Zikmund 4e Marketing Research

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Zikmund 4eMarketing ResearchInstructor’s Manual02-1
© 2017 Cengage Learning Pty Ltd
Chapter 2
Problem definition and the
research process
Learning objectivesDiscuss the nature of decision-makers’ objectives and their role in defining the research
Understand that proper problem definition is essential for effective marketing research.
Understand the importance of identifying key variables.
Discuss how formulating research questions and hypotheses clarifies problem definition.
Discuss the influence of stating the marketing problem on the specific research objectives.
Explain the purposes of the research proposal.
Chapter summaryPart two of the text consists of the second chapter only. Thinking in terms of marketing
problems is explained within the context of the first stage of the marketing research process (i.e.
the process of defining the problem). The importance of developing clear research questions,
hypothesis and objectives is emphasised. The amount of time researchers should set aside to
define the problem is also considered. The chapter concludes with a brief overview of research
proposal content and the use of dummy tables.
Teaching notes
The nature of marketing problems
A decision-maker’s degree of uncertainty influences decisions about the type of research that
will be conducted. A marketing manager may be completely certain about the situation they are
facing; however, at the other extreme a manager or researcher may describe a decision-making
situation as ambiguous (where there is no clarity, the objectives are vague and the alternatives
are difficult to define). This is the most difficult decision situation. Most marketing decision
situations fall between these two extremes.
Zikmund 4eMarketing ResearchInstructor’s Manual02-2
© 2017 Cengage Learning Pty Ltd
The importance of proper problem definition
Marketing research is conducted to help solve managerial problems. It is extremely important to
define the marketing problem carefully because the definition will determine the purpose of the
research and, ultimately, the research design.
Formal qualitative research should not begin until the problem has been clearly defined.
However, when a problem or opportunity is discovered, managers may have vague insights
about the complex situation. If the researchers conduct quantitative research before they
understand exactly what is important, then they may draw false conclusions from the
Problem definition indicates a specific marketing decision area that will be clarified by
answering some research questions.
Teaching tip:Draw nine dots on the whiteboard, as a 3 x 3 square. Ask students to join all dots
without taking their pen off the paper. It can be done easily, it just requires going outside the
square, as shown in the answer for discussion question three. This exercise highlights the need
to think ‘outside the square’ in order to fulfil an objective. A good researcher tackles problems
The process of defining the problem
The process of defining the problem involves six interrelated steps:
1.Ascertain the decision-maker’s objectives.
2.Understand the background of the problem.
3.Isolate and identify the problem, not the symptoms.
4.Determine the unit of analysis.
5.Determine the relevant variables.
6.State the research questions (hypotheses) and research objectives.
Ascertain the decision-makers’ objectives
The research investigation must attempt to satisfy the decision-maker’s objectives. Sometimes,
decision-makers are not able to articulate precise research objectives. Both the research
investigator and the manager requesting the research should try to have a clear understanding
of the purpose of the research. Often, exploratory research (illuminating the nature of the
marketing opportunity or problem) helps managers clarify their objectives and decisions.
Iceberg principle: the dangerous part of any marketing problem, like the submerged part of an
iceberg, is not visible or understood by the marketing managers. If the submerged portions of
Zikmund 4eMarketing ResearchInstructor’s Manual02-3
© 2017 Cengage Learning Pty Ltd
the problem are omitted from the problem definition – and subsequently from the research
design – then the decision based on such research may be less than optimal (see Exhibit 2.2).
Understand the background of the problem
The background of the problem is vital. A situation analysis is the logical first step to define the
problem. This analysis involves informal gathering of background information to familiarise
researchers or managers with the decision area. Exploratory research techniques have been
developed to help formulate clear definitions of the problem (see Chapter 6). These include
literature reviews and conducting a situation analysis.
Isolate and identify the problem, not the symptoms
Anticipating the many influences and dimensions of a problem is impossible for any researcher
or executive. Certain occurrences that appear to be the issue may only be symptoms of a
deeper problem. Executives must exercise judgement and creativity in identifying a problem.
Three examples are provided in Table 2.1. Rooting out the cause of the problem requires asking
Teaching tip:Present students with the following hypothetical situation: A public swimming pool
business operating for 20 years is becoming less profitable.
A symptom of the problem may be that membership has been declining ever since a new
water park opened a few years ago.
Problem definition is erroneously based on the symptom that people prefer the more
expensive water park and have a negative image of the public pool.
True problem definition is that there have been demographic changes. Children have grown
up in 20 years. Older people are no longer swimming anywhere.
Determine the unit of analysis
The researcher must specify the unit of analysis. Will the individual consumer be the source of
information or will it be the parent–child dyad? Industries, organisations, departments or
individuals may be the focus for data collection and analysis. Many problems can be
investigated at more than one level.
Determine the relevant variables
One aspect of problem definition is identifying the key variables. A variable is a quality that can
exhibit differences in value, usually magnitude or strength. In statistical analysis, a variable is
identified by a symbol such as X. A category or classification variable has a limited number of
Zikmund 4eMarketing ResearchInstructor’s Manual02-4
© 2017 Cengage Learning Pty Ltd
distinct variables (e.g., sex will always be male or female). A continuous variable may
encompass an infinite range of numbers (e.g., sales volume). Managers and researchers must
be careful to include all relevant variables that must be studied in order to be able to answer the
managerial problem. Irrelevant variables should not be included.
In causal research, a dependent variable is a criterion or variable that is expected to be
predictable or explained. An independent variable is a variable that is expected to influence the
dependent variable.
State the research questions and research objectives
The research question is the researcher’s translation of the marketing problem into a specific
need for inquiry.
Clarity in research questions and hypotheses
Research questions should be specific, clear and accompanied by a well-formulated hypothesis.
A hypothesis is an unproven proposition or possible solution to a problem. In its simplest form, a
hypothesis is a guess. Problems and hypotheses are similar; both state relationships, but while
problems are interrogative, hypotheses are declarative and more specifically related to the
research operations and testing. Hypotheses are statements that can be empirically tested.
Decision-oriented research objectives
The research objective is the researcher’s version of the marketing problem. The research
objective is derived from the problem definition and it explains the purpose of the research in
measurable terms, as well as defining what standards the research should achieve. Such
objectives help ensure that the research project will be manageable. In some instances, the
marketing problems and the project’s research objectives are identical. The objectives must
specify the information needed to make a decision. The number of research objectives should
be limited to a manageable number so that each one can be addressed fully. Exhibit 2.4 shows
how statements of the marketing problem influence the research objective. The specific
objectives, in turn, are the basis for the research design.
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