Investors hedge their investments to offset potential losses. When the value of an investment reaches an undesirable level, hedging contracts allow for reducing or removing the risk associated with pre-defined financial scenarios. Similar to investors, when selecting a research method market researchers should consider “hedging against” shortcomings of a given method to prevent an unsatisfactory outcome. The following are three unconventional ways in which existing research platforms can be applied as “hedges”:
- Cloak a small sample quant survey in bulletin board clothing
Recently our team fielded a study to evaluate physician-directed educational materials for a new therapy. The plan was to conduct a two-phased study initiated with a handful of interviews followed by a validation phase with a larger sample.
The client expected a quantitative survey but really wasn’t looking for a large sample – about 50. We all know the biggest shortfall of traditional quant is the limited qualitative insights it can provide. Knowing that greater emphasis on qualitative feedback would benefit this project, we deliberately chose to use an “up-sampled” bulletin board platform inviting detailed feedback complemented by a set of closed-ended questions.
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What is more, we chose a bulletin board to be able to closely monitor and follow up with physicians to clarify responses right after they provided them. One of the goals of this study was to measure physicians’ familiarity with certain ideas before and after exposing them to new clinical discoveries explained within the educational materials. When looking at preliminary findings during fielding, we uncovered an interesting phenomenon we did not expect: physicians’ self-reported familiarity with the new discoveries decreased after exposure to materials. Thanks to the follow-up feature, we were able to clarify why physicians’ familiarity declined. Within hours we re-contacted and received responses from 82 percent of the physicians to discover an important phenomenon: They didn’t know what they didn’t know. Prior to stimuli review, physicians overestimated their level of knowledge about the new clinical development and therefore rated their familiarity in “top box.” Once they read more about it, in hindsight they realized they still had much more to learn, and so they rated the same or lower familiarity than prior to exposure to the stimuli. Had we used an online survey, we could not have uncovered the reason behind this counterintuitive phenomenon so quickly.
- Include an option for qual follow-up to a quant study
It seems to be a no-brainer, but it is surprising how often researchers familiarize themselves with research objectives at the inception of the project and then don’t revisit them again. In reality, these objectives tend to evolve. As such, you may need to build in a just-in-case second-chance opportunity to gain further insight. One way to approach this is by adding a “follow-up” option to a quantitative survey. Set it up in a way that enables you to follow up with a select cross-section of your respondents for a short phone interview. This can help you mitigate the risk of collecting data which is inconclusive or contains “story voids” you can’t explain.
- Add quant platform functionality to a qual study
Think of it as customization of your research methodology by repurposing your tools. A survey platform does not need to be used just for self-directed surveys. It can supplement your telephone interviews, where a dynamic survey interface viewed by both the interviewer and interviewee mirrors the in-person experience. As opposed to a static PowerPoint deck, an online survey enables you to pursue countless discussion paths where the stimuli presented depend on conversation context and where image sorting, dragging, dropping and resizing of discussed elements can make the dialogue more insightful. Such “survey-assisted telephone interviews” can be used to conduct the entire research, particularly among small populations, or they can complement in-person interviews.
As you can see based on the above examples, innovative hedging can come from the novel use of existing tools. It requires an open mindset mixed with a bit of creativity. It’s important to be proactive to anticipate problems before they materialize, so appropriate hedging options can be built into the research methodology and exercised, if necessary.