S&R Blog

This Article Rated “R” For Scientific Rigor and Relevancy

I’m one of those weirdos who most enjoys a movie when I know the plot or ending beforehand. 2001: A Space Odyssey? More interesting when you know the ambiguous plotline and can really think about what the surreal imagery and multilayered themes mean. The Godfather? More enjoyable if you’ve already seen the climactic, juxtaposed baptism/murder scene near the end of the film.

Often I’ll put a movie on my Netflix queue, then go immediately to Wikipedia to read the plot summary. And I just might take that DVD, watch the final scene, then view the movie from the beginning. Why? Well, I like surprises and plot twists and all, but I just find it more enjoyable to know the “end” so that I can better understand and more enjoy the “means”.

I got thinking about how this peculiar behavior relates to reading journal articles after seeing Teresa Rogstad’s recent AMWA Journal feature (2009;24(4):176-181), “Judging the Quality of Medical Literature.” In a succinct review, she lays out the key things (eg, study design, bias, sample size) to assess in determining the “methodologic strength” and “application usefulness” of published research. Now on my burgeoning “must-read” list for nonscientists in Pharma, her article might be of value to even the most CONSORT-literate folks.

Consumers of scientific literature might well combine my contradictory movie habit and Rogstad’s criteria by approaching their next scientific article as follows:

  • Read the Abstract (plot) to help assess the quality and direction of the study.
  • Read the Discussion section (ending) to understand the research implications.
  • Read the entire article to understand the data’s finer points and full meaning. As with a film, this method can help maximize the reader’s use—and dare I say, enjoyment—of the “story” that the writer and researcher(s) have crafted.

We at SRMC believe this assessment of the quality of the research “story” is crucial to the most effective use of published clinical data. And it’s one of the many capabilities that we offer to help clients who want to optimize the impact of the research articles they use to support their products.

So if you’ve ever asked yourself—Is this/that journal article good? or Should I cite this study?—we can help you find the answer. And if you have questions about how the movie ends, we can answer those, too.

Ted J. Slowik, PhD

Director, Scientific Information, S+R Medical Communications


How to use market research in a recession

Everywhere you turn you’re bound to hear about how the recession has put a death grip on the wallets of consumers and has refused to let go for any extended period of time. As a result, products are staying on the shelves longer, profits are going into the red, and marketing budgets are being chopped with ginsu-like precision.

As mentioned in an earlier post, cutting budgets may not be the way to recession-proof your brand in this time of uncertainty. But should you need to reduce your marketing budget, John Quelch (Harvard Business School) gives a few pointers on how to get the most for your dollar when it comes to finding the right data and insights for your brand.

Stay focused. Savvy marketers focus their research on the products, brands, and markets that are key to their marketing strategy. In a recession, it’s essential to get a clear read on existing core customers, including those who are most loyal to the brand and those who are most profitable, rather than fritter away research resources on potential or peripheral consumers.

Enlist trusted partners. Marketers and research suppliers who trust each other and have established long-term relationships can jointly plan how to extract more insights and make better decisions based on fewer expenditures.

Value experience and judgment. CMOs should tap the knowledge and intuitions of managers and researchers who’ve lived through previous recessions. In setting prices, for example, such insight can help calibrate the optimal level of price promotion offers.

Seize opportunities overseas. Some large multinational marketers, such as Unilever, are shifting research expenditures away from Western Europe and toward emerging markets in Asia and Latin America. Relative to the developed economies, the costs of research in emerging economies are less and the payoff from incremental insight can often be greater.

Go online with a dash of skepticism. Online research is cheap, fast, and the wave of the future. Tools like SurveyMonkey allow non-expert users to create custom surveys in minutes. As an alternative to offline focus groups, custom online panels of consumers can be formed for qualitative research on new product ideas or new ads.

Don’t cut across the board. Just as important as knowing where to cut research is knowing where not to cut. When marketers are creating fewer new ads and introducing fewer new products, it is doubly important to use rigorous pretesting to select the strongest alternatives.

Keep an eye on the new consumer. No one has a perfect record of predicting the future, and the recession is making it harder for consumers to envision or articulate their needs. Even so, and despite budget pressures, smart marketers devote a portion of their market research to getting a handle on future changes in consumer behavior.

The full article can be found here.

4 ways to use social media for market research

In a previous post, Twitter was recognized as a viable option for qualitative market research. Not only is it free and fairly easy to mine for information and engage target groups for answers, all kinds of third-party services exist to help show the latest trends and hot topics. But is Twitter the only social media option if you are looking for quick insights on a budget?

Here are 3 other ways you can use social media  for your next marketing research project:


With over 8 million users (and growing), LinkedIn allows for easy access to pertinent data about its users. LinkedIn Polls allows you to target professionals with specific questions through two methods:

  • Your network: Ask your connections on LinkedIn (Free)
  • Selected Professionals: A group of professionals (e.g. sales professionals, small business owners, software engineers) that you define by industry, job title, company size, job function, age, gender, or geography. (Pay per response, $50 minimum).



Boasting more than 100 million users, Facebook is fertile ground for research. Although Facebook doesn’t allow instant access to its user data you can use a few valuable tools made available to Facebook users to get relevant demographics for targeted research.

Facebook Lexicon aggregates and analyzes millions of Facebook Wall posts every day to provide a searchable database of trends over time. Users can query a single word or two-word combinations and compare as many as five strings per query.

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StumbleUpon allows you to get instant access to a variety of sites around certain topics and the audience who have an interest in that topic.  StumbleUpon also allows you to view reviews of certain sites and key user demographics (age, gender, interests) to see how they react to different things and find different patterns.