What Is a Research Panel & Is It Necessary When Surveying?

Conducting market research is an important step for any business or organization looking to make informed decisions about its products and services. A research panel is one of the best ways to make this happen.

One of the most popular methods for collecting data in market research is through surveys, but the process can be made more efficient with the help of a research panel.

But what exactly is a research panel and why might it be necessary? In this post, we’ll explore these questions in detail so that you can decide whether or not using a research panel makes sense for your next survey project.

Understanding Research Panels

At its core, a research panel is simply a group of people who have agreed to participate in surveys and other types of market research studies.

These “panelists” are often recruited from different demographics and backgrounds and provide deeper insights into the opinions or behaviors of those groups.

The use of research panels has become increasingly common as organizations look to increase the accuracy of their data.

The Benefits of Research Panels

More Accurate Data

Since research panels are made up of individuals from different demographics and backgrounds, they can provide more detailed and accurate insights than traditional surveys.

The primary benefit of this is that it helps ensure that the data collected is as representative of the general population as possible.

Faster Turnaround Time

Another benefit of using a research panel is that surveys can be completed more quickly than if they were conducted through other means.

Since all of the necessary information is already collected on the panelists, there is no need to spend time recruiting and qualifying new participants.

Ability to Target Specific Demographics

Research panels allow businesses and organizations to easily target specific demographics or groups of people in their survey if that is the goal.

Pinpointing certain demographics can be especially beneficial for surveys that are looking to solicit opinions from a certain age group, geographic area, or other subpopulations.

Reach a Larger and More Diverse Audience

Research panels provide access to a larger and more diverse audience than other survey methods. Access to a wider population can be especially useful for surveys that need to reach participants from different countries or regions of the world.

Increased Response Rate

Another benefit is that response rates tend to have higher response rates than traditional surveys. The increased response rate is beneficial as panelists are already aware of the survey and may be more likely to take it if they find the topic interesting or relevant.

The Cons of Research Panels

Potential for Selection Bias

One possible con of using a research panel is the potential for bias due to the pre-screening process. Since the panelists are selected based on certain criteria, there may be an inherent selection bias that affects the accuracy of the data collected.

Since many research panels charge a fee for participation, the bias can become costly over time, especially if the panel is used for multiple surveys.

Expensive to Set Up

Another potential con is that the setup of a research panel may be expensive, though not always. This can include costs associated with recruiting and vetting potential panelists, as well as any fees for using the platform itself.

Additionally, it can take some time to get a research panel up and running, depending on the size and scope of the project.

Social Desirability Risks

While research panels can provide invaluable insights into customer behavior and opinion, there is also the risk of “social desirability bias.”

Biases like these occur when respondents are more likely to give answers that they perceive as socially desirable rather than honest opinions.

To mitigate the risk, it is important to ensure that panelists feel comfortable expressing their opinions without fear of judgment or criticism.

If the research panel is face-to-face, the occurrence of social desirability bias due to limited privacy is a concern.

group of people sitting around a table (research panel post)

Tips for Running a Successful Research Panel

1. Define Your Target Audience

Before launching a research panel, it’s important to identify your target audience and define the criteria for selecting panelists.

Doing so will help ensure that you are getting accurate and representative data from the right group of people.

2. Recruit Qualified Panelists

Once you have identified your target audience, it’s time to start recruiting qualified panelists. Recruitment efforts can be done through online ads, word of mouth, or other methods.

When recruiting potential panelists, make sure to provide clear and detailed information about the survey so that they know what to expect (more on this process in the next session)!

3. Decide Panel Size

The size of the panel also needs to be taken into consideration. A larger panel will provide more reliable data, but it may be more difficult to manage and is often more expensive.

On the other hand, a smaller panel can provide useful insights with fewer resources, though there is an increased risk of bias.

4. Offering Incentives

Offering incentives is a great way to encourage panelists to participate in the survey. Incentives could include monetary rewards, free products or services, or other incentives.

It’s important to note that offering incentives may increase the cost of running the research panel, so be sure to take this into account when budgeting for the project.

5. Communicating with Panelists

Once the research panel is up and running, companies should aim to keep in touch with the panelists throughout the process.

Communication efforts could include simple measures like sending out reminders about upcoming surveys or providing updates on the progress of the project.

Doing so will help ensure that panelists remain engaged and motivated to participate.

6. Establish a Dedicated Panel Team Member

Having a dedicated team member to manage the research panel is essential. The designated team member should be familiar with the survey process and have good communication skills in order to effectively work with panelists.

The panel team member should also be responsible for verifying the accuracy of data collected from the survey. They can also act as a liaison throughout the process to help participants answer any questions.

7. Determine a Timeline

Your team will want to establish a solid timeline for the research process, from recruiting to working with panelists and then unpacking the data.

This will help keep panelists on track and ensure that deadlines are met. Companies will also want to allow for enough time to analyze the data and prepare any reports or presentations needed.

How to Select Panel Members

When selecting panel members, it’s a two-fold process. One, you’ll want to work to recruit the right people based on a number of factors that relate to your survey. Then, you can screen them to ensure they’re the right fit.

1. Recruitment

When recruiting potential panelists, start by creating a profile of your ideal respondent. Think about factors such as age, gender, income level, and geographic location.

Also, consider the type of questions you will be asking in the survey and how they apply to the target audience.

Additional Reading: How to Find Quality Survey Respondents

2. Screening

Once you have identified potential panelists, it’s important to screen them to ensure they are qualified and motivated participants.

The screening process might include checking references, conducting interviews, or using online surveys to assess their level of interest and willingness to participate in the survey.

Screening the potential panelists is a key step in ensuring reliable data is collected, though the process looks different depending on the scope of the project.

3. Verify Panelists Agree to Terms

After narrowing down ideal panelists, you’ll want to ensure that all panelists agree to the terms and conditions of the survey before participating.

To accomplish this, try making sure they understand any rules or restrictions associated with their participation, such as keeping responses confidential or not sharing information outside the research panel.

Similarly, it can mean verifying that they are comfortable with the subject matter or the compensation for their work, if any.

Why Research Panels Matter

While research panels may not always be necessary, they can be a powerful tool for obtaining accurate and representative data.

They provide an easy way to access a larger and more diverse group of participants, which in turn can lead to more detailed insights into customer opinions or behaviors. Despite the many benefits, not all surveys require the use of a research panel.

For smaller, simpler surveys, it may be more cost-effective to collect data through traditional methods such as online polls or telephone interviews.

However, for larger and more complex projects, using a research panel can provide valuable insights that would otherwise not be available.

aerial view of an in-person meeting.

Alternatives to Research Panels

In addition to research panels, there are other methods of data collection that may be more suitable for your survey project.

These include using online polls or surveys, telephone interviews, focus groups, and in-person interviews.

Each of these methods has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it is important to weigh your options carefully before deciding which one is right for your project.

Online Polls

Online polls are a type of survey that is conducted via the Internet. They typically consist of a series of multiple-choice questions and are used to collect feedback and opinions from individuals on a variety of topics.

Online polls provide an easy way for organizations or businesses to gather information quickly, with minimal effort, and without needing to hire additional staff or resources.

Online polls also offer anonymity to respondents, which can lead to higher response rates and more accurate results than other methods such as telephone interviews or focus groups.


Surveys are a type of market research that involves collecting data from a group of people in order to learn more about their opinions, beliefs, behaviors, or experiences.

Surveys can be administered online, through the mail, over the phone, or in person. They typically contain a series of questions and can range from short single-item polls to longer, in-depth surveys.

Telephone Interviews

Telephone interviews are a type of market research that involves engaging with respondents over the phone in order to gather their opinions and insights.

This method is often used for more complex survey projects or when it is not possible to conduct face-to-face interviews.

Telephone interviews can be conducted both nationally and internationally, allowing organizations to reach a wider range of respondents.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a type of market research that involves bringing together a group of people in order to discuss and debate topics related to the survey project.

Focus groups are typically used for more complex surveys or when it is not possible to conduct face-to-face interviews.

Focus groups typically involve a moderator who leads the discussion and asks questions to the participants in order to elicit their opinions, beliefs, or experiences.

In-Person Interviews

In-person interviews are a type of market research that involves engaging with respondents face-to-face in order to gather their insights.

The in-person interview method is often used for more complex survey projects or when it is not possible to conduct telephone or online interviews.

In-person interviews offer the opportunity for respondents to provide detailed and nuanced responses that may not be captured by other methods.

Final Thoughts

Research panels can be a powerful tool for obtaining accurate and representative data for market research surveys.

By leveraging the benefits of pre-screened panelists, businesses and organizations can save time and cost while gathering more meaningful insights into their customers’ opinions and behaviors.

While there are potential drawbacks to using a research panel, such as bias or expense, the benefits often outweigh the risks.

Ultimately, it is up to each business or organization to decide whether or not a research panel makes sense for their survey project.

Need to run surveys? Try our free online survey builder and start collecting insights today!


Q. What is a research panel?

A. A research panel is a group of people who have been pre-screened and recruited to participate in surveys or focus groups. Panelists typically receive some form of compensation for their participation, such as cash, gift cards, or other rewards.

Q. Are research panels necessary for survey projects?

A. Not all surveys require the use of a research panel. For smaller, simpler surveys, it may be more cost-effective to collect data through traditional methods such as online polls or telephone interviews. However, for larger and more complex projects, using a research panel can provide valuable insights that would otherwise not be available.

Q. What are some potential drawbacks of using a research panel?

A. Potential drawbacks include the potential for bias due to the pre-screening process, expensive setup costs, and social desirability risks. It is important to weigh the pros and cons of using a research panel in order to determine if it is the right choice for your survey project.