Exploratory, Descriptive, and Causal Research Designs
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Focus groups are sufficient research tools for most decision problems.ST RONG LY DI SAGR E E
STR ONGLY AGR E E
Learning Objectives 1. Describe the major emphasis of each of the three basic types of research design. 2. Describe the key characteristics and basic uses of exploratory research. 3. Discuss the various types of exploratory research and describe each. 4. Discuss the difference between cross-sectional and longitudinal descriptiveresearch designs.
5. 6. 7.
Explain the difference between a continuous panel and a discontinuous panel. Clarify the difference between laboratory experiments and field experiments. Distinguish among a standard test market, a controlled test market, and a simulated test market.
INTRODUCTIONA research design is the framework or plan for a study used as a guide in collecting and analyzing data. There are three basic types of research design: exploratory, descriptive, and causal. In this chapter, well discuss these types of research design, give some examples, and note when each might be important.
TYPES OF RESEARCH DESIGNThe names of the three types of research design describe their purpose very well. The goal of exploratory research is to discover ideas and insights. Descriptive research is usually concerned with describing a population with respect to important variables. Causal research is used to establish cause-and-effect relationships between variables. Experiments are commonly used in causal research designs because they are best suited to determine cause and effect. The popular crime investigation television shows (e.g., CSI: Crime Scene Investigation) provide a fairly good illustration of the three types of research
design. These shows usually begin with a crime that must be investigated (an unplanned change has occurred in the marketplace). The first step is to search for clues that can help establish what has happened (exploratory research). The clues uncovered in the exploratory phase of the investigation often point toward a particular hypothesis or explanation of the events that occurred, and investigators begin to focus their efforts in this direction, conducting interviews with witnesses and suspects (descriptive research). Finally, a trial is held to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to convict a suspect of the crime (causal research). Almost all marketing research projects include exploratory and descriptive research. How much of each is necessary depends mostly on how much managers already know about the issue to be studied. When a decision problem has arisen from unplanned changes in the environment, there is usually a need for exploratory
exploratory researchDesign in which the major emphasis is on gaining ideas and insights.
descriptive researchResearch design in which the major emphasis is on determining the frequency with which something occurs or the extent to which two variables covary.
causal researchResearch design in which the major emphasis is on determining cause-and-eect relationships.
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continuous process. Exhibit 3.1 shows the interrelationships.
EXPLORATORY RESEARCH JESSICA BURSTEIN/NBCU PHOTO BANK VIA AP IMAGES
research to better understand what is happening and why it is happening. Sometimes, however, managers know a lot about the situationthey understand the key issues and know what questions need to be askedand the focus quickly shifts to descriptive research that is geared more toward providing answers than generating initial insights. Unlike crime investigations, however, in business situations managers are often perfectly happy with a most likely result produced by descriptive research. Only occasionally do they choose to establish cause-and-effect relationships through causal research. As you can probably tell, the three basic research designs can be viewed as stages in a
Exploratory research is conducted to provide a better understanding of a situation. It isnt designed to come up with final answers or decisions. Through exploratory research, researchers hope to produce hypotheses about what is going on in a situation. hypothesis A hypothesis is a A statement that statement that dedescribes how two or more variables are scribes how two or more variables are related. related. For example, if sales for a particular line of vehicles dropped during the latest quarter, as a researcher you might use exploratory research to provide insights about what caused the decrease in revenue. Suppose that you conducted interviews with potential car buyers and noticed that they seemed to be more excited about the new styles of other car brands than they were about the brand in question. This might lead to the hypothesis that style preferences had changed, resulting in lower sales. You cant really confirm or reject the hypothesis with exploratory research, though. That job is left for descriptive
EXHIBIT 3.1Relationships among Research Designs
A RECENT GALLUP POLL REGARDING U.S. BUSINESS SECTORS SHOWED THAT THE COMPUTER INDUSTRY RATED MOST POSITIVELY AT 60%, FOLLOWED BY THE RESTAURANT INDUSTRY AT 57%.
2012 Cengage Learning
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and/or causal research (these are often called quantitative research). This is an important point, so well stress it again: Exploratory research (sometimes referred to as qualitative research) shouldnt be expected to provide answers to the decision problem that you are attempting to solve for a client. It can provide very rich, meaningful informationor even definitive explanationsfor particular individuals (I hate the old-fashioned styling of that car; thats why I wont buy one), but exploratory research doesnt provide definitive answers for the overall population. There are two reasons for this: (1) Exploratory research usually involves only a relatively small group of people, and (2) these people are almost never randomly selected to participate. In addition to developing one or more hypotheses about actual (or potential) causes of changes in the marketing environment for an organization, exploratory research is also useful for other purposes. Sometimes its necessary for helping define the problem, in particular, the research problems that might be addressed. There are often several possible hypotheses about a given marketing phenomenon, and exploratory research can help you identify which research problem(s) ought to be pursued. Exploratory research is also used to increase a researchers familiarity with a problem, especially when the researcher doesnt know much about the organization and/or problem to be studied. Regardless of the particular methods employed, exploratory studies should almost always be relatively small in size. You simply cant afford to devote the bulk of the research budget to exploratory research. And because we often dont know a lot at the beginning of a project, exploratory studies are very flexible with regard to the methods used for
gaining insights and developing hypotheses. Basically, anything goes! Although there are a number of common types of exploratory research, be creative and follow your intuition.
Types of Exploratory ResearchSome of the more popular methods of exploratory research include literature searches, depth interviews, focus groups, and case analyses (see Exhibit 3.2).
Literature Search One of the quickest and least costly ways to disliterature search cover hypotheses is to conduct a A search of popular literature search. Almost all marketpress (newspapers, ing research projects should start here. magazines, etc.), There is an incredible amount of infortrade literature, academic literature, mation available in libraries, through or published online sources, in commercial data statistics from bases, and so on. The literature search research rms or governmental may involve popular press (newspaagencies for data pers, magazines, etc.), trade literature, or insight into the academic literature, or published staproblem at hand. tistics from research firms or governmental agencies such as the U.S. Census Bureau. Years ago, Miller Business Systems, Inc., used published industry sources to develop profiles of its competitors, which it then kept in its database. The company regularly scanned the database to monitor competitive actions. One day, they noticed that a competitor had hired nine furniture salespeople in a 10-day period, tipping them off that the competitor was about to make a push in the office-furniture market. They quickly scheduled extra sales calls and were able to hold on to their accounts.1 Depth Interviews Its important to start with a good literature search, but at some point
EXHIBIT 3.2Common Types of Exploratory Research
Literature Search 2012 Cengage Learning
CHAPTER 3: E X P LO R ATO R Y, D E S C R I P T I V E , A N D C A U S A L R E S E A R C H D E S I G N S
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AN ANALYSIS OF CENSUS DATA BY PEW RESEARCH CENTER SHOWS THAT ABOUT 17% OF U.S. WOMEN WERE CHILDLESS AT AGE 40 COMPARED TO 22% IN ENGLAND.youll probably want to talk to people and ask questions. Depth interviews depth are used to tap the knowledge and interviews Interviews experience of those with information with people relevant to the problem or opportuknowledgeable nity at hand. Anyone with relevant about the general information is a potential candidate subject being investigated. for a d