In the 1850s, the East India Company employed an army of ‘Sepoys’ – Indian soldiers who fought for them almost as mercenaries. The rule of the British East India Company was tolerated as amicably as any imperial power would be expected to have been; that is until the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The Sepoys outnumbered British soldiers by around 150,000 men, and were issued with Pattern 1853 Enfield Rifles which were loaded with ammunition encased in a paper cartridge. In order to load their rifles, the soldiers had to bite through cartridges coated in paper greased with tallow rendered from animal fats: in some instances lard from pork fat, in others tallow from beef fat. The Indian soldiers, comprised primarily of Hindus and Muslims, were incensed at the idea of having to break their sacred vows in service to a foreign power, contributing in no small part to the mutiny.
This example shows just how important sensitivity and knowledge can be when dealing with different groups of people. The British had no intention of offending or upsetting their Sepoy soldiers, but because of their ignorance of the soldiers’ religious customs, the treating of rifle ammunition with animal fats was taken as a direct attempt to undermine local religions, resulting in the mutiny and uprising. It is important to learn from lessons such as these when conducting your surveys and research studies, as different groups and individuals will require different approaches and methodologies if you are to achieve your desired results.
There are numerous factors that will affect how individuals respond to your study, including but not limited to religion, social class, age, ethnicity, geographical location and regional identity. You need to be extremely careful not to tread on any toes when compiling written surveys, and sensitivity is paramount; inadvertently causing offence or distress, as well as being potentially hurtful, can produce aberrant data points that will skew the results of your survey.
It’s not just written surveys that you need to take care with, either; you need to think about your audience when selecting your primary data capture method, too. If your research is concerned with determining the quality of life of housebound septuagenarians, for example, you’re unlikely to get the results you need if your responses are generated through online surveys or SMS messages. Conversely, if your target audience is in the age bracket of the under 20s, you may be less likely to get a high volume of responses through traditional paper surveys.
Audiences can be changeable, unpredictable and particular, so you need to take a careful, sensitive, well thought-out approach to your studies or risk distancing them. If you’d like to find out more about how to get the best results from your audiences, why not contact us for a free, no obligation workshop so we can work to find a bespoke solution to your data capture problems together?