Is the Research Project Worth the Cost?

Research projects can become costly, especially when taking into consideration the cost of the researcher’s support and office support staff. Even a smaller project can have a five figure price, taking into account these factors. This article provides some criteria for evaluating if a research project is worth the cost.

First remember that not everything that is possible or interesting to know adds value to the disciple making process. Choose subjects that will actually be used to influence the making of disciples. Discern which research questions will result in ministry impact and which are focus on gathering information that no one will use.

Factors indicating high information value:
The cost of selecting a bad alternative or failing to select the best alternative would be relatively costly.
There is a very high degree of uncertainty about which alternative to choose, based on existing information.
Survey research information is likely to reduce a substantial portion of the uncertainty.
There is a high likelihood that survey research will be effective at reducing uncertainty.
Factors indicating low information value:
The cost of selecting a bad alternative or failing to select eh best alternative would be relatively small.
There is relatively little uncertainty about the decision, based only on the existing information.
Survey research information will remove only a small portion of the uncertainty about the decision.
There is no way to be sure that survey research information will be effective in reducing uncertainty or risk.

Second, consider who is asking the research question (the client) and the potential impact. Give priority to questions being asked by denominational leaders, Evangelical Alliances and other national-level church leaders and change agents. These have potential for whole nation impact. Next consider the questions of local church leaders and other field workers as these have potential for regional or local impact. Next come research questions the ministry team or ministry partners are asking. These relate more to the internal use of research information. Finding information to these types of questions can involve days, even weeks of work. Finally there are research questions posed by a single person. This might be driven by an academic research project (Ph.D. thesis for example), a presentation for a conference, a breakthrough study or a local ministry project.

Third, consider the time needed to answer the question

  • National level questions can involve months, even years of work.
  • Regional and local research projects involve weeks, even months of involvement.
  • Team and other internal research questions can involve range from days to weeks of labor.
  • Individual research questions can involve a few hours of work, if one is merely providing information or preparing a map for another, to years of labor if the researcher is doing a Ph. D. thesis. A rule of thumb would be to limit individual requests for information to just a few hours of work.

Fourth, consider the estimated cost for the entire project.

Using these criteria should enable a ministry team and the researcher to discern if the research project is worth the investment of time and money.