I have seen many market research and project briefs over the course of the years. Few are really good, some are OK and loads are rubbish! A good brief is highly important to ensure that you get what you ask for - a brilliantly run market research that answers your questions. And don't forget that you pay quite a bit of money to have those questions asked!
So, what's a good brief then? This is my very simplified content list of a good research brief. It's then up to the writer to ensure that all of the content makes sense in the end. But if you start what I've stated below you will be on your way to a good brief writer.
1. Market and project background
Provide the reader with a decent market and project background. Some things are secrets but the more you can tell the better. However, ensure to Keep It Simple Stupid! Be matter of fact with the background - no novel writing please.
2. Purpose / Research Objective
Clearly state the purpose of the market research - what is the big reason for you to spend any time or money on this project? What big question should it answer?
3. Questions (that this research should answer)
Include the big questions that the research must answer. Be very specific and clear here. I usually include a list of 10-15 questions. This helps the research agency to understand the scale of the research, the right methodology, the sample and more.
Include the timeframe and be very clear about at what different times you need your deliverables. Be realistic.
Add your thoughts (if you have any) on what sort of methodology you have in mind. If you want the research agency to suggest a methodology - say so. Also, try to be specific about whether you and your organisation are interested in something very traditional (e.g you will only accept traditional focus groups) or if you are interested in something else and perhaps a mix of disciplines to ensure that you tackle the questions as well as possible.
6. Sample and target group
Include your thoughts on the sample and the mix. Clearly state the target group for the research - this is very important! If you aren't specific here the research agency cannot provide you with good information regarding the costing.
7. Other issues to consider
Here you include information on other things that may have an impact on the project. E.g. you may have a consumer segmentation that you want to research agency to use when they write the recruitment spec. You may also have another project that will have an impact on the research - to ensure that the agency allows time in the timeframe for you and the team to look into that data/information.
State who's in the project management team and their roles.
I think that is all, but I might add to this list again. Don't forget to finish your brief with information regarding which day you expect an answer and how you would liek that answer (presentation in person, powerpoint, etc).
Good luck with your brief writing!