Secondary data - that is, research data that have been collected as the result of previous research exercises - are readily available and usually relatively cheap to purchase. In many cases, time spent in searching for information in secondary sources saves a great amount of time and money that might otherwise be spent on field research. Outside research firms can often find sources of secondary information that are unknown to a firm's marketing department and 'internal researchers'. Primary research in the field is taking an increasingly smaller portion of the amount of money spent on research. Computers can put marketing people in touch with amounts and kinds of information that could not even be contemplated ten years ago.
The research plan must specify exactly how the study is to be done - postal questionnaire, personal interview, focus groups or other method - and justify why the method has been chosen. A study may require the use of several types of research method. Focus groups, for example, are often followed by quantitative studies. The plan should indicate why the indicated approach is necessary. It should also state that the specified methods might have to be altered as the study progresses to meet changing needs.
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