Improve Your Research Quality With Red Herring Questions


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 Cint, 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.