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How To Create Effective Screeners

Posted By Jeff Walkowski, Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Updated: Friday, May 24, 2019

How To Create Effective Screeners

Whether you’re experienced or just breaking into qualitative research, it never hurts to review what makes a screener effective in finding just the right people for a research project. It is a questionnaire that recruiters will use to find qualified participants for the study. It is called a “screener” because it is like panning for gold—we have to sift through many people to find the nuggets (qualified people) to be invited to participate. Screeners are used by telephone recruiters, or they may be online surveys as a way to automate the recruitment process. Automation helps reduce expense by eliminating the human effort of dialing phones and talking to potential participants. Keep in mind that automated screeners still have costs associated with them – most notably programming costs which may include quota control, skip patterns, and conditional questions (all of which are typical of any online survey).

All the rules/guidelines about questionnaire construction apply to qualitative research screeners. The most effective screeners have the following characteristics:

They Are Short

If a screener is too long, participants may hang up the phone with a recruiter or simply decide to discontinue completing an online survey. Ideally, screeners have no more than 10-15 questions, or they take no longer than 5 minutes to administer (online or offline).

 

They Are Clear about the Purpose at the Beginning

Tell participants that it is not a sales call. Explain that we are looking for people to participate in a market research interview, but we must spend some time asking some questions to determine if they qualify.

 

They Do Not Provide Hints that Encourage Cheating

They include an intentionally general description of the nature of the research so as to not tip off participants to answer a particular way so that they can be invited. For example, say, “We are putting together a focus group on beverages,” instead of “We are putting together a focus group to determine what consumers think of Starbucks.”

 

They Include Questions Up Front that Are Easy to Answer and that Quickly Eliminate People Without Taking too Much Time

For example, if we are looking for millennial females, we will first ask about gender and age so that non-millennial males are quickly excused.

 

They Include Need-to-Know Questions – Not Nice-to-Know Questions

Asking nice-to-know questions lengthens the screener, can be frustrating to potential participants going through the screening process, and makes the recruitment process less efficient and possibly more expensive. Keeping the focus on questions that help determine whether a person should be invited or not is best.

 

They Include Intriguing Questions

Interesting questions keep survey-takers engaged. The objective is to not lose them along the way due to boredom.

 

They Feature Mostly Closed-End Questions

Again, this is designed to help the prospective recruit move through the process as quickly as possible. Closed-end responses also make the task easier for the recruiter (no judgment required).

 

They Often Include One or More of the Following Question Types

  • Product/service category use
  • If they are not users of a particular product or service, they are unlikely to be useful.
  • Brand(s) used more often and/or brands they would never use
  • If the project is about a particular brand, we probably do not want individuals who reject the brand outright (unless, of course, the purpose is to attract those who reject the brand).
  • Past participation in market research surveys, focus groups, and interviews
  • Preference is given to those who are not considered “professional” participants, so that they approach the research experience with a fresh attitude.
  • Employment in certain industries
  • We typically do not want those who are employed in advertising, public relations, or market research. In addition, we tend to rule out those who are employed in the industry that the project is about, because they may “know too much” and not represent the typical customer for the product/service.

 

They May Include an “Articulation” Question

Such open-end questions are used to help ensure that a participant will be able to make a meaningful contribution to the discussion. Sometimes questions are asked that pose a creativity challenge to the potential participant (e.g., “List 10 ways in which rubber bands might be used”). Ideally, however, a question that is related to the product category will be more relevant (e.g., in a study of high-end golfing equipment, potential participants might be asked to demonstrate some core knowledge of current equipment). In markets where participants may have differing levels of proficiency with the language to be used in the group (e.g., English), the recruiter may be asked to judge the ability of the potential participant to be clearly understood. This serves as an additional articulation assessment.

 

Author Bio

Jeff Walkowski is the principal of QualCore.com Inc., a consulting firm providing traditional and online qualitative research services to a wide range of industries including health care, financial services, automotive, and information services. He was schooled as a quantitative specialist and entered the industry in the 1980s as a statistician. He later discovered his talents as a moderator and evolved into a qualitative specialist by the mid-1990s.

Tags:  market research  outreach  QRCA Digest  qualitative research  Recruiting  Research Methodology 

Permalink | Comments (1)
 

Comments on this post...

Kayte Hamilton, Issues and Answers Network, Inc. says...
Posted Friday, June 7, 2019
Great write-up, Jeff! I will add, that lately I've added a WRITTEN articulation question in along with the verbal when telephone screening...if the project is mostly going to be tech based. If you're running a session in Revelation or Qualboard or some other text-based platform, it's very important to gauge their writing style and details more so than their written. I do this in the confirmation stage to not hold up the recruit. So they go on the grid as "qualfified" and then are given a prompt in their email confirmation to respond to. This serves a few purposes: 1. Ensures they read the whole confirmation email, 2. Can follow instructions, and 3. Provide a writing example.
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