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Chapter 2

Introducing types of research

Suggested solutions to end of chapter questions
1. In what ways can research be classified?
Research can be described or classified according to:
the nature of the research enquiry exploratory, descriptive and explanatory or causal
the mode of data collection continuous and ad hoc research;
the type of data qualitative and quantitative research;
the status or source of the data primary and secondary research;
the method of data collection face-to-face, telephone, postal and Internet research;
the way in which the research is bought or sold syndicated or customised research;
the nature of the market or population under investigation for example, consumer,
industrial, business-to-business or social research.
2. Describe briefly what is meant by the terms exploratory, descriptive and causal
Exploratory research
Exploratory research is, as its name suggests, research undertaken to explore an issue or a
topic. It is particularly useful in helping to identify a problem, clarify the nature of a
problem or define the issues involved. It can be used to develop propositions and
hypotheses for further research, to look for new insights or to reach a greater
understanding of an issue. For example, you might conduct exploratory research to
understand how consumers react to new product concepts or ideas for advertising, or
what business executives mean when they talk about entrepreneurship, or to help define
what is meant by the term elder abuse.
Descriptive research
A lot of market and social research is about description as well as exploration finding
the answers to the Who? What? Where? When? How? and How many? questions. While
exploratory research can provide description, the purpose of descriptive research is to
answer more clearly defined research questions. Descriptive research aims to build a
picture of a market, a set of customers, a social phenomenon, a set of experiences, for
example. It aims to identify, describe and in some cases count things. It can be used to
examine some of the key issues facing marketers and policy makers.
Causal or explanatory research
Causal or explanatory research addresses the why questions: Why do people choose brand
A and not brand B? Why are some customers satisfied with our service and others not?
Why do some prisoners use drugs and others not? What might explain this? We design

explanatory or causal research to answer these types of questions, to allow us to rule out
rival explanations and come to a conclusion, to help us develop causal explanations.
3. Describe what is meant by the terms primary and secondary research. Give examples
of the use of each type.
Primary research is designed to generate or collect data for a specific problem; the data
collected primary data do not exist prior to data collection. Secondary data are data
that were originally collected for a purpose other than the current research objectives in
revisiting them you are putting the data to a second use. Searching for, analysing and
using secondary data is called secondary research.
The role of primary research is to generate data to address the information needs in
relation to a specific problem or issue. If there are no pre-existing data available, you
need to conduct primary research. For example, say that you have just devised a new
advertisement for your product, you will need to conduct primary research to understand
how it is working. Or say that you have introduced a health screening service and you
want to find out how satisfied users are with it, then you need to conduct primary
research. No data exist which will address either of these issues.
The role of secondary research is very often exploratory and/or descriptive. For example,
secondary research might be used to explore the background to a problem or issue, to
describe its wider context, to help define the problem or issue, or to generate hypotheses
or ideas. For example, consulting the data from a study you conducted the last time you
made changes your product or service to help you understand or set in context issues
related to current changes is a form of secondary research. Analysing sales data to
determine the impact of the changes is secondary research. Searching the literature on a
topic to reach a greater understanding of the issues involved, or to help develop interview
questions or a framework for analysis is secondary research.
4. What are the main differences between qualitative and quantitative research? What
are the strengths and weaknesses of each type? For what sorts of research enquiry is
qualitative research most useful? Give examples.
The main differences between qualitative and quantitative research are summarised in the
Table 2.1 below.

Table 2.1 Differences between quantitative and qualitative research

Research enquiry
Nature of questions and

Sample size
Data collection



Quantitative research
Exploratory, descriptive and
Who, what, when, where,
how many?
Relatively superficial and
rational responses
Measurement, testing and
Relatively large
Not very flexible
Interviews and observation
More closed questions

Qualitative research
Exploratory and descriptive

Numbers, percentages,
Less detail or depth
Nomothetic description
Context poor
High reliability, low validity
Statistical inference
Relatively low cost per
respondent but relatively
high project cost

Words, pictures

Below the surface and
emotional responses
Understanding, exploration
and idea generation
Relatively small
Interviews and observation
Less standardised
More open-ended questions

Detailed and in-depth

Ideographic description
Context rich
High validity, low reliability
Statistical inference not
Relatively high cost per
respondent but relatively
low project cost

Neither qualitative nor quantitative research is inherently better than the other. One or
other may be better suited to addressing a particular research problem, however. For
example, a strength of qualitative research is in providing rich and detailed description
(ideographic), understanding and insight; a strength of quantitative research is in
addressing the how many type questions, in measuring and providing accurate estimates
of population parameters. The less structured and less standardised approach taken in
qualitative research can mean that findings are relatively low in reliability (this is
something that qualitative researchers acknowledge and take steps to address). Also,
because of the small sample sizes common in qualitative research, findings are not
representative in the statistical sense, although it is possible to generalise the findings
from the sample to the wider population. Quantitative research is not as flexible as
qualitative. The structured, standardised approach can produce superficial rather than
detailed description and understanding. There is a risk of losing out on real responses
as well as context and detail through the use of closed questions; with standardisation
there is a chance of missing slight differences in response between respondents. Both of
these can contribute to low validity.

Qualitative research is most useful in exploratory and descriptive research enquiries. It is

useful in developing ideas for products, services and advertising, for example, and for
understanding social issues. It is useful in providing information to help guide and
develop policy and strategy for business, for marketing, advertising and
communications, and for development of social policy. It is useful for evaluating policies
and strategies, and the implementation of them. It is also useful when used in
conjunction with quantitative research, to generate and develop ideas or hypotheses; to
define the issues under investigation; and to find out how people think and feel and
behave, how they talk about an issue or a product. It is also useful in exploring the
findings of a quantitative study in greater depth, providing a wider context in which to
understand and interpret them.
5. Describe what is meant by the following terms, giving examples of the use of each
type of research:
(a) continuous research
Continuous research, as its name suggests, is research done on a continuous basis or at
regular intervals in order to monitor changes over time, for example, in a particular
market or among a particular population. The most common way of conducting
continuous research is to use a panel of respondents chosen to represent the target
population; data are collected from panel members at regular intervals. The panel can be
made up of individuals or households, often called consumer panels, or it can be made up
of businesses or other organisations, for example, retail panels are made up of a sample of
retail outlets.
Continuous data can also be derived from independent samples of the same population,
samples that are recruited anew for each round of fieldwork. For example, omnibus
studies and advertising tracking studies, or product tests where the same methodology is
used on similar or identical samples, can provide continuous data. Examples of this type
of continuous or regular research include the General Household Survey and the National
Food Survey, both conducted on behalf of the UK Government.
(b) ad hoc research
Ad hoc (Latin for 'this special purpose) research is conducted on a one-off basis, to
provide a snapshot at a particular point in time. It is usually designed to address a
specific problem or to help understand a particular issue at a certain point in time. For
example, you might commission ad hoc research among employees to determine
satisfaction with their new office accommodation, or to understand the issues faced by
overseas students in their first few months at university, or to gauge whether your latest
television advertisement is communicating key product messages to the target market.
The types of studies that come under the heading ad hoc research include advertising
pre-tests and communication testing, usage and attitudes studies, hall tests, store tests,
market mix tests and brand/price trade-off research.

(c) syndicated research

Syndicated or multi-client research refers to research that has been put together by an
organisation (usually a specialist research organisation) and sold to a number of different
clients, to whom it may be equally relevant. For example, a financial services
organisation with a small research budget may buy into a syndicated advertising tracking
study along with several other financial services organisations as a cost effective way of
finding out how its advertising is playing with its target market. Omnibus surveys are a
form of syndicated research, with clients buying space for their questions (for which it
may not be feasible to conduct an ad hoc survey) alongside questions placed by other
clients. Continuous research can be expensive and is often syndicated in order to spread
the cost.
(d) customised research
Customised research is research that is commissioned by a single organisation, usually to
meet their research objectives alone. Most ad hoc projects are customised. For example,
a product or advertising test is classed as an ad hoc project; the evaluation of a pilot
program for the provision of a new service is an ad hoc project.