Best Practices for Researchers
Making the most of Zursh...
Building Your Profile
Make sure your profile is complete and accurate
We highly recommend to fully complete your profile and include an updated copy of your resume and up to 5 portfolio documents of previous research work completed. Fully completed profiles always have higher chances of getting selected by the requestors.
Completed profile will make it easy for clients to identify your research capabilities, skills and resources. Additionally, our internal matching system rates researchers with full profiles higher than those with incomplete profiles.
Note: Research professionals join our community not only because it is dedicated to business research but also because it promised high quality, service value and a strong sense of community. In many other networks, we have seen many misleading resumes, inaccurate job descriptions and even some fraudulent degrees and portfolios. Please do not attempt to misrepresent your qualifications in our site as it will harm your online reputation. We have quality control funnels and guidelines that are aimed to expose false credentials.
Write a brief biography and highlight your research experience
Use the biography to briefly discuss your experience. Here you should highlight your research experience, skills, resources and capacity. This biography section will be part of your public profile and will be visible to Zursh requestors. You can use this space to present yourself and your research practice.
Avoid embellishing your bio. Direct and accurate biographies are well received by our clients.
Remember that we receive various research requests with different budgets and requirements
matching all experience levels.
Add research documents to your portfolio
Please include up to 5 research documents that you have previously produced. These documents can be research reports, business presentations, survey tables, research notes, financial models, empirical studies, business research papers or any other relevant research material. Ideally, the research work samples should represent your unique research skills and capabilities. You can also update your portfolio periodically to reflect any new changes. If you are providing links, make sure your they work before sharing them!
If you don’t have access to reports you have worked on, we advise you to provide a document summarizing these reports and any contribution you made.
Please do not include any client confidential information and other identity related material. Potential clients viewing your portfolio will appreciate your integrity and professionalism. Make sure to hide any proprietary information to protect your client confidentiality, there are many basic ways you can mask data such as:
- Data substitution: You can substitute sensitive data with random inputs.
- Numeric variance: This is suitable for financial models and data heavy reports. You can apply random numeric variances (+/98%). The model layout and logic can still be verified but sensitive data can be hidden..
- Direct masking: One easy way to hide private content is simply using blurry stripes.
- Encryption: This is suitable for large data sets. You may share the encryption key with requestors upon request.
Remember that in some cases, excessive data masking may not clearly showcase your documents in your portfolio. Mask only sensitive data so that requestors can still evaluate the quality and depth of your research work.
Note: Please don’t include any research work samples to which you don’t have legal rights or ownership. All plagiarised research material will be eliminated and may impact negatively your ranking system. Most of the time, plagiarised research reports can be easily traced back to the original source owner via research databases and search engines. Important tip: If you want to display a third party research report or sample work as a template, We advise you to create a one page document indicating that you are capable of creating similar research.
Add your research databases and resources
Some research requests require mining free sources leveraging research skills and industry expertise. Other requests may need access to research databases to make the information retrieval easier, or other premium sources providing information not available in the public domain.
Please make sure you include all research sources and tools you have access to, both paid or free subscriptions. This will not only showcase your resources, but will also add more credibility to your profile as a professional researcher.
For researchers who do not have access, Zursh is partnering with few database vendors and research tools to offer volume discounts.
Although this is optional, adding your Linkedin URL gives your profile more credibility. Some requestors may by pass your profile resume and check your linkedin information for a quick identification
All of our research requests received in the open marketplace will be published in our homepage and in your workroom. We advise all researchers to routinely visit the site to see newly added requests. You can sort requests by budget, posted date, deliverable deadline and other criteria.
Qualifications and Requirements
Make sure you read all information in the request and understand all requirements. Select research requests that match your skills and qualifications. If you’re not qualified for a particular research project, just skip it.
When you look for requests, pay special attention to the deliverable deadline. You should make sure that you have available hours to work on the request and send quality work by requestor’s deadline.
Content and Approach
When you examine the request requirements and evaluate your planned approach, you should ask the following questions:
- Are the concepts clear?
- Is the request main question non ambiguous?
- Is information requested available? Is the research feasible?
- Can the requestor suggest an approach or a resource?
- How many resources can be used?
- Can the requestor share information or any report?
- Did the requestor give indications on the format of the deliverable? (This should be under “Comments”)
- What is the expected language of the deliverable?
- Did the requestor specify any particular geography?
Drafting Your Proposal
Your research proposal is the best way to win a research request. Make sure your proposals represent your qualifications. The best proposals are clear, customized and communicate a clear path and methodology to answer the requests.
Here is what requestors are looking in proposals:
- Customized approach, tailored to their specific need with clear methodology.
- The experience or capability of the research professional in working with similar research inquiries.
- Capacity and bandwidth to deliver the required data by deadline.
Understand the request before formulating proposals
On the surface, some requests may seem clear but some requestors may not fully communicate their need.
- Do not assume you have understood the request needs if you haven't.
- Use your proposal to help the requestor clarify or rephrase his/her question! This will work on your favor when the proposal selection is made.
- Understand the requestors lingo. Ask questions if a technical term is not clear. A technical term may be interpreted differently, or different terms may have the same meaning in different countries. For example, a profit and loss account in UK is the same as the income statement in US.
Underestimating the time it takes to process the research is one of the main reasons why some transactions fail.
Avoid generic, scripted proposals
It may be convenient to use a generic template to write one good proposal and copypaste it to all research requests that you want to work on, but the truth is that one size fit all proposals are usually not selected by Zursh requestors.
In average, It takes 15 to 20 minutes to draft a brief customized proposal. For some requests, it may take longer. From the requestor’s perspective, the more customized your proposal is, the more efforts you put in addressing his/her need. If you have any concern about sharing any proprietary research methodology or technique, you can mask few parts of your proposal and clearly explain the case.
Example of a generic proposal (Primary research request)
“Hi Zeyfar, I would like the opportunity to work on your research request. I am a professional researcher with over 8 years of experience conducting primary research using email, face to face, phone, online/mobile surveys, focus groups, instore studies and many other methods. I also have access to many secondary research sources that I can use to include additional information to support the initial research results. Additionally, I can also add a detailed analysis and recommendation to help you navigate research findings. I will package all findings and deliver the final research report by your deadline. Thank you!
Example of a customized proposal (Investment research request)
“I have done similar work before and attached two samples for your review. For the listed company, my approach will be to get the Q4 financials from SEC filings and management view / outlook from call transcripts. The corporate strategy will be picked up from previous 5 year annual reports, PRs, transcripts, etc with specific focus on the markets/subsegments in which the company operates and their growth in the past. Bloomberg analyst estimates will be compared with actuals to assess performance. Automotive sector trends from Reuters will be overlaid with company stock performance. I will include comparison with peers comprising of financials, strength of balance sheet, product differentiation, market share, order book status and other details which are available from management discussions and secondary sources will be used to position the company in its markets. Finally product segments will be analyzed to identify cash cows and stars with a note on the growth prospects of each segment. As requested, All data/ analysis will be placed in a professional looking presentation with a linked excel spreadsheet for further details.
For the private companies part, I will start with a press run for each company using Factiva Dow Jones (or just an extensive Google search) then I will do a search run on Hoovers or Orbis (they are quite similar but may have some data discrepancy). I will benchmark press results with database results (I may add Privco.com here). I can also make calculated estimates based on any available industry & market sizing figures.”
Address all requirements
Now that you’ve read and understood the request. it’s time to convince your potential requestor that you fit the criteria. Well thought proposals show you care enough to get the research project done right. You should ask the following questions:
- Do you already have access to the information requested?
- Have you conducted similar research? if not, what is your methodology? What makes it efficient?
- Have you specifically addressed similar requirements in similar requests? Remember, Every research request is unique, even if it is within the same category or industry. For example, is your research report delivered to a competitive intelligence analyst or to an investment manager?
- How will you go above and beyond? What if the requestor asked only for data. Will you go the extra mile and provide your insight? Will you validate the data with an analysis?
Pricing your proposal
- Break down hours and costs
- Have a specific number
- It’s recommended that you stay within a requestor's budget
Take the time to break down all the custom components and related costs then come up with a number that reflects the individual tasks (based on your itemized list of expenses) How long will it take you to fully complete the request? How many resources will you need to provide quality research work? Is the requestor’s budget reasonable?
It is highly recommended that you select a specific number and try to take out the zeros. For example, $480 is better than $500 or $ 4,150 is better than 4,000. A specific number has greater meaning because it shows that you calculated your cost exactly. The law of noneven price numbers works well in marketplaces. Additionally, you can discount Zursh commission by adding it to your bid price.
Being the lowest bid doesn't always mean that you will be selected to work on the request. In fact, it may mean that your work will be assumed to be of low quality. On the other hand, pricing your proposal bid far above the average market price may disqualify you. Instead, remember that it is always safer to stay within an average market price for a research work of similar scope and requirement.
Price your bid in relevance to what your talent and experience are worth. Provide Value for money and not price alone should decide your bid. Bring something of value to the proposed work that can't be easily done by the client or other research providers.
Note: It is okay to bid a bit higher than the request budget but your proposal has to be very unique justifying why you are adding a premium to the original price set by the requestor. If you are bidding too low because you already have access to the information requested, the request seem easy for you, or you just want to establish your practice in the marketplace you need to explain these reasons in your proposal.
- Be clear about your abilities and limitations
- Let your proposal speak for you
As an independent research professional, there’s a big temptation to oversell your skills to prospective clients and to try to convince them that your research expertise matches what they’re seeking. That’s just fine researchers are expected to make the best case possible for why they are a good fit for the request However, sometimes that proposal pitch extends into overselling your skills and promising more than you’re likely to deliver. If you win the request, this will backfire when you’re unlikely to succeed at delivering quality research promised.
You bid, research approach, portfolio quality and demonstrated interest will speak for you. There is no need to overstate your skills. It’s much better to let your requestor tell you how great you are after completing the request via our rating system.
Don’t advertise other services
The requestor is not interested in other services you offer.There are other sites, directories and sources for that. Most Zursh requestors are just interested in whether or not you can find the information they are looking for.
Zursh policy strictly prohibits any form of spamming. Spammy proposals will be removed and researchers may be notified and possibly banned from our network.
Communicating With Requestors
If you have any questions/inquiries about request content, requirements and expectations, include them in your proposal. Requestors will reply to your proposals via Zursh messaging system. If necessary, you can adjust your proposal based on any further clarifications. Once requestors select you to work on their request, you can use our messaging system to communicate and send final deliverable.
Share update and interim deliverables (after being awarded)
Early and continuous communication is a key to making a successful transaction in Zursh.
You should keep updating your requestor with progress and share any interim work.
- Give requestors early responsibility to provide feedback.
- Be transparent about expectations. If you are unable to meet deadline, inform your requestor as early as possible with a proposed course of action such as shift in prioritization or item reduction (Ideally, this should be determined prior to the research engagement).
Leverage communication to build a relationship with the requestor for repeated business.
Adapt to your requestor’s preference
Agree with your requestor on the frequency of communication (daily, weekly...etc).
External contact Information
Zursh usage policy prohibits any display of external contact information in your public profile and in your proposal. There are many channels you can use to communicate with research requestors using our platform. We don’t discourage off platform communication after you are selected by a client, but any exchange of research documents including your final deliverable should be done using our platform. This will allow us to provide you with payment protection. Also, any communication records between you and the requestor will be used in case of disputes.
Producing Research Deliverables
In your workroom use “add Deliverable” to send the final research deliverable. Use the messaging system to send interim deliverables, messages, inquiries or other additional documents and sources to support your research finding.
Spend time wisely and loop back frequently
You should check with your requestor frequently to make sure you are on the right track. There are instances when the information requested is not easily available. Make sure you track time spent digging available sources and frequently assess resources used and shift directions when needed.
Don’t rush into starting a full blown primary research until you evaluate the time needed and check with your requestor if each initiative will add value to the request and can be done within his/her time constraints. For example, few sources offer off the shelf varieties of secondary research surveys that may not be fully customized but may be worth the time saving.
Evaluate the quality of resources
Not all information is created equal. Just because you found information in a popular source, does not mean that it’s accurate.
- Validate sources using cross category benchmarking:
- Always question the original source and read the fine print.
- Share your comments on the reliability and trustworthiness of data collected and its sources.
- Ask the requestor for suggested sources
- Ask the requestor for expected sources
Skilled researchers don’t get all their data from the same source to limit any potential discrepancy. Cross category benchmarking occurs when a researcher checks multiple sources within different research categories. This process can be done manually or automated with third party tools.
You should systematically triangulate data to enhance confidence in its quality. For example, if you find data from Thomson Reuters that contradicts with a third party survey finding. Which one is a better fit to add into your financial model or presentation? Which one is more accurate? why?
Data subscriptions don’t magically create their proprietary data! Just because the data comes in beautiful graphs does not mean it is relevant. Intelligent researchers consistently ask questions about the data gathering process? You should always examine the original source of the data. For example, some databases that have private companies data have built algorithms to estimate revenues and other financial metrics based on the number of employees, industry geographies and other comparables. How do you trust this data? What if for a particular company that specific metric is already published in a recent press release?
Informing requestors with these results will not only build trust in your deliverables but will minimize quality control on their end. This will make you stand out!
Many times, the requestor has already conducted similar research. When working on his/her request, you should always ask for any suggestions on the best sources to prioritize. It is for the requestor’s benefit to suggest such sources.
Usually, the requestor can share with you research material he/she already has access to avoid duplication. However, this may not always be the case. Always ask what if the requestor already have access to the report you just found and about to process? especially if the report is easily available on the public domain. Duplication risk is one of the major transaction hurdles. One easy way to solve this is simply reminding your requestor to share any research materials prior to conducting the research.
Backup your research
Always record all sources that you have utilized to produce your final research deliverable. Make sure you include comments on reliability of outcome and any potential drawbacks.
Every delivered data qualitative and quantitative has to be backed by original documents.
This will serve multiple purposes:
- Quality control and deliverable approval will be done faster.
- Recording the original sources will prove the quality of the research work delivered; Remember that one of the main quality parameters of any research work is the quality and reliability of sources used.
Presentation is as important as content
Now that you are done conducting the research, collecting the data and compiling your analysis. How are you planning to package all your results in the deliverable and presenting it to your requestor?
Without data structure and information flow in your deliverable, all your good research work is gone! Your requestor should not “struggle” to find the information requested.
- Don’t underestimate the timing necessary for packaging
- Synthesize key findings ideally in your deliverable message. Your research deliverable should always have a summary that directly answers the main points requested and describes the findings and sources. The best deliverable always includes a datarich synthesis which ideally should be readable on a mobile phone. Structure this summary using bullet points.
- Attach the final deliverable and use the text space for the summary
- Stick to requestor’s format requirement
In your workroom, you can can use the “add deliverable” to send final research work. Remember to backup your deliverable with key documents, relevant files and any sources used during the research.
Most of research requests have a “comments” area dedicated to explain the format desired by the requestor. If the deliverable format is not clearly mentioned, ask the requestor before deciding on the presentation format. One tip: Ask requestors to share any available templates.
Recommend next steps and alternatives
- Include additional information and research material that may be relevant This is any material not specified in the original request but you think will add value to the overall research.
- Ask your requestor about the overall context of his/her request. What is this request for? How the information will be used? This will help you deliver quality useful information.
- Add value to the final research work
- If the information requested is hard to find, provide alternatives
Inform the requestor the next steps on how to read, analyze and make the most of your research finding. You can leverage your topic expertise or third party networks to add an insight to your research deliverable.
Not finding what the requestor is looking for is never a satisfactory answer. Most of the time, requestors are reaching out to you because they could not find the information in the first place. If you think that the research is not feasible, and failed to inform the requestor prior to the engagement, you should share with your requestor:
- All sources used
- Research methodology
- Suggested course of action and alternatives.
Last check before sending your final research deliverable
- Clearly state level of completeness achieved compared to what was initially agreed. Are you sending what was agreed?
- Explain how successful is your research, compared with what was originally asked. Did you answer all the points requested?
- Is the data sent accurate? How reliable are the sources used?
- Did you include all documents, files and other material to backup your finding?
- Is the format and presentation userfriendly? Did you include a summary? Did you add explanatory notes to help the requestor navigate your findings?
- Put yourself in the requestor’s shoes. What would be your reaction if you look at the final deliverable?
Suppose every research professional sends the same high quality research deliverable. How will you stand out? What will make the requestor work with you again?
Our short answer is: Provide support after the sale of your research work. For example, if you come across a research report that may be useful for a request you have already completed, you should still send it over even if the previous request transaction is closed. Your requestor will appreciate that.
Showcase your soft skills
To win the request, get repeated business and build a good reputation for you and your research practice, your soft skills are very important.
Be professional and give the requestors what you promised. If you promise a well written data rich report, then you should be able to produce an excellent research report. If you promise some short presentations using secondary sources, you should be able to give the requestor exactly what you promised. Zursh marketplace has a place for all types of researchers in this industry, and so long as you are delivering quality material at the level you’re promising.
- Your integrity is what makes your reputation.
- Be honest about your qualifications and resources
- Be transparent in your proposal
- Be specific, helpful and demonstrate that you care about your requestor’s need.
- Respect the requestor’s choices.
Best Practices Summary
- Complete your profile and add sample research work to your portfolio.
- Pitch your proposal to requests that match your qualifications, bandwidth and research capacity.
- Make your proposal customized,specifically tailored to each request.
- Communicate with your requestor before and during the research engagement.
- Evaluate the time necessary to process the research request assigned to you.
- Always backup your deliverable with original sources.
- Validate your data sources using triangulation and cross category benchmarking.
- Allocate enough time to presentation and packaging your final results.
- Support your final deliverable by generating solutions and providing analysis when appropriate.