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In order to satisfy this criterion, we need to:

  • Learn about different research methods and techniques (PASS)

  • Find detailed examples of the techniques and methods (MERIT)

  • And understand that different methods are used for different things; we need to evaluate their usefulness in different contexts (DISTINCTION)

Research Methods and Techniques


There are two basic kinds of research.


  • Basically, this is research you do yourself to find out about YOUR particular product, audience and approach. It might include:

    • Desk research - look at and study a lot of examples of the thing you are planning to make​.

    • Interview members of your audience (questionnaire, focus group, online interviews.)

    • Talk directly to people involved in making similar products.


  • Where you find and examine information which already exists. This might include:

    • Web searches to find information about existing products - how they were made, how successful they were, budgets, timelines and so on.​

    • Research into audiences, productions and markets carried out by previous researchers

    • Research into the subject matter for your product (if it's about the effect of internet use on teenagers, then you need to find out a lot about that topic.)

And there are two different types of data we might want to get.


  • 'Hard' data. Facts, figures, numbers, statistics. Budgets, timelines. personnel and so on falls into this category. Easily gathered, easily presented. Graphs, charts, diagrams, or closed questions in questionnaires and surveys.


  • 'Soft' data. Opinions, feelings, thoughts, ideas. What do people like? Why do they do the things they do? Why do some things work and other things fail? Written or recorded responses, analyses of conversations, open questions

Task  - Research Plan (it is usual to plan your research!)

Imagine you have been tasked with researching the possibility of producing a film aimed at teenagers. Make a research plan explaining what you would want to know and how you would get the information.A list of bullet points is fine. See how similar your ideas are to those of other students. Keep your plan - you will be adding to it!

Task  - Research Plan

Desk Research

Unsurprisingly, research you can do at your desk! It would often involve learning about the form or genre you are planning to work with, generally by engaging with many examples of it. It's absolutely vital to know as much as possible about existing examples of the thing you are planning to make. (This can actually be primary OR secondary research.)

You might want both QUANTITATIVE data ('How much do these things cost?') and QUALITATIVE data ('What are the normal genre conventions of these things?')

A few things; firstly choose examples that are aimed at the same audience you are targeting. You probably want to look at successful examples also, so already you might be looking at box office takings, awards won and reviews.


Secondly, KEEP NOTES. Record what you watch and what you have learned. It would be normal to keep a table of some sort. 

Primary Research

Go back to that research plan - add some detail to your desk research proposal. What actual films would you watch? Why have you chosen them? What leads you to believe that they are particularly good examples? Where did you find the information? Keep a list of sources. It should take a little while to come up with a few good suggestions.

Task  - Questionaire Design

Audience Research

The point of working in Media (or in any industry, really) is to make something FOR someone. You need to know who you're aiming at and what they want.

You have already learned several ways to talk about audiences and ways to discuss what they want. Concepts like demographics and psychographics can help you to define and section your audiences. Uses and Gratifications can help you talk about what they might want from your product - so make sure you are comfortable with those concepts. Now, we need to learn how to GET the information from them.


This is information which is exact, easily gathered and measured and easily displayed. It usually come in the form of numbers. If you were researching the potential audience for a car advert, for example, useful quantitative data might be the age range of people in the audience, their income range, the number of cars they own on average and so on.  This data can easily be gathered using questionnaires.

Questionnaire Design Advice

  • Present it very well. Make it look professional. Brand it.

  • Start with a filter question. ('Do you watch horror films?') If the answer is 'no', those people ar eprobably of no use to you.

  • Keep it short. Ten questions. One page.

  • Use closed questions. Use tickboxes to gather answers. Don't ask open questions ('What kind of films do you like?') that require an essay in answer. We're after quantitative data, not qualitative data here! 

  • Send it to people who are actually in your target audience. Try to get a good sample. (For example, try to avoid only a group of people who are the same gender. If you DO have a skewed sample, be aware of it and acknowledge it in the analysis.

  • Present the USEFUL results well. You may realise that some of your questions actually didn't help you. Don't bother presenting that data.

  • Finally, the only thing that matters is what you learned about your target audience. Your work in this section should end with a short piece of writing explaining very quickly what you have learned.

See if you can come up with some questions for a questionnaire which would help you gather useful data about the film you have been asked to produce. 


The numbers are a useful starting point, but they are rarely enough by themselves. Generally the more useful data is more subjective. This is qualitative data. It is harder to gather and measure, more challenging to interpret but generally richer and more revealing. We might gather this data by organising a focus group made up of people from our target audience and asking them for their opinions on the cars we are advertising. We might show them a few ads and ask for opinions or thoughts. We might try to find what connotations those cars already have for them. We could show them our various plans for advertising ideas and see what works with them. We would record the conversation and go through the recording later for useful information. Another way to gather qualitative data is through OBSERVATIONS - watch (or film) people, for example, watching a film and try to gauge where they lose interest, perhaps.

Focus Group or Interview Advice

  • Involve people who are likely to actually think about your questions and who fall within your target audience.

  • Try to involve all parts of your target audiences e.g. both genders. 

  • Prepare a few questions in advance.

  • Alternatively, give the focus group something to focus on e.g., show them part of a film and try to figure out what they like about it.

  • Your job is to guide the conversation and keep it going. You can't do that and take notes at the same time. So record the conversation and make notes afterwards. (If you want to be more impressive, transcribe the conversation and quote from it. Provide the transcription and the recording as an appendix to your final research portfolio.

  • Keep it short. Ten minutes is plenty.

  • Interviews are conducted with one person. The same protocol applies; you might be able to get into more detail with one person. It would be normal to conduct a few different interviews to get a range of opinion.




Obviously, both qualitative and quantitative data are important. A basic principle of audience research is that we want different types of data, so we have to do different types of research; the usual minimum suggested is three, so we talk about triangulating the research. A good student will, for example, send out an initial questionnaire to get basic quantitative data, organise a focus group in the early stages of planning, and show their rough cuts or mock ups to a screening group. And, of course, they will actually listen to what their audience tells them and change their plans or work accordingly if they see fit.


You've learned about a few different methods of primary research. Make a few notes on the strengths and weaknesses of each. You might think about how much time and money they might involve, how useful the answers they might provide would be, or how honest and willing to participate people would be.

Secondary Research

Now we can check other people's work to get additional information on what we are planning. (Note; secondary research is not less important than primary, nor does it need to be done afterwards. They generally get done at pretty much the same time since ideas and data from one inform the approach taken with the other.)


This is where most people will start. Unfortunately, it's also where most people will finish!

Task  - Google!

Let's say you're trying to learn about a horror film called 'The Shining.' Have a google and make a quick list of 5 useful sites.

Be prepared to say what is useful about these sites.

The internet is the most powerful research tool ever created, so obviously we are going to make use of it. However, we need to be careful. A few guidelines:

  • Search terms are important. What EXACTLY do you want to know? Googling 'horror film' might help if you don't actually know what a horror film is, but chances are we're beyond that by now!

  • Many very popular websites are of limited use. IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, for example, will give you basic information about films but after that, the information offered is probably not that useful. These are sites aimed primarily at film fans We aren't (only) fans. We're students. We need to go further.

  • Some sites are unreliable. The most famous example is Wikipedia, which can be edited by anyone. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't use it; it just means you need to be aware of possible problems.

  • On that note, be aware that anyone can publish a website. Fan sites like this are really interesting, but they offer mostly trivia about the making of the film and links to rather strange articles about it or the actors in it. Interesting for fans; not so much use for students.

  • That doesn't mean you should avoid these sites. Wikipedia is a fantastic place to start, especially if you make use of the links at the bottom of the page. IMDB offers links to all the reviews of a film, which can be very useful. Fan sites can be incredibly detailed and useful. You just need to BE AWARE of what you are reading and treat it accordingly.

Task  - Academic Research

Let's try the internet beyond google. On lionel, you need to go to the library resources.

Generally, we're going to be interested in these parts. 

These are academic databases (for school-age students.) The contents are filtered and checked for quality. Institutions (like KGV) have to pay for access, so these sites are password-protected to control access. It's in databases like these where most academic research is likely to happen.

Try your 'horror film' search again. Are the results different? How? Can you find five useful sites or articles?  

The chances are high that what you find in an academic database will be more reliable, more detailed and more demanding on you as a reader. You will also get access to texts which are not necessarily generally available online, like books and magazines and journals. That does not mean it's better than a google search, just a different resource for different purposes. However, it does most definitely mean that research here is more likely to get you to those top grades! Commonly, or senior students would start with general internet research then proceed to a much deeper dive into the databases.

Documentation (Or, the future of humanity is in your hands)

You are taking your first real steps into a grand academic tradition. Generations learn from previous generations. You are learning from what other people have found out about horror films. In the future, people may wish to go one step further by taking what YOU found out and developing it. That's how humanity progresses. So well done on your contribution, now and in the future.

ADDITIONAL FOR LEVEL 3 (or particularly capable Level 2 students...)

Expectations, obviously, are higher at Level 3 - deeper, more authentic research, better understanding of and application of methods, more rigorous interrogation of examples and results. But if we have a look at the outline of necessary subject matter, we'll also see that there are a few additional areas of research we need to understand in addition to the Level 2 areas outlined above.

So, they're asking for more detailed understanding in general, but there are also two new areas: MARKET RESEARCH and PRODUCTION RESEARCH.


However, the only way they will be able to go further is if you WRITE DOWN the places where you found the information. Every single piece of academic work in the world needs to terminate with a properly-formatted bibliography - a list of where you got your information from. Failure to do this not only renders your work useless, but also opens you to charges of plagiarism (the only unforgivable crime in academia...) 

There are several methods of constructing bibliographies but they're all similar. KGV recommends APA. There is a handy-dandy bibliography generator in those library resources on LIonel.

There it is! Look!

You ALSO need a cover page, an index, headers and footers, and page numbers. 

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