The success of a social or market research project depends heavily on writing a comprehensive and focused Request for Proposal (RFP) or Research Brief. Taking the time to clearly specify the project and its intended uses within your organization helps to ensure that a) the project is as focused as possible so you only pay for what you need; b) the project can be completed on time and on budget (no chance of scope creep if it’s well-scoped); and, crucially, c) that you achieve your research objectives. 

Here are some questions to help you start writing an effective RFP:

  • Organizational Objectives
    • What “business” questions are you trying to answer? 
    • Which group(s) at your organization will use the results and for what purposes?
    • Do you have different objectives/want to learn different things from different target populations? 
  • Research Objectives
    • What answers must this research provide? 
    • What other sources of internal or external information will be used in making business or organizational decisions?
  • Stakeholders / Research Sponsors
    • Which teams/departments in your organization are the core audience(s) for this research? 
  • Target Population(s)
    • Whose opinions do you want? Itemize the stakeholder group(s) that you want feedback from. Be as detailed as possible (customer segment, ages, geographies, etc.).
    • For business samples, provide the job roles or titles of your target participants to help with targeting.
    • Will we be contacting your clients or stakeholders, or a broader audience?
  • Research Type
    • Do you have preferred methodologies for data collection or for analysis? Are you open to alternative research approaches?
  • Research Stimuli & Data Collection
    • Qualitative: Moderator’s Guide
      • Do you have a moderator’s guide from past research that you want used again and/or used as reference for this study?
      • If not, have you already had discussions internally about any particular questions you want answered in focus groups or online discussion groups to serve as a starting point…
      • …or do you want the consultant to start from a “blank sheet of paper” with your organization to design the guide(s)?
    • Qualitative Data Collection
      • In addition to the objectives and target population details above, other information will help the consultant determine what qual collection method(s) to use (in-person, online):
      • Do you need the participants to see/hear/smell/touch anything in person to be able to provide their feedback?
      • Are there any safety concerns involved in getting participants together?
    • Quantitative: Questionnaire
      • Do you have a questionnaire from past research that you want used again and/or used as reference for this study?
      • If not, have you already had discussions internally about any particular questions you want answered to serve as a starting point…
      • …or do you want the consultant to start from a “blank sheet of paper” with your organization to design the questionnaires(s)?
      • Roughly how many questions/how long do you expect the questionnaire to take to complete?
      • Do you expect that you will want to ask any “open-ended” questions (“Please tell us in your own words” , “Please explain”)? Or will all questions be “closed-ended”? (yes/no, scales, multiple response)?
    • Quantitative Data Collection (if applicable)
      • In addition to the objectives and target population details above, other information will help the consultant determine what quant data collection method(s) to use (online, phone, other):
      • Will you need to provide any complicated/lengthy “preamble” before certain questions for survey respondents to be able to answer? Or will questions be straightforward?
      • Will you need survey respondents to see any images or video or hear any audio to be able to answer the questions? 
  • Reporting/Analysis
    • What sort of reporting and analysis would you require?
      • Raw data that you will analyze? 
      • Or a brief executive summary of results?
      • Or a detailed report of results?
      • Online dashboard?
      • Other?
    • Is there data other than from the qual/quant research from your organization that you want combined with the research results and analyzed together (e.g., stakeholder or customer details from your database(s)?
  • Timeline
    • When do you need results? Are there particular meetings or decision points that the research must support?
    • Is there any seasonality that might impact results such that certain periods should be avoided or prioritized when collecting data?
  • Budget
    • Is there a budget window/range or a maximum budget available?
  • Other
    • Anything else the consultant should know that might impact the research scope?

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