Posted on January 7, 2013 · Posted in Qualitative Research

What is better, a long or short qualitative report?

That is a question with which market researchers often struggle. Some will tell you that short is always better, while others prefer the details that can be included in a longer report. I personally don’t think that there is a correct answer to this question, and as with many things, it really depends on the situation. Two key considerations impacting report length and structure are:

The Client and the audience: If the client wants only 2-5 pages, it is then important that the key findings and any key supporting information be included in something of that length. However, the challenge is that often the “client” includes more than one audience. You have the executives who ideally just want one quick page or two of the findings, and at the other end of the spectrum you have an audience that is interested in every possible detail learned from the research. So satisfying these requirements with one format doesn’t always work. That is why I like to write an executive summary – it contains all of the key information, so if somebody were to read one page, they would walk away knowing the high-level answers to the research objectives. The rest of the document then contains detailed findings needed by the team closer to the product/website/concept being tested to better understand what was found.

Storytelling: Every project/client is different, so as a result I have found the reports that we write vary as well. But one thing is always consistently kept in mind – has the story of the research been effectively communicated? Or has the story of the research been told in a memorable and effective manner? Often times that effective communication comes in the form of diagram. Diagrams can be very impactful, are frequently easier to present and are also often easier for clients to remember. More often than not, something that illustrates the research findings even at the quickest glance will be more effective than a page full of well-written bullets.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, there is no correct answer to what report length is the best, but I do feel that giving the client something from which they can learn and effectively telling the research “story” in a clear and memorable way should be the cornerstones of any report.

About the Author

Kathrin heads up our market analytics department and has over 12 years of qualitative market research experience including study design, data analysis, and presenting research results to executives worldwide. She also has extensive quantitative market research experience. Kathrin’s primary focus is delivering GEM clients clear, actionable insight from the research projects that the firm leads.