MR 101: Validity and Reliability in Surveys

Confession: I don’t have formal training as a market researcher. I came to market research late in life by way of my training in information technology and computer science, and it’s something I’ve had to study – and continue to study today. And trust me: I’ve studied a lot in my life, and learning about market research has been one of the greater educational challenges I’ve taken on.

Why? In order to really understand market research and do it well, you need to be well versed in math, statistics, language, sociology, psychology, neuroscience and politics. You need to be a solid writer, a strong communicator, and an analytical thinker. Market research isn’t for lightweights, which is why I’m particularly happy when I come across solid educational resources that help to unlock the topic for me.

One of the better resources I’ve come across is the content put out by market research firm Relevant Insights. Much of their content is written by Michaela Mora, and it’s just top notch. Among the more recent posts I’ve come across that I’d like to draw your attention to tackles the subject of validity and reliability in market research surveys: what they are, how they differ, and when the intersect.

Market research is a topic replete with terminology and jargon, and Michaela explains these terms in a very accessible way. For example:

Validity is concerned with the accuracy of our measurement, and it is often discussed in the context of sample representativeness. However, validity is also affected by survey design since it also depends on asking questions that measure what we are supposed to be measuring.
Reliability, on the other hand, is concerned with the consistency of our measurement, that’s the degree to which the questions used in a survey elicit the same type of information each time they are used under the same conditions. This is particularly important in satisfaction and brand tracking studies, as changes in question wording and structure are likely to elicit different responses.

There’s much more to it than that, though. Be sure to read Michaela’s post in full, and brush up on your market research terminology and technique. And you can check out these great educational resources on the Relevant Insights blog.

About Joshua Hoffman

Joshua Hoffman is Technology Specialist at Microsoft and a frequent contributor to Research Access.


  1. Joshua,
    Thank you so much for the kind words! I’m glad you like the content of our blog. I try to give substance and avoid all the fluff :-)

  2. J. Brent Austin says:

    Great information!

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