What is socially sensitive research?

Socially sensitive research is where the topics being researched are likely to evoke strong emotional responses from participants, or where there are potential consequences or implications for the community involved.

For example, a study that looks at the merits of day care for infants compared to full-time parental care can have broad social implications and be considered socially sensitive.

Acumen is a market research agency skilled and experienced at socially sensitive research. We are trusted partners for organisations conducting societal or public policy research that needs to be handled with care and expertise.

If you’d like to discuss your socially sensitive research or find out more about us, please get in touch with our Social Research Team on 0161 234 9940 or via the link below. 



Why you need social research experts

Social research – and specifically socially sensitive research – is a highly specialised area of market research. Clients need research agencies that specialise in this area to feel secure in the handling of the research project and the reliability of its findings.

Socially sensitive research requires fieldworkers to go the extra mile, and beyond, to find exactly the right participants for a study.

Often, it’s the case with socially sensitive research that these participants are hard to find or have a very niche set of characteristics. They may be reluctant to engage with some institutions.

For example, your social research may require participants from social, ethinc or age groups who may be beyond the reach of traditional market research fieldwork. 

Existing contacts and traditional methods of recruitment may not be enough. That’s when you’ll need the expertise of social research specialists.


Acumen’s social research team

Acumen is an award-winning fieldwork and market research agency that excels at recruitment of hard-to-reach participants. We have a global reach and our specialisms include healthcare market research, social research and B2B research.

What do these three fields have in common? They all call for sensitive handling of participants, strong ties with communities and organisations, and a flexibility of approach.

Our Social Research Team has more than 15 years’ collective experience of recruitment between them. Acumen’s extensive participants’ database gives us access to more than 150,000 people across multiple demographics. 

And we have a strong presence on social media which helps us identify groups and individuals who match your brief exactly. Social media is particularly helpful for engaging younger age groups.

Acumen’s exclusive Acumonitor system verifies each participant to be sure they match a client’s criteria so that data / insights they provide is of the highest standard.


Award-winning social research agency

We are proud to have won a number of industry awards for our fieldwork and research, in particular our face-to-face research. 

We have also been nominated for an award for our social research with marginalised groups in a wide-reaching study of the effects of the pandemic on access to government services.

You can read more about this project in our Marginalised Voices case study.

It demonstrates how we go the extra mile to find hard-to-reach participants for research, and the ways we use sensitivity and strong interpersonal skills to engage participants and make them feel safe and listened to.


Key considerations in socially delicate research

Our expert team at Acumen is aware of ethical implications of socially sensitive research, as well as the need to conduct it thoughtfully yet robustly.

Here are just a few things that we consider when designing research that might be considered socially sensitive.

The research question

If the research is conducted among marginalised groups, is there unconscious bias in the question due to lack of representation among the researchers themselves? Getting the right starting point for the client’s research is the key and forms part of our early work on your brief.

The methodology

  • Researchers should be aware that the questions may provoke strong emotional responses. Participants need to be handled sensitively as a result.
  • Researchers need to choose the right type of data-gathering methods and forums. 
  • Data protection of participants’ details and answers needs to be robust. 

Analysis and interpretation

  • Unconscious bias can also play a role in interpretation of data, which good social researchers like the team at Acumen will be aware of and mitigate against. 
  • Responsible social researchers always need to consider how their findings might be interpreted and applied in the real-world.

Hopefully this page has answered your questions about socially sensitive research. If you’d like to find out more about socially sensitive research and our work in this area, please get in touch.

You can also look at the resources below to better understand Acumen’s outstanding socially sensitive research, and what we can offer to your organisation. 

We look forward to partnering with you and delivering high-quality social research to achieve the results you need. 

Contact our Social Research Team on 0161 234 9940 for a quote, or get in touch using the contact form on our website, below.