Problem Definition

A market research programme arises from the need to address a problem or a business need. When the problem is not clearly understood, it is useful to first identify the symptoms, consider the possible causes and the actions that could be taken to resolve the problem. Ultimately some decisions need to be made, and the purpose of the research is to guide decision makers and mitigate their risks.

Once a problem is understood it may be defined by explicitly articulating the business issue, the business objectives that the research needs to address, and the research objectives. A research proposal should start by outlining these objectives.

Descriptive and Inferential Problems

From the previous chapter we know that different forms of research address different types of business needs. Quantitative research can find answers to questions such as: How many people use my brand? What is my brand’s brand equity? Is it rising or falling? This type of problem is called descriptive — it describes or summarizes observations.

Quant is also well suited for inferential problems that interpret the meaning of some descriptive measure or verify a hypothesis. For instance — What are the factors driving brand equity? Do more consumers prefer product formulation ‘A’ over formulation ‘B’? A research question becomes a hypothesis when it is rephrased as a statement that can be proved or disproved. For instance, the prior question may be rephrased as the hypothesis — more consumers prefer product formulation ‘A’ over formulation ‘B’.

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