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Entrepreneurship: Research Methods & Sample Size

This guide supports UCI’s innovation and entrepreneurship community by connecting users to relevant resources used to conduct research throughout the entrepreneurial process.

Research Methods & Sample Size

For market validation research, three common research methods are surveys, interviews, and focus groups. For more information on these, and other research methods, see: Chapter 2 of The Handbook for Market Research for Life Sciences Companies.

Method Definition Pros Cons
Surveys Participants are asked to respond to a pre-defined series of questions. Can include both open- and closed-ended questions. Can yield a mix of quantitative and qualitative feedback, depending on how the survey is designed. Can be conducted in-person, by telephone or mail, or online.
  • Cost-effective way to reach greater number of participants.
  • Option for participant anonymity.
  • The rise of “survey fatigue” – the frequency with which individuals receive surveys may reduce response rates.
Interviews One-on-one conversation between the researcher and the participant. Usually involve open-ended questions. Yields mostly qualitative responses. Can be conducted in-person or virtually. Option for audio/video recording of responses.
  • Can explore topic more in-depth.
  • Flexibility - can adjust questions based on participant’s responses.
  • Can involve substantial time and/or money.
Focus Groups Discussion of a topic amongst a small group of participants. The researcher facilitates the groups’ discussion by asking questions and observing responses. Yields mostly qualitative responses. Can be conducted in-person or virtually. Option for audio/video recording of responses.
  • Receive feedback from multiple participants at one time (can be more efficient than one-on-one interviews).
  • Interactions among participants can provided additional insight for the researcher.
  • Potential for “group think” – the desire to conform to the opinions of the group may reduce the quality of participant responses.
  • One participant may dominate the session, preventing others from sharing their opinions.
  • Participants may be less forthcoming in a group setting.

What should my sample size be?

A sample is a portion of the larger population that you are researching. There is not one, “standard” sample size that applies to all primary research projects. A sample size that is too large may present issues regarding time and money, while a sample size that is too small may invalidate your results. Consider the size of your market and use your best judgment when determining your sample size.

For more information, see: Chapter 1 of The Handbook for Market Research for Life Sciences Companies.

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