Marketing research design is the specification of procedures for collecting and analyzing the data necessary to help identify or react to a problem or opportunity, such that the difference between the cost of obtaining various levels of accuracy and the expected value of the information associated with each level of accuracy is maximized.
Several aspects of this definition deserve emphasis. First, research design requires the specification of procedures. These procedures involve decisions on what information to generate, the data collection method, the measurement approach, the object to be measured, and the way in which the data are to be analyzed.
Second, the data are to be collected to help identify or react to a problem or opportunity. All data collected should eventually relate to decisions faced by management. Obviously, the efficient collection of data relevant to a decision requires a clear definition of the problem/opportunity.
A third implication of the preceding definition is that information has value. Information acquires value as it helps improve decisions. The fourth major implication is that varying levels of accuracy of information can be generated in response to the same problem. Information accuracy is affected by the occurrence of a number of potential errors. Finally, the goal of applied research design is not to generate the most accurate information possible. Rather, the objective is to generate the most valuable information in relation to the cost of generating the information.
It should be noted that research design for purposes other than solving applied business problems will have different characteristics. For example, research for use in court proceedings will be designed differently from applied marketing research.