methods, including but not limited to, searching in a reference library, literature search using either hard copies or over the internet, talking to people, focus groups, interviews, surveys by telephone, text or email.

Reference library

Types of ResearchIf you have a good reference library, it is worth using it. The quality of the service will vary depending on the type of library. For example, a lending library in a small town will not have suitable resources but a library on a college or university campus, or a reference library in a city, should be well equipped and able to offer help. Don’t forget librarians are trained to help you clarify the information you want. They can be a great source of advice and can probably point you in the right direction. They will have periodicals and journals that could be useful. Consider your sources, and don’t forget to cite them in your final report


These are useful for finding out about general trends. You can collect a small amount of information from a large group of people. When designing your survey, you need to think about creating it, ideally testing and sampling it, distributing it and then analyzing the results. It is best to keep it short and focused, or people will not fill it in. Try to use mainly closed questions, or offer a sliding scale 1-10 for example. Some open questions allow for more quality data to be collected.

Then ask some colleagues to test it, noting how easy it is to complete, and the time taken, and give you feedback. Adjust if necessary. Then give some thought to sampling, which is the set of people who will complete the survey. Think about whether they are representative of your target market. In our example of launching a new product, if it was aimed at young people, it may not be representative to sample in the town centre, but would be better to sample at a local college or university if possible.


An interview allows you to find detailed information from a smaller group of people. you may use them to get opinions and views and facts from experts in the field.

Who you choose to interview will affect your survey, so think carefully, approach the right people, assure them you won’t take much of their time, and tell them what the results will be used for. If relevant, assure them you will protect their identity.

Today, interviews can be face to face, by telephone, email, SMS or Skype.

There is a trade off in terms of quality of interview and ease of data collection. The last option allows you to talk virtually with the interviewee, interact with the interviewee, take account of body language.

It is a good idea to think about interview location, and also to arrange to record the interview, so you can concentrate on the conversation rather than take notes, and can use the recording later rather than having to rely on your memory

Focus groups

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a group of people are asked about their perceptions, opinions, beliefs, and attitudes towards a product, service, concept, advertisement, idea, or packaging. Questions are asked in an interactive group setting where participants are free to talk with other group members. During this process, the researcher either takes notes or records the vital points he or she is getting from the group. Care should be noted to select members of the group carefully for effective and authoritative responses.


Focus groups are often used in market research, to allow a company or brand to get feedback on a new product. It may be used in the early stages of development to gauge consumer reaction to the product, and may later be used to discuss its packaging, advertising, price, promotion.

There are many different ways to set up focus groups, with many variables.

Variables may include; –

  • Size of group
  • Make up of group -demographically
  • Location of group
  • Number and type of moderators
  • Format of focus group

There are many pros and cons to focus groups, and the accuracy of their findings is notoriously difficult to quantify. However, it is very useful to get feedback on a product, and sometimes that feedback may fundamentally change the direction of the development of the product. In other cases, it can validate the direction the team are already taking.