Types of Research

Our expertise is well established in the following types of research:


Survey Research and Sampling

Whether our clients need simple or highly complex surveys, we can accommodate their request. We design and develop custom surveys for telephone, online, or self-administration (paper). Further, we have expertise in applying complex sampling designs and weighting formulas if necessary, such as those necessary for Behavioral Risk Factor Surveys (BRFS).

When our research utilizes phone surveys, we use telephone centers that employ highly skilled and competently trained telephone interviewers.  For online surveys, our research has employed a good mix of client provided sample and sampling databases purchased through various sampling companies.

If at all feasible, we recommend using probability sampling for telephone surveys of the general population. For BRFS surveys we use a Disproportionate Stratified Sampling (DSS) design which has been used within the state of Michigan and nationally for all BRFS surveys since 2003. This strategy combines the use of random digit dial (RDD) sample with listed sample and will ultimately yield a probability sample that is more efficient than simply pulling numbers from RDD sample. We supplement this landline sample with 25%-33% cell phone-only sample since this segment of the population continues to grow nationally. Finally, to limit sampling error we randomly target one adult in the household, not necessarily asking the person who answers the phone to participate.  

VIP staff members are very adept at determining sample sizes for both telephone and online surveys to accommodate any subgroup/subpopulation analyses that permit us to confidently generalize findings to the corresponding sub-populations while guarding against limitations such as measurement error and other process-related artifacts.


Data Weighting

When weighting the data becomes necessary we have the ability to use simple weights, such as weighting a sample to match the corresponding population on certain demographics (e.g., age, gender, job title, segment, etc.). We can also utilize more complex weighting strategies like those used for our Behavioral Risk Factor Surveys (BRFS), where the data needs to be weighted in order to remove bias from the sample and to be able to generalize to the larger population from which it came. For this, we use both design and post-stratification weights.



Needs Assessments

Our needs assessments (sometimes referred to as needs analysis) assist clients in making decisions about programs and priorities. The process of conducting a needs assessment not only involves determining if there is indeed a need, but also defining any gaps that may exist between existing programs and services and the demand for these programs and services. This process also helps to uncover the barriers and obstacles that exist to accessing programs or services. Moreover, we can determine whether existing community resources have the ability to meet a need, and if not, discover ways to supplement resources if possible.

A properly conducted needs assessment utilizes both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to strengthen research conclusions. Feedback from all community stakeholders is critical to gaining an accurate picture of the community landscape with respect to the need in question.

As an example, our Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA) have triangulated the feedback from as many stakeholders as possible, including:
  • In-depth interviews with key stakeholders that have a 50,000 foot view of a community’s health care landscape, such as hospital administrators, clinic directors
  • Online survey with key informants, people with more hands-on experience, such as physicians, nurses, dentists, mental health professionals
  • Telephone interviews with community residents, such as the Behavioral Risk Factor Survey (BRFS)
  • Focus groups with targeted community subpopulations, such as residents who are uninsured or underinsured, senior adults, low income groups, minorities that may experience language barriers, etc.
  • Secondary data inclusion of widely available data to lend support to the CHNA, such as data from the U.S. Census, Center for Diseases Control, Kids Count, and County Health Rankings.  Additionally, we utilize data collected from area hospitals and clinics.
Triangulating the above primary and secondary data sources paints a consistent and accurate picture of a community’s health and health care landscape.  The information provides community leaders and stakeholders with a guide for the next steps of improving health and health care access for all community residents.


Program Evaluation

Our approach to program evaluation considers factors beyond outcome measures.  We also think it is critical to investigate context, input, process, and in most cases sustainability, to formulate a well-rounded evaluation plan and identify reasons for a program’s or initiative’s success or failure.  It also allows evaluators to determine, or at least obtain a better understanding of, what works best, what doesn’t work so well, what needs to be improved, and what needs to be completely rethought.  

Although all four core concepts are important in uncovering the entire story, evaluating process and outcomes to measure the achievement of specific goals and objectives will be most important because they can be more readily addressed.  As evaluators, our ultimate goal is to demonstrate whether or not the program under investigation has an impact on the target population(s).  Moreover, if the program is deemed to have an impact, we need to be able to identify the specific contributions to this impact and the reason for it.  Conversely, if the program is not having the desired impact, we want to be able to identify what is not working so well and the reasons for any deficits.  

We utilize logic models to show the path from a program’s mission, core values, goals and objectives to activities, inputs, and strategies, to ultimately short-, medium-, and long-term outcomes.

Much like our approach to needs assessments, we triangulate various methods of data collection to strengthen our research conclusions, such as in-depth interviews, surveys, focus groups, and document review.  Combined with secondary data, this evaluation approach is both robust and necessary for an accurate assessment.

Evaluations can be either formative or summative in nature depending on the needs of the client.  Either approach will identify successful strategies and yield implications and recommendations for program improvement since that is the goal of evaluation.  Program leadership will be able to ascertain if their program is on the right track given their mission and specific goals and objectives.  Results of the evaluation will further assist leadership in developing an action plan addressing any identified issues.


Strategic Planning


Leaders of organizations must be effective strategists if their organizations are to fulfill their missions and satisfy their constituents.  By providing leaders with a set of concepts, procedures, and tools designed to assist them, we put them in the best position to succeed.  VIP leadership has been schooled in the philosophy that strategic planning is more about strategic thinking and acting than strategic planning.

One example of the ways we have provided useful strategic planning to our clients is the incorporation of this process as part of our Community Health Needs Assessments (CHNA).  Once we have collected all of the data necessary for a thorough and accurate assessment, and provided recommendations and next steps, it then becomes important to assist community stakeholders in determining ways to implement the suggested recommendations.  A well-thought out strategic plan will not only accomplish this but also fulfill IRS requirements.


Market Research

We have extensive experience in conducting market research for both for- and non-profit companies.  Whether it is B2B or B2C, what follows are types of market research we have conducted:
  •   Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage (AAU)
  •   Benchmark/Tracking studies
  •   Brand Positioning
  •   Brand Equity
  •   Customer Satisfaction
  •   Concept Testing
  •   Market Testing
  •   Message Testing
  •   Public Opinion
  •   Segmentation
  •   Tracking Studies
  •   Utilization
  •   Win/Loss Research

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    • I've had the pleasure of working with Dr. Hill on three large projects over the past few years: a Small Business Health Coverage Landscape, a county level Behavioral Risk Factor Survey, and a Communit... Marcia Knol Epidemiologist, Ottawa County Health Department
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