Whenproperly constructed, a field research work plan can be the most beneficial resource available to research teams. By having an easy-to-consult work plan document, teams or individual researchers can perform their needed tasks virtually autonomously. No constant delegation is needed, and any potential challenges will ideally have solutions built within the work plan.
Attaining this level of specificity is not always easy, but if research teams include the following four essential elements in their field research work plan, they can promote uninterrupted workflow and increase their overall chances of success:
Specific Task Instructions - Who? What? When?
The most critical component of a field research work plan is the scheduled work breakdown for each individual task. This information is often the central focus of a team's work plan, yet they can often forget the needed level of specificity to prevent confusion or oversights.
Each task should describe:
- Who? - Naming specific individuals or research teams as responsible for the task is best practice. Alternatively, the task could be assigned to a generic position title or a qualifier akin to "available researcher at the time."
- What? - A field research proposal should have already outlined the data collection methodology, including expected practices and specific tasks needed to handle the data upon input. A work plan can reference the proposal instructions, or it must provide its own specific task descriptions that explicitly state the needed steps to fulfill the task.
- When? - Work plans can delineate specific times to accomplish tasks (e.g., Wednesday March 9 at 10:30 a.m.) or start and end dates, but the more discrete and specific the desired task duration, the better oversight on task completion progress
Assigning roles to the appropriate party is another critical research component that work plans help fulfill. For every discrete task or task group, an overarching team member should be designated responsible to ensure that the task is completed as needed. From there, categories of tasks like field interviews, data entry, etc. should be designated towards other responsible administrative parties so that everyone knows who is accountable for what. Without this step, indistinct responsibilities and cyclical finger pointing will mean that even small challenges could disrupt the field research project's success.
Assessment, Review and Compilation Dates
Ongoing tasks can be audited while data is simultaneously processed for later accessibility using periodic assessment and reporting tasks. The goal of these tasks is to ensure that "completed" tasks were actually conducted as needed, and auditors can also help summarize the data assembled so far in an easy-to-reference report. Keeping tabs during ongoing research means discovering fewer unexpected oversights once data collection has wrapped up.
Anything can go wrong during a project, particularly one as complex and granular as field research. Therefore, make sure your work plan includes flexible contingency periods for "catch-up" research or alternative strategy planning. You could also have in-built backup plans standing by, like having another research team able to step in if progress has been slower than expected.
You can learn more tips like these to help improve your field research plan by watching our free video of the most common market research mistakes and how to avoid them.