The Edge: Competitive Edge Blog

Ensuring Success: the Six Links of the Research Chain

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Public opinion research that truly benefits the client demands a disciplined and rigorous process to produce actionable insights. CERC follows a well-established (for us) 6-stage research process that we liken to a chain. Each link of the chain must be independently strong to hold the entire chain together. If one link is weak, the entire research project – and therefore the client — is at risk. CERC strengthens each research chain link on every project we take on, so that we meet client objectives and help them win.

Set Goals

Some people will set out on a trip without determining their destination. This may be great for backpacking trip to Europe when you’re 20 years old, but it’s a terrible way to approach public opinion research. The very first thing a good research firm does is help the client know where they want to go – by setting a clear goal at a project kick-off meeting. Sounds easy, but you’d be surprised how often, without the discipline to take this step at the outset, research gets off track. Once the objective is clear, a conscientious firm like CERC can point the research in the right direction, avoid hazards and ensure that the project can navigate efficiently.

Questionnaire Design

A reputable research firm draws on decades of experience – sometimes relying on qualitative research from focus groups — to draft preliminary survey questions. Questionnaire design should be an iterative process. Here at CERC we make no claim to be an expert in your line of work, just as you’re not an expert in survey research. The best pollsters collaborate with their clients to get the best questionnaire possible.  Next, they pretest surveys via cognitive interviewing techniques to check for errors and ensure respondents fully comprehend all questions. This upfront work helps avoid costly mistakes. Once the questionnaire is pretested at CERC, we revise it, and, with client approval, finalize and then program it.

Data Collection, Weighting and Tabulation

To keep this link of the chain extremely strong, the best research firms perform all data collection and tabulation in-house, maintaining tight control over interviewing methods and interviewer performance. CERC’s staff of more than 85 professional interviewers — a quarter of which are bilingual – is trained to steer clear of bias (such as leading questions) to gather the cleanest raw data possible on landlines, cellphones and on-line. The data is then appropriately weighted to exacting standards and tabulated.


All the raw data in the world is of no value without statistical analysis and interpretation. A research firm’s ability to analyze data comes down to expertise, experience and tools. Great research draws from a robust toolbox of advanced statistical analysis, including CHAID, multiple and logistic regression analysis, factor analysis, and paired sample t-tests among others. And when you need to know what to say and who to say it, CERC’s patent-pending MPower system is there to determine their true persuasive power. Whatever the research need, we use the right tools to conduct the right kind of analysis.


Most clients would rather self-immolate than wade into a public opinion poll’s statistical data. But someone has got to do it; someone has got to turn the stats into insight; someone has to resolve the contradictions in the data and make sense of it. We’ve learned how clients prefer their results summarized so they see, consider and ultimately act upon key insights yielded by the research project. Our written reports provide summaries, more in-depth analysis and tabulations of the data.


At the end of the day, decision-makers are paid the proverbial “big bucks” to make decisions. Sounds like a tautology, right? Yet research firms often assemble some key insights only to see them unacknowledged because the insights have lost the decision-maker’s attention in a thicket of qualifications and obfuscations. Instead, key insights must be presented face-to-face in a streamlined form for easy consumption. Remember: visual presentation not only conveys information, it serves as a cue that helps people digest written information. With CERC presentations, clients know that they will be able to discuss the results and recommendations with a leading expert in the public opinion research field.

Where Next?

We invite you to learn more about how CERC can help progress your next public opinion research project through the 6 links of the research chain. Just email John Nienstedt at <> or give him a call at (619) 702-2372. We’ll be happy to hear your project details, and offer input on what we consider your best route to success.


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