Today, we’re going to talk about how to build your research team. 

As a new research manager, it was easy for me to think that anyone who was interested in working with us should be part of our team. However, there should be a solid rationale behind each person’s place on the team and if you can’t find that – you should look for it elsewhere. 

In this introductory guide, I’ll walk you through how my team and I put together a stellar research team and submitted a grant proposal in two short months. 

Topic Overview

Why look for a research partner? As a small business with big ideas, one of your goals is to prove out the usability of your product or service. This can commonly be accomplished through research – if you find willing collaborators and have the funding. But applying for funding is another topic for another day. 

You might want to find a research partner for one of many reasons. Research partners can offer value to your team, usually in ways that your team is lacking. 

For example, many research partners are affiliated with universities and academic institutions. If your research project involves data analysis (which it most likely will), you might look for a research partner who has expertise in data analysis or scale development. Or if your research team is strong in all aspects except for having previous experience working within that area of research, then you might want to partner with someone who has already done projects in this area. 

Whatever the reason may be, collaborating with other researchers strengthens your team and your application. The tricky part is finding the right fit. 


Your first step to finding a research partner is to have a very clear description of your proposed research – a pitch to get them onboard. Start at a high-level by introducing yourselves and the direction you want to take this proposal. 

Note: Be adaptable! By giving a general idea of the research, it may be easy to secure a partner if they see a way that this proposal can apply to their research interests too. 

Next, after you know what you’re going to say you need to find people to say it to! Start by reaching out to people you or your company already have connections with – people who have already taken an interest in your research. While you may not be able to partner with these specific people that you know, they can always refer you to a colleague that might be interested. 

If your already established contacts don’t work out, you might have to resort to sending cold emails. Cold emails are emails which you are sending to an individual you have never had contact with before. I’m sure you can see the difficulty in doing this. 

Tip: Always try and find some connection to the person you are emailing. Search for faculty at universities with research focuses that are similar to your project’s. Look into researchers’ publications and mention specific articles in your email. Find a common ground between you and this researcher and run with it.

Pro tip: You should also reach out to a few faculty members whose research does not directly relate to the project at hand because, again, they might be able to direct you to someone whose does! Also, while they may have different research interests or target populations they may just be another research project waiting to happen. More relationships with researchers = more research opportunities!

Third, set up an exploratory meeting with individuals who respond to your email. Thank the researcher for their time and interest then schedule a time to deliver your pitch. It’s important to remember you are learning as much about them as a researcher as they are learning about you – both parties want to make sure this is a good fit. 

Tip: When exchanging emails to set up a time to meet, also attach a document for them to familiarize themselves with the project prior to meeting. This might include an outline or a drafted abstract – something that provides an idea of the research and talking points during the meeting. Remember, questions are a good thing! It means they have read or listened intently and are interested in what you proposed. 

Finally, choose the right partner! If you were lucky enough to have multiple researchers interested, you want to make sure that you are choosing the best person for this project. Here is a scenario with two potential research partners that I would like you to decide on who to add to the team. 

Researcher 1: This individual is very interested in collaborating! Their research interests align with the project but their target population is different. They have an extensive background working in this research area including several publications. They have prior experience working on grant proposals but not the specific type you are applying for. 

Researcher 2: This individual has a personal interest in the research you’re proposing! They offer real-life experience and first-hand accounts relevant to your project’s research topic. Neither their research interests nor their target population match with this research. They have prior experience working on grant proposals but not the specific type you are applying for. 

Who would you choose? 

The Best Fit

Always remember that your project will benefit the most with team members who make the most sense as part of the team. This being said, Researcher 1 is the best fit from that scenario. But why? 

It’s very easy to see Researcher 2 as the best fit because of their passion and personal experience relevant to the project. However, Researcher 1 offers relevant research experience to this project. Where Researcher 1 can offer anecdotes or first-hand accounts, Researcher 2 can offer peer-reviewed publications and years of research. 

Having both researchers would be of use to this project, however when taking budget and scope of work into consideration, bringing only one onto the team makes the most sense. However, don’t forget to thank Researcher 2 for their time and offer a potential collaboration in the future! 


I hope you found this guide useful! You now have all the information needed to begin searching for a research partner. 

As you saw in the guide, the right partner may not be the most obvious choice. Always choose the person who is the best fit overall to submit the strongest application possible. 

Before you start on your recruitment journey, be sure to leave a quick comment to let us know your thoughts on “Finding the Right Research Partner: The Beginner’s Guide!”

Finding a research partner checklist for your organization!
Erica Sanchez

Erica Sanchez

Research Manager at CareBand