Step 2: Identify What is to be Learned

Once the general purpose of research is determined, the researcher’s next job is to decide what specific information he or she wants to obtain. Many in the market research field believe this is the most critical step in the research process since it provides guidance on what must be accomplished. While the purpose identified in Step 1 may be determined relatively quickly (e.g., sale reports shows an obvious problem that needs to be explained), in Step 2 the researcher may spend a considerable amount of time deciding what to study. For instance, the researcher may engage in numerous conversations with company personal to insure that she/he understands the circumstances facing those requesting the research.

But identifying what needs to be learned is not always easy. For example, saying a drop in sales in a region is the problem does not tell the researcher much since declining sales is a symptom with the real problem resting in some other area. In situations where the party needing the research has trouble articulating what is needed the researcher must probe the client for more details until they can uncover what information is really needed. Doing this helps the researcher decide what to study and, more specifically, what concepts to include in the research (i.e., what questions to ask, what variables to study).


Determining what is to be learned is also important in helping market researchers envision the scope and demands of what must be done. The scope of a research project refers to the amount of information needed. If the scope is too large the researcher may find that it is not worth carrying out the research since they lack the resources to accomplish the goal. Alternatively, knowing in advance what is needed may give the researcher the opportunity to break a larger project into smaller, more manageable parts.

The demands of the project refer to what users of the information (e.g., marketing manager, clients) seek from the research. Most demands revolve around issues related to: acquiring information (e.g., want information that is useable); timing of the research (e.g., want information as quickly as possibly), limits on methods that can be used (e.g., may not allow certain questions be asked) and funding (e.g., limited research money). Again, knowing this in advance can help the researcher design the research plan.

Step 1: Identify Research Purpose
Step 3: Determine Research Design