Think about the last statistic someone threw at you, whether that’s on the Captivate monitor in the elevator or the latest medical study you read about. Was your first thought: “I need to know more about how the research was conducted before I take this as truth?” Unless you’re in academia or social science, the answer is probably not. And that’s an issue.

Every organization wants to better use data to make decisions. Research and surveys are increasingly important as new regulations limit the type of data organizations can collect. But if we’re making decisions based on research, it’s increasingly important to be skeptical of the science behind the numbers. Everyone should have a basic knowledge of social science so they can better identify biased research.

Some questions to consider when looking at research:

  • Where did the research originate, and what are the incentives of that organization? What about other research that’s cited? Don’t forget to look at the footnotes.
  • Are the questions written in a way that’s understandable? Are they leading?
  • Are there too many questions, leading the respondent to go on auto-pilot and give random answers?
  • Is the topic something sensitive that respondents might lie about? Are we asking them to rely entirely on memory?

No one is expecting a marketer to be an expert in social science – that’s why there are specialists handling research. But if marketers don’t dig under the hood of where the insights come from, they could make major decisions based on faulty intel.

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