Market research is a diverse practise that attracts talent from a range of backgrounds. From psychology to business management, social science to data analytics. With such a broad range of skills it is no wonder there are so many types of researcher as well as so many approaches and solutions to the same problem. This is a huge benefit to the research community, and one of the key reasons there is so much debate at research events.
Our industry is a melting pot of ideas, methodologies and personalities. While it is clear there is no single ‘researcher’ archetype, there are a few common personality traits we have noticed throughout our 15 years in the industry. By no means is this list exhaustive – there are many more out there. But these are the six types of researcher we come across most frequently. Which do you fit into? Or, if you don’t resonate with any, what else would you add?
The Research Purist
Young and relatively new to research, the purist has views we all aspire to. They believe that ethnographic research is the most insightful form of data collection, but recognises that the main constraint is client budget. Where possible, the research purist will look to insert ethnographic elements into their studies – to find out more about the consumer in their natural day-to-day lives.
With a preference for diary studies, in-depth interviews and research communities, these researchers look for the common patterns revealed through behaviours. They examine cognitive models and add a touch of psychological theory to their reports. Understanding how people behave is not enough, they want to get into the reasons and motivations behind behaviour. Idealistic by nature and resourceful in the field, the research purist has an appreciation of all research methods and will try to select the most appropriate methodology for the task in hand.
The Number Cruncher
Often from a business or data science background, the number cruncher excels at quantitative methods. A pro at SPSS, the number cruncher can analyse anything. From sentiment analysis to surveys & questionnaires, these researchers can always find a new way to frame data. The number cruncher might work with what they have today, but will keep an eye on the future too. Technologically minded, these researchers are excited by the possibilities of Big Data, social measurement and predictive analytics. They are a vital asset to your team and drive quantitative data collection.
While the number cruncher looks for patterns in statistical analysis, the wordsmith looks for patterns & insight in people and their behaviour. Qualitatively minded, many wordsmiths come from backgrounds in social science and psychology. Despite the name, they pay close attention to both what is said and what is not. Whether it is through body language or behaviour patterns, these researchers understand the value of the unspoken word.
Wordsmiths prefer qualitative methods that uncover deep insights on a smaller scale than the number cruncher. Focus groups, in-depth interviews and projective techniques are just a few of their favourite methods. Once data collection is over, the wordsmith doesn’t stop working – looking for the themes, trends and behaviours that tie people together and uncover the most deep-rooted insight.
The skills of the creative lie in data interpretation and presentation. Increasingly, research agencies are required to not only conduct and analyse research, but also present the findings in a compelling way. Research creatives are able to look at results in a fresh and exciting light. They can see the narratives woven into qualitative interpretations, as well as how to manipulate statistics in a way that tells a powerful story. One half interpreter, one half storyteller – the creative comes from a background in design, linguistics or art. They provide a vital new perspective to the research industry and act as the bridge between agency & client.
The Future Thinker
Future thinkers are obsessed by new technology. They are visionaries, able to see how advances in science and tech can be applied to research and drive forward data collection. In our experience, future thinkers are balanced and intuitive. Rather than leaping onto the latest invention, they are able to take a step back and picture how it will benefit both research teams and clients. Future thinkers are aware of the risks of early adoption, and constantly appraising both the validity and feasibility of new ideas.
The Research Strategist
Finally, the research strategist is the member of a research team that is able to translate insight into business recommendations. These are the researchers that end clients rely on, whether it is internally or externally. The research strategist has an appreciation of both the research findings and the business environment. For this reason, they are often found in vertically integrated consultancies and client side research teams.
A research strategist will take into consideration the recommendations put forward by researchers, and the individual needs of key stakeholders. From here, they will formulate an action plan that moves the business forward effectively. More importantly, however, these are the people that will enforce change in an organisation – confident in the research itself.
Of course, this is not a comprehensive list. With such diversity in the research industry we could never hope to cover all of the different types of researchers. So what would you add to our list? Do you fit into one of these categories, a combination of categories, or do you see yourself in an entirely different light? And remember, not a single one of these can be considered the best.