How to structure a good research brief

Like many other things in life, you get out of a research project what you put into it. The time you spend at the beginning of a project, thinking about exactly what you want to get from the research, is crucial and will reap you rewards when the end results are delivered.

written research brief is a great tool to give the researcher/ agency a clear understanding of what is required from them during the research and what you hope to achieve from it. When writing a brief, there is quite a straightforward structure you can use to help shape your thinking…

1. Context

Provide sufficient background information on your organisation and the context surrounding the proposed research project.

2. The ‘why’ before ‘how’

Include an understanding of ‘why’ the research is needed and what are the results going to be used for. This is one of the most important elements of a research brief. Planning ‘how’ the research is going to be conducted should not be thought about until the ‘why’ is delivered and fully understood. (The ‘why’ will often even shape the ‘how’!)

3. Research objectives

Research objectives are absolutely key as they provide the foundations of an effective research project. Take the time to think about exactly what you want to learn from the research and display this through clear, well thought-out research objectives. This will then result in a sound, actionable piece of research for your organisation.

4. Target audience

Give as much information as possible on the types of people you want to include within the research as well as any supporting information you may have about these people. For example, the definition of any target groups, their preferred size, geographical distribution etc.

5. Budget and timings

It may feel uncomfortable at first but sharing your budget for research in the briefing document can save a lot of time and effort by ensuring that the researcher/ agency crafts a realistic approach to the project. Alongside this, knowing the timings for when the results are required may also have an impact on the method for the research so these should again be outlined in the initial brief.

6. Any other competitors (if applicable)

Ensure you let the researcher/ agency know if the project is being submitted to more than one competitor and, if so, how many they will be competing with. The Market Research Society recommends approaching no more than three or four agencies for quotations. In addition, all of the researchers/ agencies should be treated equally, given the same information and their proposals for the project should not be shared with one another.

Following this devised framework will offer you a solid foundation for a successful research brief, ensuring you get what you need from the research and it provides you with as much benefit as possible.


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