What type of research is needed

As with a lamp-post to a drunken man, research can be used in two ways: for illumination or for support. The type of research needed will be affected by the purpose for which it is used. A decision maker may want research in order to generate new ideas or to help in understanding a situation better. In this case, research is being used for illumination and qualitative research would be most appropriate, often before undertaking a quantitative study. Using research for support implies the need for some factual base on which to rest a decision, and usually indicates quantitative research.

It may be that the organization is considering entering a new field of operation in which it is unfamiliar, or dealing with a new group of customers whose requirements are unknown. In these examples the most appropriate research approach is an exploratory study. More commonly, an organization may wish to make decisions in an area in which it is already familiar, but where some market data is necessary to direct the decision to be made. For this purpose descriptive information will be most useful: a descriptive profile of customers in terms of age, gender, social group, geographical location, and so on. A third possibility is the organization that has been operating in its market for some years and now wishes to understand more about cause-and-effect relationships in its markets. In this case the requirement will be for causal research, using experimental approaches to uncover the relevant variables in the marketplace and measure the ways in which they influence it. Analysing the purpose for which the research is required will suggest the type of research needed: qualitative or quantitative, exploratory, descriptive or causal.

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