Everyone agrees that market research (and all other forms of research) have evolved rapidly and irreversibly over the past decades. Students, journalists, and consultants no longer have to make their way to the library to page their way through a series of microfiche on wobbly blue screens. Those scenes in movies have become delightfully dated.
So what are the biggest changes to modern research?
Retrieval of Information is Easier
We’ve eliminated many of the sweat barriers associated with research. Instead of visiting a library, doggedly looking through recommended bibliographies and then tracking down the original text of studies or articles, you can search it all directly on online databases. Some of these databases are paid access or only available to students, but some of them are free and many of them contain the full text of print articles so that you can do all your reading without once having to leave your desk. To say nothing of all of the information and published research available on the internet…. But I’d like to remind you to get up and walk around once in a while anyway. After all, standing is good for you.
Gathering Data is Easier
If you’re doing your own research and you’d like to reach a wide cross-section of people rapidly, this too has never been easier. You can launch surveys online, through email, on social media, on mobile phones, and more. In fact, in 2014, only 10% of all research took place face-to-face or through the mail. With some research companies, you can even segment your research to directly reach people who fit your customer profile or who offer a specialized set of knowledge. And it’s easy to launch a survey or start a crowdsourcing community today. Anyone can do it.
Verifying Research is Critical
However, because everyone can share information, gather information, and the barriers to sharing and publishing are low, it’s more important than ever to validate and verify facts. This Georgetown article details guidelines to help evaluate online resources for their reputation and validity. It asks the reader to consider questions like “can I view the source study” or “are these facts verifiable?” or “has anyone else validated or verified this information?”
Fortunately, crowdsourcing can help all of these research efforts enormously. Not only can you ask the crowd to share information (both their own source data as well as recommended articles and other sources), you can ask your crowd to do research that will help find source studies or connect you to other researchers. If you ask me, we’re in a golden age of research.