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Problem Definition and the Research Proposal Reference: Zikmund & Babin, Chapter 5

King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals Department of Management and Marketing MKT 345 - Marketing Research by Dr. Alhassan G. Abdul-Muhmin. Problem Definition and the Research Proposal Reference: Zikmund & Babin, Chapter 5. Learning Objectives.

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Problem Definition and the Research Proposal Reference: Zikmund & Babin, Chapter 5

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  1. King Fahd University of Petroleum & MineralsDepartment of Management and Marketing MKT 345 - Marketing Researchby Dr. Alhassan G. Abdul-Muhmin Problem Definition and the Research Proposal Reference: Zikmund & Babin, Chapter 5

  2. Learning Objectives At the end of the discussion you should be able to: • explain why proper problem definition is important in research • identify the components of a properly defined research problem definition • translate a managerial decision statement into a relevant research problem/objective • explain what a research proposal is and outline its contents • explain why it is important to write a research proposal

  3. IMPORTANCE OF PROBLEM DEFINITION • A problem well defined is half solved • “The formulation of the problem is often more essential than its solution.” (Albert Einstein) • How the problem is framed determines what solution is obtained • The two Christian priests of yesteryear • The two groups of Saudi youth and the punctured tires • The research problem drives subsequent stages of the research process • Proper problem definition ensures that the research results will meet decision maker’s objectives

  4. (1) Understand the business situation – identify the key symptoms Determine unit of analysis Identify (Isolate) the problems from symptoms Determine relevant variables Write managerial decision statement and corresponding research purpose State research questions/objectives and/or hypotheses The Process of Problem Definition

  5. The Process of Problem Definition:1. Understand the Business Decision • Researcher needs to understand: • the decision maker’s objectives (i.e. desirable end-states that the decision maker hopes to achieve within a future time frame) for conducting the research • the business context in which the decision maker operates objectives • Can be achieved by conducting a situation analysis - informal gathering of background information to familiarize the researcher and manager with the decision-making environment situation. • Useful guidelines are: • Develop many alternative problem statements • Think about potential solutions to the problems • Use free-association techniques to generate lists of ideas • Be open-minded. Consider all plausible ideas

  6. The Process of Problem Definition:2. Isolate Symptoms from Problem • Symptom – the sign (indicator) that something is wrong (e.g. sales decline) • Problem – the actual reasons (possible causes) for the discrepancy between what is (current situation) and what is desired (e.g. lack of motivation among salespeople) • Tackling the symptoms may not necessarily solve the problem, the real (root) causes must be identified and tackled • See next slide for example of differences between symptoms and problems, and Exhibit 5.4 for link with decision statements

  7. Isolating Problems from Symptoms Problem Definition Organization Symptoms Based on Symptom Probable True Problem Twenty-year-old neighborhood swimming association seeks research help • Membership has been declining for years. • Less frequent usage among members • Increased attendance at new water park with wave pool and water slides that moved into town a few years ago. Neighborhood residents prefer the water park • Demographic changes: • Swim facility is outdated and does not appeal to younger families • Younger families and children have negative image of the pool. • Older residents no longer swim anywhere.

  8. The Process of Problem Definition:3. Write Managerial Decision Statements and Corresponding Research Objectives • Decision statements capture the researcher’s understanding of the decision maker’s objectives (reasons) for seeking the research • Essentially involves stating the information that is needed to help make the decision • Decision statements must then be translated into research objectives (the deliverables of the research) • See Exhibit 5.5 for link between decision statements and research objectives

  9. The Process of Problem Definition: 4. Determine Unit of Analysis • Unit of Analysis – The target population from whom data needs to be collected to serve the research objectives • These could be: • Individuals (maybe even further classified by demographics, geographic location, etc) • Households • Organizational customers (e.g. retailers, wholesalers) • Competitors • Etc • Sometimes a single research problem may require investigation at one or more levels of analysis

  10. The Process of Problem Definition:5.Determine Relevant Variables • Variable - Anything that may assume different values among members of the target population, e.g. age, level of satisfaction, etc • Variables can be : • Categorical or continuous • Dependent or independent • Variable classifications have implications for data analysis • A hypothesis is an unproven statement (or a guess) about the nature of relationships between variables or possible solution to a problem

  11. The Process of Problem Definition:6. State Research Questions and Objectives • Research Objectives • Goals that the research is designed to achieve • Research Questions • Questions for which the research is designed to provide answers • The researcher’s translation of the managerial (marketing) problem into a specific inquiry • Research questions and research objectives often differ only in terms of phrasing (whether as a question or a statement) • Research objectives should be stated both in broad and specific terms to give: • Broad research objective, and • Specific research objectives

  12. SUMMARY:COMPONENTS (CONTENTS) OF THE MKTING RESEARCH PROBLEM DEFINITION • Unit of analysis Target population from whom data is to be collected, e.g. individual consumers, households, retailers, organizational customers, etc • Key Variables, Constructs, and/or Concepts • Anything that may assume different values among members of the target population, e.g. age, level of satisfaction, etc • Variables can be categorical or continuous; dependent or independent • Research objectives (questions) stating what variables (constructs/concepts) will be measured for what units of analyses • Broad Objective – Provides perspective (the big picture) • Specific Objectives – Provide clear guidelines on how to proceed with the research

  13. THE RESEARCH PROPOSAL • A written statement of the research design (strategy, blueprint) that often also includes • a statement explaining the purpose of the study (in the form of research objectives or deliverables) • a definition of the problem (often in the form of a decision statement) • the particular research methodology that will be employed • details of procedures that will be used during each stage of the research process, and • a schedule of costs and deadlines

  14. Contents of the Research Proposal • Purpose of the research • The general purpose (includes the marketing problem and the research problem) • Specific research objectives to be achieved with the study (including clear specification of variables involved) • Research Design • Specific research method (or methods) to be used • Justification for choice of methods • Measurement • How variables will be measured • Sample questions • Sample Design • What the target population will be • How the sample will be selected • What size of sample will be used

  15. Contents of the Research Proposal - Continued • Data gathering • How the data will be collected and by who. • Data Processing/Analysis • How the data will be processed • What analysis techniques will be used for specific research objectives • Presentation of Results • How results will be presented • Written report • Oral presentation • Time Schedule • Time schedule for completion of the study (if possible in the form of a Gantt Chart) • Budget • Overall cost of the study (including breakdown of different cost components)

  16. TIME FROM START OF STUDY (WEEKS) RESEARCH ACTIVITY 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 DISTRIBUTOR STUDY 1. Observation and store audits 2. Depth interviews CONSUMER STUDY 3. Focus Group Interviews 4. Observation of consumer shopping 5. Consumer Survey 6. Data analysis and report writing 7. Oral presentation Time Schedule

  17. Functions of a Research Proposal For Management (the client): • Evaluation • It helps the client to evaluate the ability of the research to accomplish its objectives • Choosing research suppliers • Client judges quality of different research suppliers from their proposals • Judgment standard • It is a standard for determining if the research was conducted as planned

  18. Functions of a Research Proposal For the Researcher: • Thinking ahead • It forces the researcher to think through the different stages of the research process • Bidding document • It serves as the researcher’s bid to offer a specific service For Both Parties: • Communication • It serves as a means of communication between the researcher and the client (decision maker) • Written Contract • It serves as a written contract that can always be referred to

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