When we dropped my daughter off for her first year of college a few weeks back my parting words were “Be true to yourself”. I thought this reflected both my accepting that my influence on her was now very limited and my hope that whatever good I’ve done should be put into practice. It strikes me that researchers too should heed the advice.

Our industry has changed and continues to change. Many of the old rules either no longer work or can’t be easily applied to the new tools at our disposal. So how can we apply what we know? A philosophy like “be true to yourself” allows us to do just that.

Personally it has allowed me to accept that representative sampling is no longer the most critical rule (it can’t be in a world where truly representative sampling is too slow and costly). It doesn’t mean I take any respondents I can get…care in trying to get as representative a sample as we can remains important. It just isn’t a stone cold requirement of quantitative research.  


Instead, I can weigh the advantages of being able to do a discrete choice at a reasonable price in a reasonable time against the lower response rates that we get on the web. I can consider the insights and learning that mobile or neuro tools offer against the potential bias that might come from limiting my sample to those folks.  

In other words, in the end my decisions need to be driven by core principles. Only then can I advise clients on the best way to proceed, while also putting the results in the proper context.

I thought of this because today my business trip gave me the chance to visit with my daughter. Only a few weeks in, but as she told me stories of college life so far, I was pleased to see that so far at least, she is heeding the advice. Hopefully researchers are too.