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The Importance of Screeners

The Importance of Screeners

Every product, service or solution has a target audience. Depending on the brand, some target audiences may be narrow whilst others may be broad. Whilst identifying a brand’s target segment may seem easy enough, finding the right participants for a research study sometimes poses unexpected difficulties.

The value of a research project lays in its ability to deliver actionable insight. However, if the right respondents are not participating in the research, the findings are ultimately rendered useless. This is why screener questions play a vital role in ensuring, insofar as possible, that the right people are taking part in a study.

What is a screener?

A screener is typically a question or series of questions placed at the beginning of a study in order to determine whether a potential participant matches the characteristics of the target audience defined in the research criteria. Screeners should not be too wide so as to include respondents who will not add value to the research, nor should they be too narrow so as to exclude targets that would meet the target characteristics.

What’s a bad screener?

When coming up with a screener, it is important to avoid making it clear to the respondent what you are looking for. As an example, if the study aims to target consumers looking to buy a television within the following year, phrasing the screener as follows would not be recommended, as it is a leading question:

Are you planning to purchase a television within a year?

  • Yes
  • No

Instead, it is advisable to keep the purpose of the study vague in order to make it more difficult for potential candidates to guess which answer will avoid elimination. A better option would be to ask the following:

Which of the following items are you planning to purchase within a year?

  • Car
  • Television
  • Computer
  • Washer
  • Dryer

Screener questions are important not only because they help maintain the quality of the research but also because they avoid having a respondent answer questions for ten minutes just to realize that they do not qualify to take part in a study. In some cases, a higher proportion of abandons or low engagement (for instance, answering A to all the questions, speeding through the study, not answering open-ended questions appropriately, etc.) may relate back to a poorly designed screener.

Whilst screeners may appear to be relatively straightforward, it is recommended to spend some extra time ensuring the question or questions are well designed. Not only will this result in time and financial savings later on, but it will also ease data analysis and subsequently reduce response bias.