HOW TO: Write a market research proposal

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A well-planned proposal will ensure you get the most out of your market research activity. Jyotishman Goswami, marketing frontrunner-NCT at De Montfort University provides 10 key steps to consider

Marketing research is vital in all businesses and it is important that a proposal is written before any formal research activity takes place. Businesses often find themselves in a challenging situation and need to find reliable answers to key questions in order to make the right decisions. The research proposal is a statement of intent and explains the purpose for the research to take place. Below are 10 key points to consider when structuring your proposal.

1. Title and keywords
The title of the proposed investigation should be clear, precise and accurate. A short main title outlining the area of the research may be followed by a secondary part of the title that includes more specific information.

Keywords are normally required to identify the content of the proposal. An average of four to six words should suffice.

2. Aims and objectives
The primary aim of the proposal is to identify the purpose of the research and the research questions/issues it attempts to address. You should provide a sequence of statements (normally between two and five) that gives an overview of what the research is trying
to achieve.

3. Background analysis
This section needs to justify the proposal with a brief account of the practical issues the research will address. It should attempt to demonstrate the importance of the proposed investigation in relation to specific problems, contexts etc. References of facts, figures, reports and authors will be useful.

4. Research hypothesis
This part should specify the exact questions to be investigated. This needs to be precise and should take the form of hypotheses or statements (normally between two and four). It should specify what indicators will be measured in order to address the broad issues identified within the aims and background sections.

5. Data collection
The data collection methods must be described succinctly. They should include a description of the data collection process and the strategy to be adopted (survey method or case study). If a survey method is used, then you should mention the geographic regions or demographic to be covered. Mention should be made of the sample frame and sampling technique utilised. Statistical knowledge helps and there are many books available on this topic. Careful attention needs to be paid in selecting the sample if it is to represent the demographic being investigated. The sample also needs to be determined based on confidence interval and confidence level. A useful tool to determine these is available at surveysystem.com (click on the research aids sample calculator).

6. Research methodology
The research methodology section should explain the key reasons for choosing the proposed methods. The research strategy and data collection methods should be discussed and evaluated, in terms of their suitability and their implications for the quality of the data to be collected. The benefits should also be compared to possible alternative approaches.

This section may also discuss the need for depth and breadth of information and the benefits of using qualitative or quantitative data, the likely validity of the data collected, the probability of the respondents providing honest responses and the reliability of the methods utilised.

7. Schedule of activity
This is an important section as the proposed research should be conducted within time and budgetary limits. The feasibility of the proposed research should be considered in relation to the availability of resources. An estimate needs to be provided in terms of total hours required for completion of the project – designing the questionnaire, planning, scheduling and conducting interviews, data analysis (qualitative/quantitative), and writing up the report (first draft/final draft). A Gantt chart may help to outline this plan.

8. Code of conduct
This section will articulate the way the researcher will comply with the spirit and practice of research ethics and will conduct their activities within the political/legal context within which the research will be conducted. Factors to address may include: confidentiality and anonymity statements, undertaking informed consent, authorisation for access to people and/or data and data security.

9. Research limitations
The researcher needs to acknowledge any limitations that may be inherent in the research design and to the extent it may affect the accuracy of the research findings. Examples could include: how far the findings can be generalised to the whole demographic/situation, restrictions arising from time and resources, and issues around objectivity.

10. Outcomes
The end-products likely to be produced as a result of the research activity are described in this section. The outcomes are not similar to findings. Examples would include: new practices, guidelines for good practice and recommendations.

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