Improve Your Research Quality With Red Herring Questions

Aug 1, 2016 | Marketplace, Quality

By: Laura Manning, Senior Project Manager – Proof

Do you ever wonder how great research comes together? Without quality sample, decisions made all around us by Fortune 500 companies, financial institutions, universities, and more could be bad decisions. High-quality sample allows businesses to make the best decisions possible for their customers, their investors, and their bottom line.

But how do you ensure your market research projects or data collection efforts do not suffer from poor respondent quality? In today’s 24/7 world of online sample, respondent engagement and perceived quality are critical metrics of success for all clients. How do you determine “bad” respondents? And more importantly, how do you ensure all respondents are engaged and providing the most accurate responses? Enter: red herrings.

When most people think “herrings” they think of fish, but for researchers, red herrings are a type of question used to ensure quality on studies. These questions are designed to ‘trap’ users who are either not paying attention, speeding, or do not fit the target profile for the project at hand.

Research has shown that when conspicuous trap questions are added to the start of surveys, respondents are more likely to spend more time thoughtfully answering questions; they are less likely to straightline; and they are less likely to miss subsequent trap questions. By adding in obvious trap questions at the start of your survey, you can influence and improve respondent behavior throughout your project. Using red herring questions can also prevent respondents from “satisficing” or choosing an answer even though none of the choices are optimal.

Here at Lucid, we utilize two different methodologies of red herrings — straightforward and simple comprehension checks for consumer projects, and more complex logical tests for B2B or other deeply targeted work. On B2B studies, our red herrings work to help narrow your target audience as much as to detect fraud. These questions work by helping to eliminate respondents who do not fit the profession profile you are targeting.


Example Consumer Red Herring Question:


Example Information Technology Decision Maker Red Herring Question:



Example Construction Red Herring Question:


Transparency and trust are critical elements to building a successful marketplace. Since our founding, Lucid has been dedicated to bringing transparency to the market research industry. As we’ve grown, so has our responsibility to further improve transparency and quality in the sample space. You’ll be seeing much more from us on this subject of quality soon.

What quality measures does your sample company utilize to ensure high caliber delivery?

You’ll be seeing much more from us on this subject of quality soon. Check out our GreenBook webinar on 8/18 where Chuck Miller and Andy Ellis present some exciting new solutions around getting the best sample possible.


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