We receive a lot of briefs (and we are very thankful for them!) but, naming no names, some are very good and very clear, while others leave a good deal to be desired. So, from a research agency point of view what are our top tips to get the most from the proposals you get back? Here’s what we most want to see from a good brief:

    • Give us some background: What does your organisation do? What are your current challenges? Also, is there any previous relevant research we should be aware of?
    • Be clear about the ultimate aim and the specific research objectives: The ultimate aim should tell us how the research fits within the overall strategy of your organisation. What will the research allow you to do or to decide? The research objectives are more specific – what do you want to know when the research is complete, that you don’t know now? If it helps, list out all the questions you would like the research to answer.
    • Tell us about your target audience for the research: Who do you want us to talk to? Are you interested in finding out the views of a particular demographic, community or customer segment? Or do you need something that is representative of your broad audience?
    • Share your thoughts about the research approach: If you have a clear preferred methodology, tell us about it. If you don’t, you can leave it open for us to recommend. It’s also helpful to know how open you might be to new ideas and approaches – some organisations love to be experimental, while others want a more traditional approach – tell us which applies to you.
    • Tell us (hopefully, a realistic) timetable for the work: We know this is often a tricky one – but good research can take time. If you do have a set-in-stone deadline make this clear. If you have some flexibility and want us to set out an ideal timetable then let us know that’s the case.
    • Be clear about the end deliverables: Do you want a written report or a verbal presentation? Do you want data tables? Vox-pop videos? Will the report be an internal document or for external publication? What kind of audience will we be feeding the findings back to?
    • Either reveal the budget OR set very clear parameters: We understand that there can be a reluctance to give a definitive budget. We would argue that if your brief is very open to different approaches, it is vital that you give at least a sense of the upper limit of your budget. This saves everyone’s time. It stops research companies ‘shooting for the moon’ when you only have a modest terrestrial-sized budget. You also need to tell us whether the budget includes VAT or not (we find this is often forgotten!) However, if you do know exactly what you want and you are largely looking to compare suppliers’ prices; then by all means keep the budget secret. This can work, but only if all bidders will be costing up the exact same method and parameters.
      • Set out the proposal format and give clear tendering instructions: Is there a set structure or format you would like us to follow in our submission? What’s the deadline for responses and the process for asking questions?


    • What happens next? Explain how proposals will be evaluated i.e. are there set criteria and weightings? If there is a shortlisting process, will we be required to present our proposal at a formal pitch meeting and when will it be?

We hope our tips help you with your next research brief.


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