This chapter provides an overview of the research process and sets the stage for coming chapters.
This ad from Greenfield Online suggests that well-executed research can save a company from making a costly mistake on new product introductions.
Exhibit 3-1 models the sequence of stages in the research process. It also organizes this chapter and the introduces the remaining chapters in the book. Chapter 5 focuses on Stage 2: Proposing Research. Chapters 6-15 focus on Stage 3: Research Design. Chapter 16 focuses on Stage 4: Data Collection. Chapters 17-20 focus on Stage 5: Data Analysis. Chapter 21 focuses on Stage 6: Reporting.
A useful way to approach the research process is to state the basic dilemma that prompts the research and then try to develop other questions by progressively breaking down the original question into more specific ones. This process can be thought of as the management-research question hierarchy. The process begins at the most general level with the management dilemma. This is usually a symptom of an actual problem, such as rising costs, declining sales, or a large number of defects. Exhibit 3-2 illustrates the formulation of the research question for MindWriter. A management question is a restatement of the manager’s dilemma in question form. A research question is the hypothesis that best states the objective of the research; the question that focuses the researcher’s attention. An investigative question is the question the researcher must answer to satisfactorily answer the research question. A measurement question is the question asked of the participant or the observations that must be recorded.
The management-research question hierarchy process is designed to move the researcher through various levels of questions, each with a specific function within the overall marketing research process. This multi-step process is illustrated in the slide. An example is provided on the following slide. The role of exploration in this process is depicted in Exhibit 3-4, located on Slide 3-9.
This slide depicts how exploration leads back into the formulation of management questions and research questions. Examples of management questions are provided on the next slide.
This exhibit shows examples of management questions that might flow from general questions.
A research question best states the objective of the marketing research study. Incorrectly defining the research question is the fundamental weakness in the marketing research process. After the exploration process is complete, the researcher must fine-tune the research question. At this point, the research question will have evolved in some fashion. It will have better focus. In addition to fine-tuning the original question, other research question-related activities should be addressed in this phase to enhance the direction of the project. Examine variables to be studied and assess whether they are operationally defined. Review the research questions to break them down into second and third-level questions. If hypotheses are used, be sure they meet the quality tests. Determine what evidence must be collected to answer the various questions and hypotheses. Set the scope of the study by stating what is not a part of the research question.
Investigative questions represent the information that the marketing decision maker needs to know. In developing a list of investigative questions, keep these things in mind.
Once the research is defined, the research must be proposed in order to allocate resources to the project. There are three types of budgets in organizations where research is purchased and cost containment is crucial. Rule-of-thumb budgeting involves taking a fixed percentage of some criterion. For example, a percentage of the prior year’s sales revenues may be the basis for determining the business research budget for a manufacturer. Departmental (functional area) budgeting allocates a portion of total expenditures in the unit to research activities. This allows units like human resources and marketing to have the authority to approve their own projects Task budgeting selects specific research projects to support on an ad hoc basis. This is the least pro-active form but permits definitive cost-benefit analysis.
A Gantt chart is a common project planning tool that reveals summary tasks, benchmarking milestones, and detailed tasks against a time frame for the overall project. Tasks may be color coded to indicate a particular team member’s responsibilities. Many project-management software packages include Gantt charting. The chart may be used to monitor projects to keep them on time, as well as to alert the client or manager to steps requiring their approval—and what happens to the project’s schedule if approval is not forthcoming when it is needed.
Managers are increasingly asked to prove that research meets ROI objectives. Conceptually, the value of research is not difficult to determine. It may be judged in terms of the difference between the result of decisions made with the information and the result that would be made without it. This application cannot be measured, though. Option analysis : Managers conduct formal analysis of each alternative research project judged in terms of estimated costs and associated benefits and with managerial judgment playing a major role. Decision theory : The focus is on trying to assess the outcomes of each action. The manager chooses the action that affords the best outcome – the action criteria that meets or exceeds whatever criteria are established. Each criterion is a combination of a decision rule and a decision variable. The decision rule is a criterion for judging the attractiveness of two or more alternatives when using a decision variable. The decision variable is a quantifiable characteristic, attribute, or outcome on which a choice decision will be made. The evaluation of alternatives requires that each alternative is explicitly stated, a decision variable is defined by an outcome that may be measured, and a decision rule is determined by which outcomes may be compared. Prior or Interim Evaluation: In this case, managers decide to control the research expenditure risk by doing a study in stages. Costs are then reviewed at each stage. Ex Post Facto Evaluation: This form occurs after the research is conducted but can be useful in guiding future decisions.
A written proposal is often required and is desirable for establishing agreement on a number of issues. These issues are named in the slide. A research proposal may also be oral. This is more likely when a manager directs his or her own research. Students have an example of an external proposal on their text CD.
Stage 3 encompasses the design of the research project. There are three components to this stage: research design, sampling design, and pilot testing. Research design is the blueprint for fulfilling objectives and providing the insight to answer the management dilemma. There are many methods, techniques, procedures, and protocols possible. Chapter 6 identifies various research designs and Chapters 7-14 discuss specific methodologies. Another step in planning the research project is to identify the target population and determine whether a sample or census is desired. A census is a count of all elements in a population. A sample is a group of cases, participants, events, or records that constitute a portion of the target population. The researcher must determine whether to choose a probability or nonprobability sample. Types of samples, sample frames, how samples are drawn, and the determination of sample size are discussed in Chapters 15. A pilot test is conducted to test weaknesses in the research methodology and the data collection instrument and to provide proxy data for selection of a probability sample. Chapter 14 focuses on instrument development and pilot testing is discussed.
Stage 4 deals with data collection and preparation. Data may be characterized by their abstractness, verifiability, elusiveness, and closeness to the phenomenon. As abstractions, data are more metaphorical than real. For instance, the growth in GDP cannot be readily observed. Second, data are processed by our senses. When sensory experiences consistently produce the same result, our data are said to be trustworthy. Capturing data is elusive. Secondary data are originally collected to address a problem other than the one which require the manager’s attention at the moment. Primary data are data the research collects to address the specific problem at hand.
Data analysis usually involves these four actions. Researchers then interpret their findings in light of the research questions and hypotheses. The raw data alone cannot provide the insights necessary to improve decision-making. Motorola and Rock the Vote teamed up during the 2004 presidential election to use cell phone surveys to track young voters’ changing perceptions during the campaign. The PicProfile on this research is on p. 88.
In reporting the results, the researcher should strive to provide insightful information adapted to the client’s needs and to choose words carefully when crafting interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations. The research report should include an executive summary, research overview, implementation strategies, and a technical appendix. The executive summary consists of a synopsis of the problem, findings, and recommendations. The overview of research explains the background, exploratory findings from secondary data, the research design and procedures, and the conclusions. The implementation strategies section expands on recommendations. A technical appendix contains all the materials necessary to replicate the project.
This slide presents the components of the research overview section of a research report.
Researchers must remain objective. The slide presents common problems in the research process. The favored-technique syndrome occurs when researchers are method-bound. They recast management questions so that it is amenable to their favorite method. Company database strip-mining means that managers may feel that they do not want to collect more data until they have thoroughly evaluated all existing data. While data mining can be a good starting point, it will rarely address all questions related to a specific management dilemma. Not all management questions are researchable and not all research questions are answerable. An ill-defined problem is one that addresses complex issues and cannot be expressed easily or completely. Sometimes a research study is intended to win approval for a pet idea or to protect a decision maker. In these cases, it may be more difficult to get support for the most appropriate research design.
Chapter 3 The Business Research Process: An Overview 3-