Unveiling field research: a comprehensive guide

Discover the world through immersive field research. Learn about its methods, importance, and how it fuels scientific exploration and discovery.
16 November 2023
Field Research
Stephanie Shikhris

Research Director

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What is field research and why does it matter?

Field research refers to the systematic collection of data and information directly from the target audience, typically involving direct observation, surveys, and experiments. It is conducted to gain firsthand knowledge and insights into a particular phenomenon.

Field research empowers researchers to collect data that is contextually rich, reflecting the intricate dynamics of the business environment that is under scrutiny. Whether through direct observation or conducting practical experiments, field research facilitates a deeper understanding of the subject matter to unveil unforeseen patterns, and validate or refine existing business theories and strategies.

The relevance of field research in a marketing context lies in its ability to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge and practical application. The discoveries made through field research often translate into tangible real-world implications. They inform strategic decisions, prompt improvements in business practices, and enrich comprehension of the dynamic marketing landscape.

In essence, field research serves as a cornerstone of evidence-based decision-making and progress in the business world. It empowers professionals to generate actionable insights and tackle complex challenges, making it an indispensable tool for both researchers and practitioners in the business domain.

Types of research

Field research takes on various forms to gather critical data and insights for decision-making and problem-solving. Each of these types of field research methods offers distinct advantages and is chosen based on the specific research objectives, available resources, and ethical considerations within the business context. By employing these methods effectively, businesses can gain valuable insights, make informed decisions, and inspire positive outcomes.

Here are the three major types of field research and their subtypes:

Observational field research

Observational field research involves the systematic collection of data through direct observation of the phenomenon under study in its natural environment. There are two primary subtypes of observational field research: participant observation and non-participant observation.

Online survey-based field research

Online surveys have become an integral component of field research, offering a versatile and efficient means of gathering valuable data from a broad audience. Clients can design surveys with various question types, including single or multiple-choice questions, open-ended inquiries, grids, and scales. The choice of question format depends on the research objectives and the depth of insights required. Surveys that incorporate a mix of question types can provide a well-rounded perspective, combining the quantitative precision of closed-ended questions with the qualitative depth and richness that open-ended questions can provide. 

While surveys with all open-ended questions demand more manual analytical work during the post-data collection phase, they often yield deeper and more nuanced insights. Open-ended questions allow respondents to express their opinions and experiences in their own words, enabling researchers to uncover unexpected and emerging themes. This qualitative richness can be invaluable for identifying pain points or exploring issues that may not be fully captured by predetermined responses in closed-ended questions. As such, the choice between different question types in online surveys is a strategic decision that should align with the research goals and the level of depth required to inform decision-making effectively.

Experimental field research

Experimental field research in market research allows researchers to assess consumer behaviour, product preferences, or advertising effectiveness in authentic market settings, such as a shop-along. By manipulating variables and closely observing outcomes, experimental field research provides actionable insights for optimising marketing tactics and making data-driven decisions.

Planning and preparing online survey-based field research

Effective online survey-based field research begins with meticulous planning and preparation. To ensure the success and ethical conduct of your study, consider these key steps.

Defining research objectives

Start by clearly outlining your research objectives. Whether you aim to understand customer preferences, gauge employee satisfaction, or track market trends, well-defined objectives will guide your entire research process. Think about what “headline” you’d like to walk away from your research with to help guide you.

Selecting the survey platform

Choose a suitable online survey platform that aligns with your objectives and target audience. Consider factors like ease of access and the availability of your target population. Ensure that the chosen platform is conducive to conducting surveys and addresses logistical concerns such as data security and privacy.

Ensuring compliance

Given the complexity of global privacy laws, it's vital to ensure compliance with regulations like GDPR (in Europe), CCPA (in the US), and PIPL (in China). Partner with research providers—like Kantar—who prioritise data protection and privacy to avoid legal and financial consequences.  

Designing and testing the survey

Design a comprehensive survey framework that outlines your methodology, including sampling techniques, data collection methods, and data analysis plans. Choose the online survey format that best suits your target audience and create a user-friendly questionnaire (see more details below) that minimises bias and safeguards respondent privacy. Pilot test the survey to identify any potential issues and confirm survey incidence before the main data collection process begins.

Crafting research questions

Develop clear and relevant research questions that are in line with your objectives and guide your survey design. Make sure your questions are specific, unbiased, and capable of generating the necessary data to test your hypotheses. Consider cultural and linguistic factors, especially in cross-border research, to ensure question-wording is appropriate.

Strategies for effective survey-based field research

Effective survey-based field research requires careful consideration of several strategies to ensure the reliability and usefulness of the collected data. Below are a few strategies to keep in mind.

  • Choosing a trusted partner. Collaborating with a reputable research partner is essential. Such partners often blend human expertise with AI capabilities to enhance various aspects of the research process. Experts can manage sample plans to ensure that the survey reaches the right demographics and maintains the desired representativeness.
  • Ensuring data quality. Data quality is paramount in survey-based field research. Kantar uses tools like Qubed, our antifraud technology that uses state-of-the-art machine learning and 3 Deep Neural AI Networks to identify fraud to keep panels clean and ensure the integrity of data. These tools can flag inconsistent responses, detect outliers, and ensure that data is clean and ready for analysis, which is essential to draw valid conclusions from the survey data. Additionally, manual and AI-powered review of open-end responses for gibberish or responses that don’t make sense with the question asked is conducted to further clean the data.
  • Timely data collection and visualisation. Timeliness is crucial in research, especially when dealing with rapidly changing business environments. Moreover, real-time data visualisation tools enable researchers and stakeholders to monitor and interpret survey results as they are collected, enabling more agile decision-making and adjustments to the research approach if necessary.

Incorporating these strategies into survey-based field research can greatly enhance the quality and effectiveness of the study. By partnering with trusted experts, maintaining data quality, and implementing efficient data collection and visualisation processes, researchers can ensure that they gather valuable insights that inform decision-making and drive positive outcomes in a timely and reliable manner.


Field research plays a pivotal role in advancing knowledge, solving complex real-world problems, and informing evidence-based decisions across various disciplines. It offers the invaluable opportunity to gather rich, context-specific data directly from natural settings, shedding light on intricate phenomena and driving meaningful change.

Key steps in conducting successful field research include defining clear research objectives, obtaining necessary permissions, formulating well-structured research questions, and designing a robust research framework. For those seeking expertise and support in conducting field research, Kantar stands as a trusted partner.

Kantar possesses a wealth of experience, blending human expertise with cutting-edge AI capabilities to manage sample plans and engage respondents effectively, ensuring honest and trustworthy insights. By choosing Kantar, you're tapping into a world-class resource that brings together expertise, technology, the industry’s lowest fraud rates, and a track record of excellence to deliver the most reliable and actionable survey-based field research results for your specific needs.

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