How to build a research outline based on a two-line brief, in five easy steps!
What to do when your prospective client is only able to provide you with a two-line research brief…
This might seem like a simple thing but don’t panic
You want to fill your client with confidence, so stalling on responding to the email or giving him or her the rabbit in the headlights look isn’t going to land you the gig.
So if the research brief is given in a face to face meeting, via zoom, or over the phone keep your poker face on and take time to write and repeat the question so you can respond with an intelligent and coherent answer that lets the client know you’re an established and also creative freelance writer.
2. If all the client has given you A, then to get more info you need to ask questions so you can arrive at Z
Example questions could be;
- What is the reason for the research, how was the decision made to commission this research?
- Who are the key stakeholders, i.e. who is the research for?
- What do you want to achieve with the research?
- Where will this research be shared and who with?
- What are the top three questions or problems you want answered through this research
This will help you to build an idea of what the research should include, e.g. the audiences that the research needs to be written for
What the client expects in terms of the outcomes of the research
The format most useful for the research style, e.g. academic language, business language, formal, semi-formal
And also by deducing the top three questions or problems the research should address, you’ve managed to build three top areas to be included in the outline.
3. Find out the clients pain points
- What are the ramifications of not having this research?
- How will this research benefit the client in the short and long run?
This is how you build a sense (or not) or urgency, is the research urgent and time sensitive?
What will be the clients use for the research in the short term (key business decisions on product/service marketing) or long term (company goals
When you’ve understood this you are getting closer to understanding what the research will be used for and therefore what needs to be included in the research.
4. Find out important factors, e.g. quantity or quality, timescales
By asking about whether the research needs to be data heavy or not, you are building the client’s expectations based on their own answers. E.g. clients that are expecting lots of datasets, tables, graphs, charts are expecting a statistic and data heavy research paper.
However clients that want to focus on gaining perspectives or info about their customer base, competitors, industry peers, are more likely to expect qualitative data e.g. interviews, questionnaires, focus groups.
This helps you understand what research methods to engage e.g. quantitative or qualitative or a mixture of both.
5. Based on the above, draft a research outline, and before sending it across to the client, ask a friend/colleague to look it over and see if it makes sense.
If someone outside the industry understands the research outline, that’s a sign of a well-written research outline that is simple and easy to understand.
Once you get the feedback from the non-industry friend or colleague, send the brief over to the client and get feedback. You’re better off writing two or three outlines to get to the right one that the client is happy with, than writing an outline that is miles off what the client wants, and only finding out halfway through the research.
Believe in yourself, you rock, you’ve got this!