Evolution of Research Approaches

It all started with a knock.

In the late 1800s, Charles Booth knocked on doors of people’s homes in a concerted effort to obtain a true measurement and understanding of poverty within London. In doing so, he was one of the early pioneers of the social survey and ethnographic methods. Around the same time, Sir Francis Galton created the first questionnaire while also developing some of the earliest modern statistical techniques.

Since then research approaches have come a long way, often mirroring developments in technology and in the culture of the day.

Initially, it took decades for a technological innovation to become mainstream and subsequently impact research. However, in recent years technology inventions are being applied in increasingly shorter timeframes. Take for example the telephone. Alexander Graham Bell received a patent for its invention in 1876. Yet it was 100 years before landlines became ubiquitous in US households and opened up a new mode of reaching research respondents. In contrast, the first iPhone was released in 2007 (15 years after the launch of the very first smartphone) and it took less than a decade for smartphones to reach the same adoption rates as landlines.

Today we have a wealth of approaches, from eye tracking to research games, to explore customers lives and understand their truths. To see how far we’ve come, and think about what could be coming in the future, take a look at our downloadable infographic outlining the Evolution of Research Approaches, mapped alongside technological developments and cultural milestones.

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