What are you trying to find out?

The research brief

You start any piece of research by asking what you’re aiming to do and what you want to know – in other words, what is your research question?  Write a research brief, even if it’s only for yourself.  The brief is a clear statement of intent for your research and helps you clarify what it is that you want to find out.


The research question

The question could be, for example, ‘How can my organisation reach new audiences?’ or ‘How can I understand the impact of my company’s work?’.

Questions that are best answered by qualitative research are those that seek to explore, investigate, or understand rather than measure (which may be better answered by quantitative research approach).


What’s in the brief

The research brief also states why you are doing the research and its target audience.  The research could inform your planning and development or funding applications.  It might be for yourself as an independent artist, for your Board or for a funder.

What the research brief does not detail is how the research is to be done – that is covered in the next section. However, by writing the brief you will get a good idea of the scope of the project – and that’s important in determining your budget and capacity to complete it.

Finally, the research brief states who is doing the research. If you are commissioning an external researcher or research company you need to be super-clear about what you want and ensure that your research partner really understands your needs.

top tips

  • Write a research brief whether you’re doing your own research project or using an external – it’s a clear statement of intent.
  • If using an external it’s particularly important to get the brief right, otherwise you’ll be wasting money.

More QUAL Essentials

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What is qual?
John Harris talking about recruiting a sample.
Who to talk to
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Approach choices
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Christopher Glasgow talking about using research results.
Acting on Results
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Conduct & Ethics