Research Gone Wrong

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I have already written about the research I have helped organize at my internship for Parking and Transportation Services. After sending out the surveys and catching riders of the various campus shuttles and getting our surveys back, my boss and I have encountered a problem.

On our survey, there is a question that asks riders to rank stops they use the most and another similar question that asks them to rank how they use the shuttles. These questions have proven to be a complete waste.

An EXTREMELY minimal amount of surveys were filled out correctly, rendering most of those questions worthless. Students either didn't read the question fully, didn't understand how they were to fill it out, or just didn't take the time to think about what the question was truly asking.

In my opinion, the problem arises from the length of the question and the fact that it wasn't considered just how students and others really use the connectors.

In my experience, students and others who use the connectors do it on a regular basis for a specific reason. I don't find that people who use the connectors do so randomly, they do so because they need to get to a specific place at a specific time on a specified number of days throughout the week. What I am alluding to here is that students don't stop at every stop on the connector routes and so after they have ranked the way they use the connector, ranking everything else is a moot point.

The research my department has done has been rendered basically worthless for those questions. The surveys didn't cost a great deal to print, but now my department is paying me for quite a bit of time to go through these surveys and tally all the questions, even though the results won't be a very good reflection of how students and others use the connectors regularly.

It's too bad someone didn't take the time to think about this detail before printing the surveys.

New Research: Reading Maxim Can Make You a Theft Target

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I recently read an interesting article on some new research that was done at Texas Christian University. Patrick Kinkade is a criminologist at TCU who wanted to know who was more susceptible to theft.

The research was done in an experimental method; something I haven't written much about in this blog. Kinkade got his vehicle dirty and drove it through every full-service car wash in town, each time leaving a large amount of loose change in the vehicle.

He found there was change missing from his car about a third of the times he got his car back.

If you are wondering what Kinkade manipulated to make this a true experiment, it's all about to get interesting. At some of the car washes, Kinkade left an issue of 'Maxim' in the vehicle and crushed beer cans under the seat. According to Kinkade, this was to give the impression that he was somehow deviant. His point was that people who are perceived as being out of the mainstream make themselves more susceptible to crime.

Kinkade proposes that criminals have a thought process that says "I'm a criminal, but so is the person I'm about to steal from, so that makes it okay."

I can agree with Kinkade, but I have trouble believing most criminals think like this. I have to think that criminals do sometimes think like this, but that there are other thought processes that makes them commit crimes. Completely mainstream people are the victims of crime too often for Kinkade's theory to make sense.

More Women Behind the Wheel

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A recent study by researchers at the University of Michigan has found there are more women than men behind the wheel these days. I couldn't resist blogging about this because of that pesky stereotype that men are better drivers than women. I will NEVER claim to be a better driver than most men out there because I am definitely not.

The study showed less people actually get their driver's licenses when they come of age than previously and that of those that do more young women are getting their licenses than young men. If this trend continues, the gap will only widen. Could this mean a future of mostly women driving long haul semis and delivering packages?

The authors of the study claim there could be good implications of more women behind the wheel as women tend to purchase smaller, more efficient cars and drive less and more safely than men.

Also interesting is the fact that men have outnumbered women on the roads since the very first Model T came off the assembly line. The article states that unemployment and underemployment may have something to do with declining numbers of male drivers.

The study was conducted over a 15 year period of time. The researchers must not have had very pressing time and budget constraints if they were able to conduct a study for such a long period of time.

From the way the article was written, it sounds as if the study used data from the entire population in the United States, another very time consuming and costly way to conduct the study.

In case any of you want to read this study, you can take a look here.

UDS Does A LOT of Research

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If you go to the University of Minnesota, it is pretty likely you have had an encounter with University Dining Services. UDS manages all the places food is available on campus. With 80,000 people on campus each day, you can imagine that is a lot of food.

Because the department is in charge of so much food for so many people, it is probably important to know what people think of them. Yesterday when I was grabbing lunch at the student union, I noticed a little area on the wall with sign that said "Let us know how we are doing!" A short survey resided next to the sign.

I thought it was a pretty good way to get responses, but with no one there prompting patrons of UDS to take the survey, I bet there is a low response rate. The only exception to this is when there are unsatisfied customers. I think people who are unsatisfied with the service they received are probably going to want to make their opinion heard more than people who thought their meal was just fine.

Retail Research

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You have all been asked to fill out a survey after checking out at one of your favorite retail outlets. Often the cashier circles in red pen the URL you can follow to take part in the survey. Most of these surveys include questions about your shopping experience.

This morning, I was asked to take part in a different sort of retail research survey. I have to note I was inclined heavily to take part in this particular survey because the e-mail noted I would be able to earn gift card rewards for Express clothing, the company who was soliciting my participation.

I couldn't resist that as I am trying to upkeep this blog and because I love Express clothing. Also, as a former employee of the brand, I was curious to find out what the company wanted to know. After taking a couple of surveys and earning a quarter for each survey I take, I have found these surveys are more about specific shopping and consuming habits.

I should also mention that the headline of the e-mail stated this survey was an "invitation only" situation. Of course I wanted in when I found out it was exclusive! The incentive was an extra bonus. The textbook states that incentive is one of the best ways to increase response rate and I guess I'm only human because it sure worked on me.

MPR Reports

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I was driving to work in Minnetonka yesterday evening and listening to MPR radio. In the evening news hour, the station reported on the very controversial inaugural season of Minnesota's wolf hunt. MPR reported that there have been about 60 wolves killed since the beginning of the season last Saturday, most by deer hunters who also had been drawn in the lottery to receive a wolf tag.

The bulk of the report, however, didn't center around the controversy about the wolf hunt or how many had been killed, the main focus was about all the new research and data that can be collected with the onset of a wolf hunting season.

A member of the MN DNR was interviewed and he described all the new things the DNR will be able to know about Minnesota's wolf population from wolves that are harvested. Among this data was DNA samples, dental samples and tissue samples. Uterus' will be collected from female wolves to learn more about population growth and reproduction in wolves.

All of this information soon to be gathered and recorded is new, things that could not be done previously without disturbing a wolf den. Prior the onset of the wolf hunt, DNR members had only been able to radio collar about 60 wolves in Minnesota and were heading into dens when possible. As you can imagine, heading into dens was both dangerous, time consuming and costly.

It was an interesting report about a different type of research being done to help preserve and learn more about Minnesota's vast habitats. I was especially interested in learning that DNR officers had actually located and been inside wolf dens. I can't imagine the costs and dangers that go along with this type of research.

The new methods of research though will yield similar results to the old style of research and will be much quicker and more cost effective; a big win for the DNR's research department undoubtedly.

Research on the Job

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I work as the Marketing and Communications Intern at Parking and Transportation services here on campus. We offer a number of services to students, faculty and staff and visitors to the University everyday. With over 80,000 people on campus each day, we need to know how our visitors feel about our services.

One of the biggest services we offer are the Campus Connectors. What a great thing to have on such a large campus right? And this year with NextBus bus tracking it's even better. Each fall the communications department sends out a survey for those who ride the campus connectors. We use an ad hoc method to get people to take the surveys. We create a short survey and the bus drivers hand them to students as they get on the bus and collect them as they get off. It's a pretty good way to get responses from students.

One problem I see with this method of research is that if students waited longer than they wished for a connector, then their responses to the survey will probably reflect how they are feeling when they get on the bus. We could try to get responses from students in another way to avoid this, perhaps by e-mailing the survey like other departments at the University do. For now though, the ad hoc method is working alright.

To end this post, I'm going to have to add a shameless plug for Parking and Transportation: PLEASE TAKE OUR SURVEY!

Close to Home

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The University of Minnesota prides itself on being a research institution. There are classes based on research, thousands of research studies and numerous research assistant student jobs. Being a student at the University of Minnesota, I have the grand opportunity to take part in research studies all the time. Earlier this week, I did just that.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communication is where I was a participant in a research study. It was a cool experience. This study is a two part survey of attitudes toward brands. I took the first part of this study online and the second part will be online as well.

I answered questions about how I felt about various brands that are available for consumers today. Most of them seemed to be food related brands. At the end of the survey I answered questions about some of my political views. Further, there were questions about how much I knew about our government and its process. Shout out to my high school government teacher, Mr. Amdahl for making me nail the basics, because I knew all those questions.

I have to wonder if the researchers are trying to find out if political attitudes have any affect on a person's person feelings toward a brand. As a consumer I can say that my more liberal beliefs don't affect the brands I love and the brands I hate, but maybe they do. It is certainly something to ponder.

Remember, research is everywhere and this time it's close to home.

You came, now what do you think?

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Yesterday I attended a promotional products convention with my boss. There were a great deal of vendors there to push their fun products to marketing managers from throughout the Twin Cities. It was cool to see all the vendors and all the fun things they have figured out a way to print a logo onto.

One way to catch a person and get them to take a survey is an ad hoc format. As my boss and I were leaving, there was a small table with a sign politely asking us to take a short survey.

We could tell the survey was short as it was printed on a half piece of paper. My boss, Jacqueline, felt obligated to take the survey about her experience at the convention saying that she asks people to take surveys for her all the time in her daily work.

I participated as well. The survey asked only five questions. Three were Likert scale responses and the other two were free response questions about what we liked and didn't like about the convention.

I noticed the table when we arrived at the convention and noticed they had representatives asking participants on their way out to please take the survey. My guess is that many people took the survey when asked, but when the representatives left their post, fewer took the survey or even noticed the table. Presumably, the responses will have come from mostly people who were leaving the convention when a representative was available to ask them to take the survey. Politely and with a smile too.

That's all for today.

Customer Service Surveys


My computer's hard drive crashed recently and so I had to replace it. Luckily I caught the crashing in the act so all of my files were able to be backed up. My computer was fixed promptly by the Apple service providers right here on campus.

After I picked up my computer, Apple sent me a survey about my recent experience with the Apple service providers. In the spirit of this class, I happily took the survey.

The survey was short, only 10 questions. I was glad it was short because there is nothing worse than taking a survey that claims it will only take 5 minutes but then ends up being closer to 10 or 15.

The survey had a variety of question types, which was conducive to what a survey should have. The types included Likert Scales, rating and nominal. At the end of the short survey there was also a place to include information that was not asked in the survey. I didn't have much additional information to add so I left that blank.

I would think that Apple gets a relatively decent response rate to this survey. This could be mostly because those who have Apple products are generally satisfied with their products and are very loyal to the brand, willing to do a lot to help the brand. I am one of those people.

This survey seemed like it had been laid out very well. I was pleased with how short it was and the questions were likely to give good insight to Apple about how they can better serve their customers if there is need for future service to their products.

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