Market Research Glossary

The following glossary has been reproduced from the book, Market Research: An Integrated Approach (2012) by Alan Wilson. This is in agreement with the book's author. For use of this information more widely, copyright permission must be sought by the user directly from the book's publisher.

A    B    C    D    E    F    G    H    I    J    K    L    M    N    O    P    Q    R    S    T    U    V    W    X    Y    Z   


Access panels A database of individuals who have agreed to be available for surveys of varying types and topics. Rising rates of refusals and non response, make it more difficult to recruit for a single survey, therefore sampling from a pool of potentially willing marketing research respondents can be seen as an appropriate way of saving time and money.

Accompanied shopping A specialised type of individual depth interview, which involves respondents being interviewed while they shop in a retail store and combines observation with detailed questioning.

Alternative hypothesis The hypothesis where some difference or effect is expected (i.e. a difference that cannot occur simply by chance).

Ambiguous question A badly constructed question which results in respondents and researchers reading different meanings into what is being asked, resulting in inappropriate or unexpected answers.

Animatics A type of stimulus material where key frames for a television advertisement are drawn or computer generated with an accompanying sound track.

Annotation method An approach taken to analyse qualitative data using codes or comments on the transcripts to categorise the points being made by respondents.

ANOVA Analysis of variance. A test for the differences among the means of two or more variables.

Area sampling A type of cluster sampling in which the clusters are created on the basis of the geographic location of the population of interest.

Audience's thinking sequence The sequence of thoughts that people go through when they are being communicated with.

Audits An examination and verification of the movement and sale of a product. There are three main types: wholesale audits, which measure product sales from wholesalers to retailers and caterers, retail audits, which measure sales to the final consumer, and home audits, which measure purchases by the final consumer.


Bar chart A chart which uses a series of bars that may be positioned horizontally or vertically to represent the values of a variety of items.

Beauty parades The procedure of asking a number of agencies to present their proposals verbally to the client company. The procedure is used to assist clients in selecting the research agency that will undertake a research project.

Blog An abbreviated title for the term web log, meaning a frequent, chronological publication of personal thoughts and ideas. Twitter is a form of microblogging service that allows an individual to publish their blog type opinions and ideas in short Tweets
( text-based messages of up to 140 characters).

Brand mapping A projective technique which involves presenting a set of competing brand names to respondents and getting them to group them into categories based on certain dimensions such as innovativeness, value for money, service quality and product range.

Brand personalities A projective technique which involves respondents imagining a brand as a person and describing their looks, their clothes, their lifestyles, employment, etc.


CAPI Computer-assisted personal interviewing. Where lap-top computers or pen-pad computers are used rather than paper-based questionnaires for face-to-face interviewing.

Cartoon completion A projective technique which involves a cartoon that the respondent has to complete. For example, the cartoon may show two characters with balloons for dialogue. One of the balloons sets out what one of the characters is thinking or saying, while the other is left empty for the respondent to complete.

CATI Computer-assisted telephone interviewing. CATI involves telephone interviewers typing respondent's answers directly into a computer-based questionnaire rather than writing them on a paper-based questionnaire.

CATS Completely automated telephone interviews which use interactive voice technology and require no human interviewer. Respondents answer the closed-ended questions with their touch tone telephone.

Causal research Research that examines whether one variable causes or determines the value of another variable.

Census Research which involves collecting data from every member of the population of interest.

Chat rooms An Internet-based facility that can be used for online focus groups where individuals are recruited who are willing to discuss a subject online usually using text.

Chi-square A statistical test which tests the 'goodness of fit' between the observed distribution and the expected distribution of a variable.

Closed question A question that requires the respondent to make a selection from a predefined list of responses. There are two main types of closed questions: dichotomous questions with only two potential responses and multiple response questions with more than two.

Cluster analysis A statistical technique used to classify objects or people into mutually exclusive and exhaustive groups on the basis of two or more classification variables.

Cluster sampling A probability sampling approach in which clusters of population units are selected at random and then all (one-stage cluster sampling) or some (two-stage cluster sampling) of the units in the chosen clusters are studied.

Coding The procedures involved in translating responses into a form that is ready for analysis. Normally involves the assigning of numerical codes to responses.

Coefficient alpha See Cronbach alpha

Coefficient of determination Measure of the strength of linear relationship between a dependent variable and independent variables.

Concept boards A type of stimulus material which uses a set of boards to illustrate different product, advertising or pack designs.

Confidence level The probability that the true population value will be within a particular range (result +/– sampling error).

Conjoint analysis A statistical technique that provides a quantitative measure of the relative importance of one attribute over another. It is frequently used to determine what features a new product or service should have and also how products should be priced.

Constant sum scales A scaling approach which requires the respondent to divide a given number of points, usually 100, among a number of attributes based on their importance to the individual.

Construct validity An analysis of the underlying theories and past research that supports the inclusion of the various items in the scale. It is most commonly considered in two forms, convergent validity and discriminant validity.

Content analysis The analysis of any form of communication, whether it is advertisements, newspaper articles, television programmes or taped conversations. Frequently used for the analysis of qualitative research data.

Content analysis software Software used for qualitative research which basically counts the number of times that pre-specified words or phrases appear in text.

Content validity A subjective yet systematic assessment as to how well a rating scale measures a topic of interest. For example a group of subject experts may be asked to comment on the extent to which all of the key dimensions of a topic have been included.

Contrived observation A research approach which involves observing participants in a controlled setting.

Convenience sampling A non-probability sampling procedure in which a researcher's convenience forms the basis for selecting the potential respondents (i.e. the researcher approaches the most accessible members of the population of interest).

Convergent validity A measure of the extent to which the results from a rating scale correlate with those from other scales or measures of the same topic/construct.

Cookies Text files placed on a user's computer by web retailers in order to identify the user when he or she next visits the website.

Continuous research See Longitudinal research.

Correlation A statistical approach to examine the relationship between two variables. Uses an index to describe the strength of a relationship.

Critical path method (CPM) A managerial tool used for scheduling a research project. It is a network approach that involves dividing the research project into its various components and estimating the time required to complete each component activity.

Cronbach Alpha A statistical test used to measure the split half reliability of a summated rating scale. Also known as coefficient alpha.

Cross-sectional research Research studies that are undertaken once only involving data collection at a single point in time providing a 'snapshot' of the specific situation. The opposite of longitudinal research.

Cross-tabulations Tables that set out the responses to one question relative to the responses to one or more other questions.

Customer database A manual or computerised source of data relevant to marketing decision making about an organisation's customers.

Cut and paste method of analysis A method for analysing qualitative research data where material is cut and pasted from the original transcript into separate sections or tables relating to each topic. Cutting and pasting can either be done physically using scissors or using a word processing computer package.


Data analysis errors Non-sampling errors that occur when data is transferred from questionnaires to computers by incorrect keying of information.

Data analysis services Organisations, sometimes known as tab shops, that specialise in providing services such as the coding of completed questionnaires, inputting the data from questionnaires into a computer and the provision of sophisticated data analysis using advanced statistical techniques.

Data cleaning Computerised checks made on data to identify inconsistencies in the data and to check for any unexplained missing responses.

Data conversion The reworking of secondary data into a format that allows estimates to be made to meet the researcher's needs.

Data display Summarising and presenting of information in order that relationships or connections can be identified and conclusions can be drawn.

Data elements The individual pieces of information held in a database (e.g. a person's name, gender or date of birth). These elements mean little independently but when combined they provide information on a customer or group of customers.

Data entry The transfer of data from a questionnaire into a computer by any of the following means: either directly in computer-assisted interviewing, by an operator copy-typing the responses from questionnaires, or by the optical scanning of printed questionnaires.

Data errors Non-sampling errors that occur during data collection or analysis that impact on the accuracy of inferences made about the population of interest. The main types of data error are respondent errors (where respondents give distorted or erroneous answers), interviewer errors and data analysis errors.

Data fusion Data fusion involves the fusing together of different types information to present a more complete picture of an individual or a group of individuals.

Data mining An activity where highly powerful computers are used to dig through volumes of data to discover patterns about an organisation's customers and products.

Data protection legislation Legislation created to protect against the misuse of personal data (i.e. data about an individual person).

Data validation The verification of the appropriateness of the explanations and interpretations drawn from qualitative data analysis.

Database A collection of related information that can be accessed and manipulated quickly using computers.

Deduplication The process through which data belonging to different transactions or service events are united for a particular customer. Software will be used to either automatically eliminate duplicates or identify potential duplicates that require a manual inspection and a decision to be taken.

Degrees of freedom (d.f.) The number of observations (i.e. sample size) minus one.

Depth interview See Individual depth interview.

Descriptive research Research studies that describe what is happening in a market without potentially explaining why it is happening.

Descriptive statistics Statistics that help to summarise the characteristics of large sets of data using only a few numbers. The most commonly used descriptive statistics are measures of central tendency (mean, mode and median) and measures of dispersion (range, interquartile range and standard deviation).

Dichotomous questions Questions with only two potential responses (e.g. Yes or No).

Directories A listing of individuals or organisations involved in a particular activity. May be available in printed format, CD-ROMs or on the Internet.

Discriminant validity A measure of the extent to which the results from a rating scale do not correlate with other scales from which one would expect it to differ.

Discussion guide See Topic list.

Disproportionate stratified random sampling A form of stratified random sampling (See Stratified random sampling) where the units or potential respondents from each population set are selected according to the relative variability of the units within each subset.

Double-barrelled question A badly constructed question where two topics are raised within one question.

Doughnut chart A form of pie chart which allows different sets of data (e.g. for different years) to be shown in the same chart.


Editing The process of ensuring that questionnaires were filled out correctly and completely.

E-mail survey A self-completion survey that is delivered to pre-selected respondents by e-mail. The questionnaire can take the form of text within the e-mail or can be sent as an attachment (either as a word processor document or as a piece of software which runs the questionnaire).

Ethnography A form of participant observation that involves the study of human behaviour in it's natural setting. For example, a researcher may accompany consumers (sometimes with a video camera) as they engage in a wide range of activities such as going on a shopping trip with friends. It involves the researcher exploring the interactions between group members, their reaction to various events and experiences, how they consider different courses of action and take decisions.

Executive interviews Quantitative research interviews with business people, usually undertaken at their place of work, covering subjects related to industrial or business products and services.

Experimental research Research which measures causality and involves the researcher changing one variable (e.g. price, packaging, shelf display, etc.), while observing the effects of those changes on another variable (e.g. sales) and controlling the extraneous variables.

Exploratory research Research that is intended to develop initial ideas or insights and to provide direction for any further research needed.

External data Secondary data that is sourced from outside the organisation requiring the research to be conducted.

Eye tracking The use of equipment in the observation and recording of a person's unconscious eye movements when they are looking at a magazine, a shop display or a web site.


Face-to-face survey Research which involves meeting respondents face-to-face and interviewing them using a paper-based questionnaire, a lap-top computer or an electronic notepad.

Factor analysis A statistical technique that studies the interrelationships among variables for the purpose of simplifying data . It can reduce a large set of variables to a smaller set of composite variables or factors by identifying the underlying dimensions of the data.

Field agencies Agencies whose primary activity is the field interviewing process focusing on the collection of data through personal interviewers, telephone interviewers or postal surveys.

Focus groups See Group discussions.

Frequency distributions See Hole counts.

Full service agencies Marketing research agencies that offer the full range of marketing research services and techniques. They will be able to offer the entire range of qualitative and quantitative research approaches as well as be capable of undertaking every stage of the research from research design through to analysis and report writing.

Funnel sequence A sequence for ordering questions in a questionnaire based on moving from the generalities of a topic to the specifics.


GANTT chart A managerial tool used for scheduling a research project. It is a form of flowchart that provides a schematic representation incorporating the activity, time, and personnel requirements for a given research project.

Geodemographic profiling A profiling method which uses postal addresses to categorise different neighbourhoods in relation to buying power and behaviour.

Grounded theory A set of analysis techniques that were developed in the 1960s by two medical sociologists, Glaser and Strauss(1967). It is more commonly used by academic researchers rather than marketing research practitioners in areas where little is known about a subject or where a new approach to understanding behavior is required. It is a systematic method of generating theory and understanding through qualitative data collection and analysis.

Group depth interviews See Group discussions.

Group discussions Also known as focus groups or group depth interviews. These are depth interviews undertaken with a group of respondents. In addition to the increased number of respondents, they differ from individual depth interviews in that they involve interaction between the participants.

Group dynamics The interaction between group members in group discussions.

Group moderator The interviewer responsible for the management and encouragement of participants in a group discussion.


Hall tests Research undertaken in a central hall or venue commonly used to test respondents' initial reactions to a product or package or concept. Respondents are recruited into the hall by interviewers stationed on main pedestrian thoroughfares nearby.

Hidden observation A research approach involving observation where the participant does not know that they are being observed.

Holecounts The number of respondents who gave each possible answer to each question in a questionnaire. Sometimes known as frequency distributions.

Hypothesis An assumption or proposition that a researcher puts forward about some characteristic of the population being investigated.

Hypothesis testing Testing aimed at determining whether the difference between proportions is greater than would be expected by chance or as a result of sampling error.


Implicit assumption A badly constructed question where the researcher and the respondent are using different frames of reference as a result of assumptions that both parties make about the question being asked.

Independent samples Samples in which the measurement of the variable of interest in one sample has no effect on the measurement of the variable in the other sample.

Individual depth interview An interview that is conducted face-to-face, in which the subject matter of the interview is explored in detail using an unstructured and flexible approach.

Information explosion The major growth in information available in a wide range of formats from a wide range of sources. This growth has principally resulted from improvements in the capabilities and speeds of computers.

In-home/doorstep interviewing Face-to-face interviews undertaken within the home of the respondent or on the doorstep of their home.

Internal data Secondary data sourced from within the organisation that is requiring the research to be conducted.

Internet monitoring The measurement undertaken by web-based retailers and suppliers to monitor the number of times different pages on their sites are accessed, what search engines bring people to the site, what service provider browsers are used as well as tracking the specific time at which the site is accessed. Using cookies, the retailers may also be able to identify when users revisit the site.

Interquartile range A measure of dispersion that calculates the difference between the 75th and 25th percentile in a set of data.

Interval data Similar to ordinal data with the added dimension that the intervals between the values on a scale are equal. That means that when using a scale of 1 to 5, the difference between 1 and 2 is the same as the difference between 4 and 5. However, the ratios between different values on the scale are not valid (e.g. 4 does not represent twice the value of 2).

Interviewer bias Bias and errors in research findings brought about by the actions of an interviewer. This may be influenced by who the interviewer interviews, how the interview is undertaken and the manner in which responses are recorded.

Interviewer errors See Interviewer bias.

Interviewer guide See Topic list.

Interviewer Quality Control Scheme (IQCS) A quality control scheme for interviewers in the UK. The scheme is aimed at improving selection, training and supervision of interviewers and is jointly run by the Market Research Society, the Association of Market Survey Organisations, the Association of British Market Research Companies, the Association of Users of Research Agencies, and a number of leading research companies.


Judgement sampling A non-probability sampling procedure where a researcher consciously selects a sample that he or she considers to be most appropriate for the research study.


Kiosk based Survey A survey often undertaken at an exhibition or trade show using touch screen computers to collect information from respondents. Such computers can be programmed to deliver complex surveys supported by full colour visuals as well as sound and video clips. They can be much cheaper to administer in comparison with the traditional exit survey undertaken by human interviewers.


Leading question A badly constructed question that tends to steer respondents toward a particular answer. Sometimes known as a loaded question.

Least squares approach A regression procedure that is widely used for deriving the best-fit equation of a line for a given set of data involving a dependent and independent variable.

Lifestyle databases Databases that consist of data derived from questionnaire responses to 'lifestyle surveys'. Such surveys make it clear to respondents that the data is being collected for the creation of a database rather than for marketing research purposes.

Lifetime value The present value of the estimated future transactions and net income attributed to an individual customer relationship.

Likert scales A scaling approach which requires the respondent to state their level of agreement with a series of statements about a product, organisation or concept. The scale using the descriptors Strongly agree; Agree; Neither agree nor disagree; Disagree; Strongly disagree is based on a format originally developed by Renis Likert in 1932.

Line graph A two-dimensional graph that is typically used to show movements in data over time.

List brokers Organisations that sell off-the shelf data files listing names, characteristics and contact details of consumers or organisations.

Loaded question See Leading question.

Longitudinal research A study involving data collection at several periods in time enabling trends over time to be examined. This may involve asking the same questions on a number of occasions of either the same respondents or of respondents with similar characteristics. Sometimes known as continuous research.


Mall intercept interviews See Street interviews.

Marketing concept The proposition that the whole of the organisation should be driven by a goal of serving and satisfying customers in a manner which enables the organisation's financial and strategic objectives to be achieved.

Marketing decision support system (MDSS) An interactive computerised information source designed to assist in marketing decision making.

Marketing research The collection, analysis and communication of information undertaken to assist decision making in marketing.

Marketing research process The sequence of activities and events involved in undertaking a marketing research project.

Mean The arithmetic average which is calculated by summing all of the values in a set of data and dividing by the number of cases.

Measures of central tendency Measures that indicate a typical value for a set of data by computing the mean, mode or median.

Measures of dispersion Measures that indicate how 'spread out' a set of data is. The most common are the range, the interquartile range and the standard deviation.

Mechanised observation A research approach involving observation of behaviour using automated counting devices, scanners or other equipment.

Median When all of the values in a data set are put in ascending order, the median is the value of the middle case in a series.

Metric data A name for interval and ratio data.

Mixed Mode Studies Research studies that use a variety of collection methods in a single survey ( e.g. using the same questionnaire online and face to face) in order to improve response rates.

Mode The value in a set of data that occurs most frequently.

Multiple-choice questions Questions which provide respondents with a choice of predetermined responses to a question. The respondents are asked to either give one alternative that correctly expresses their viewpoint or indicate all responses that apply.

Multiple discriminant analysis A statistical technique used to classify individuals into one of two or more segments (or populations) on the basis of a set of measurements.

Multiple regression analysis A statistical technique to examine the relationship between three or more variables and also to calculate the likely value of the dependent variable based on the values of two or more independent variables.

Multi-stage sampling A sampling approach where a number of successive sampling stages are undertaken before the final sample is obtained.

Multivariate data analysis Statistical procedures that simultaneously analyse two or more variables on a sample of objects. The most common techniques are multiple regression analysis, multiple discriminant analysis, factor analysis, cluster analysis, perceptual mapping and conjoint analysis.

Mystery shopping A form of participant observation which uses researchers to act as customers or potential customers to monitor the processes and procedures used in the delivery of a service.


Netnography Sometimes known as online ethnography and webnography is the ethnographic study of communities on the World Wide Web. It generally involves a researcher fully participating as a member of the online community.

Newsgroups Internet-based sites that take the form of bulletin boards/discussion lists on specific topics. They involve people posting views, questions and information on the site.

Nominal data Numbers assigned to objects or phenomena as labels or identification numbers that name or classify but have no true numeric meaning.

Non-metric data A name for nominal and ordinal data.

Non-probability sampling A set of sampling methods where a subjective procedure of selection is used resulting in the probability of selection for each member of the population of interest being unknown.

Non-response errors An error in a study that arises when some of the potential respondents do not respond. This may occur due to respondents refusing or being unavailable to take part in the research.

Non-sampling error Errors that occur in a study that do not relate to sampling error. They tend to be classified into three broad types: sampling frame error, non-response error and data error.

Normal distribution A continuous distribution that is bell-shaped and symmetrical about the mean. This means that in a study, 68.27 per cent of the observations fall within plus or minus one standard deviation of the mean, approximately 95.45 per cent fall within plus or minus two standard deviations, and approximately 99.73 per cent fall within plus or minus three standard deviations.

Null hypothesis The hypothesis that is tested and is the statement of the status quo where no difference or effect is expected.


Observation A data gathering approach where information is collected on the behaviour of people, objects and organisations without any questions being asked of the participants.

Omnibus surveys A data collection approach that is undertaken at regular intervals for a changing group of clients who share the costs involved in the survey's set-up, sampling and interviewing.

One-way mirrors Used in qualitative marketing research to enable clients and researchers to view respondent behaviour during a discussion. Behind the mirror is a viewing room, which consists of chairs for the observers and may contain video cameras to record the proceedings.

Online communities A community of individuals who interact on-line focusing on a particular interest or simply to communicate.

Online group discussion These are group discussions or private chat rooms where a group is recruited who are willing to discuss a subject online usually using text ( webcam and microphone are sometimes used). Participants are recruited by phone, e-mail or through an online special interest group. They react to questions or topics posed by the moderator and type in their perceptions or comments taking account of other participants' inputs.

Online survey A self-completion questionnaire which is delivered via the Internet. It may appear on the computer screen as a standard questionnaire where the respondent scrolls down the page completing each question. Alternatively, it can take the form of an interactive questionnaire with questions appearing on the screen one at a time.

Open-ended questions Questions which allow respondents to reply in their own words. There are no pre-set choices of answers and the respondent can decide whether to provide a brief one-word answer or something very detailed and long. Sometimes known as unstructured questions.

Ordinal data Numbers that have the labelling characteristics of nominal data, but also have the ability to communicate the rank order of the data. The numbers do not indicate absolute quantities, nor do they imply that the intervals between the numbers are equal. and type in their perceptions or comments taking account of other participants' inputs


Paired interviews An in-depth interview involving two respondents such as married couples, business partners, teenage friends or a mother and child.

Panel research A research approach where comparative data is collected from the same respondents on more than one occasion. Panels can consist of individuals, households or organisations, and can provide information on changes in behaviour, awareness and attitudes over time.

Participant observation A research approach where the researcher interacts with the subject or subjects being observed. The best-known type of participant observation is mystery shopping.

Participant Validation A validation technique that involves taking the findings from qualitative research back to the participants/ respondents that were involved in the study and seeking their feedback. If the feedback verifies the explanations and conclusions, then the researcher can be more confident about the validity of the findings.

Pearson's product moment correlation A correlation approach that is used with interval and ratio data.

Perceptual mapping An analysis technique which involves the positioning of objects in perceptual space. Frequently used in determining the positioning of brands relative to their competitors.

Photo sorts A projective technique which uses a set of photographs depicting different types of people. Respondents are then asked to connect the individuals in the photographs with the brands they think they would use.

Pictogram A type of bar chart which uses pictures of the items being described rather than bars.

Pie chart A chart for presenting data which takes the form of a circle divided into several slices whose areas are in proportion to the quantities being examined.

Pilot testing The pre-testing of a questionnaire prior to undertaking a full survey. Such testing involves administering the questionnaire to a limited number of potential respondents in order to identify and correct flaws in the questionnaire design.

Placement tests The testing of reactions to products in the home and where they are to be used. Respondents are given a new product to test in their own home or in their office. Information about their experiences with and attitudes towards the products are then collected by either a questionnaire or by a self-completion diary.

Population of interest The total group of people that the researcher wishes to examine, study or obtain information from. The population of interest will normally reflect the target market or potential target market for the product or service being researched. Sometimes known as the target population or universe.

Postal surveys Self-administered surveys that are mailed to pre-selected respondents along with a return envelope, a covering letter and possibly an incentive.

Primary data Data collected by a programme of observation, qualitative or quantitative research either separately or in combination to meet the specific objectives of a marketing research project.

Probability sampling A set of sampling methods where an objective procedure of selection is used, resulting in every member of the population of interest having a known probability of being selected.

Product/Service Review Sites On-line sites that allow individuals to feedback their views on products and services. These sites may be independent or operated by manufacturers, retailers and other forms of intermediaries.

Professional codes of conduct Self-regulatory codes covering acceptable practices in marketing research developed by the professional bodies responsible for the research industry (e.g. the Market Research Society or ESOMAR).

Profilers Organisations that gather demographic and lifestyle information about consumers and combine it with postal address information. They take this base information and use it to segment an organisation's database of existing customers into different lifestyle and income groups. They may also be used to identify additional prospective customers whose characteristics match those of an organisation's existing customers.

Programme evaluation and review technique (PERT) A managerial tool used for scheduling a research project. It involves a probability-based scheduling approach that recognises and measures the uncertainty of project completion times.

Projective questioning Sometimes known as third-party techniques, this is a projective technique that asks the respondent to consider what other people would think about a situation.

Projective techniques Techniques used in group discussions and individual depth interviews to facilitate a deeper exploration of a respondent's attitudes towards a concept, product or situation.

Proportionate stratified random sampling A form of stratified random sampling (See Stratified random sampling) where the units or potential respondents from each population subset are selected in proportion to the total number of each subset's units in the population.

Purchase intent scales A scaling approach which is used to measure a respondent's intention to purchase a product or potential product.


Qualitative research An unstructured research approach with a small number of carefully selected individuals used to produce non-quantifiable insights into behaviour, motivations and attitudes.

Quantitative research A structured research approach involving a sample of the population to produce quantifiable insights into behaviour, motivations and attitudes.

Questionnaire design process A stepped approach to the design of questionnaires.

Quota sampling A non-probability sampling procedure which involves the selection of cells or subsets within the population of interest, the establishment of a numerical quota in each cell and the researcher carrying out sufficient interviews in each cell to satisfy the quota.


Range A measure of dispersion that calculates the difference between the largest and smallest values in a set of data.

Ratio data Actual 'real' numbers that have a meaningful absolute or zero. All arithmetic operations are possible with such data.

Regression A statistical approach to examine the relationship between two variables. Identifies the nature of the relationship using an equation.

Related samples Samples where the measurement of interest in one sample may influence the measurement of the variable of interest in another sample.

Reliability of scales Refers to the extent to which a rating scale produces consistent or stable results. Stability is most commonly measured using test-retest reliability and consistency is measured using split–half reliability.

Research brief A written document which sets out an organisation's requirements from a marketing research project. This provides the specification against which the researchers will design the research project.

Research proposal The submission prepared by the research agency for a potential client specifying the research to be undertaken. On the basis of the research proposal, the client will select an agency to undertake the research. The proposal becomes the contract between the agency and the client company.

Respondent errors Non-sampling errors that are caused by respondents inadvertently or intentionally giving distorted or erroneous responses. Respondents may give erroneous answers because they fail to understand a question and do not want to admit their incomprehension.

Role playing A projective technique which involves a respondent being asked to act out the character of a brand.


Sample A subset of the population of interest.

Sampling error The difference between the sample value and the true value of a phenomenon for the population being surveyed. Can be expressed in mathematical terms: usually the survey result plus or minus a certain percentage.

Sampling frame A list of the population of interest from which the researcher selects the individuals for inclusion in the research.

Sampling frame error A bias that occurs as a result of the population implied by the sampling frame being different from the population of interest.

Scaling questions Questions that ask respondents to assign numerical measures to subjective concepts such as attitudes, opinions and feelings.

Scanner-based research Collecting sales information using electronic scanners reading barcodes at the checkouts of retailers and wholesalers. The information collected feeds into audits.

Screening questionnaire A questionnaire used for identifying suitable respondents for a particular research activity, such as a group discussion.

Search engines Internet-based tools for finding web addresses which contain collections of links to sites throughout the world and an indexing system to help you find the relevant sites. Examples include AltaVista, Yahoo! and Lycos.

Secondary data Information that has been previously gathered for some purpose other than the current research project. It may be data available within the organisation (internal data) or information available from published and electronic sources originating outside the organisation (external data).

Self-administered surveys Surveys where the respondent completes the questionnaire with no help from an interviewer. The questionnaire can be delivered to the respondent via the mail (postal surveys), by hand, by fax or online (e-mail, web surveys).

Semantic differential scales A scaling approach which requires the respondent to rate a brand or concept using a set of bipolar adjectives or phrases (e.g. helpful and unhelpful; friendly and unfriendly). Each pair of adjectives is separated by a seven-category scale with neither numerical nor verbal labels.

Sentence completion A projective technique which involves providing respondents with an incomplete sentence or group of sentences and asking them to complete them.

Shelf impact testing equipment See Stand-out equipment.

Simple random sampling A probability sampling method where every possible member of the population has an equal chance of being selected for the survey. Respondents are chosen using random numbers.

Simulated test markets A research approach used to predict the potential results of a product launch and to experiment with changes to different elements of a product's marketing mix. Rather than testing in retail stores, simulated test markets rely on simulated or laboratory-type testing and mathematical modelling.

Snowball sampling A non-probability sampling procedure where additional respondents are identified and selected on the basis of referrals of initial respondents. It tends to be used where the population of interest is small or difficult to identify.

Social Networks Online social networks allow individuals to communicate with one another, construct a public or semi-public profile of themselves as well as share a variety of content.

Spearman's rank-order correlation A correlation approach for ordinal data.

Specialist service agencies Marketing research agencies that do not offer the full range of services (See Full service agencies) but tend to specialise in certain types of research. For example, a specialist agency may only do research in a specific market sector such as the automotive sector or children's products, or in a geographic region of the world. Alternatively, the agency may be a specialist in terms of the research techniques it undertakes, focusing on telephone research or qualitative research.

Split half reliability Measures the internal consistency of a summated rating scale and refers to the consistency with which each item represents the overall construct of interest. The method involves randomly dividing the various scale items into two halves. High correlations between the two halves suggests internal consistency of what is being measured.

Spider-type diagrams Diagrams used to organise data in the analysis of qualitative research data.

Standard deviation A measure of dispersion that calculates the average distance that the values in a data set are away from the mean. The standard deviation of different sets of data can be compared to see if one set of data is more dispersed than another.

Stand-out equipment Sometimes known as shelf impact testing equipment, this is used to determine the visual impact of new packaging when placed on shelves next to competitors' products.

Stapel scales A scaling approach which is a variation of the semantic differential scaling approach. It uses a single descriptor and 10 response categories with no verbal labels.

Statistical significance If the difference between two statistical measures is large enough to be unlikely to have occurred due to chance or sampling error, then the difference is considered to be statistically significant.

Stimulus materials Materials used in group discussions and individual depth interviews to communicate the marketer or advertiser's latest creative thinking for a product, packaging or advertising to the respondents.

Storyboards A type of stimulus material where key frames for a television advertisement are drawn consecutively, like a comic strip.

Stratified random sampling A probability sampling procedure in which the chosen sample is forced to contain potential respondents from each of the key segments of the population.

Street interviews Interviews where respondents are approached and recruited while they are shopping or walking in town centres. In North America, these are known as mall intercept interviews.

Structured observation A research approach where observers use a record sheet or form to count phenomena or to record their observations.

Systematic sampling A probability sampling approach similar to a simple random sample but which uses a skip interval (i.e. every nth person) rather than random numbers to select the respondents.


t test A hypothesis test about a single mean if the sample is too small to use the Z test.

Tabular method of analysis A method for analysing qualitative research data using a large sheet of paper divided into boxes.

Target population See Population of interest.

Telephone interviewing Quantitative research where the interviewing is undertaken over the telephone.

Television viewing measurement The procedures used in the measurement of the number of viewers watching a particular television programme. In the UK, around 20,000 households have electronic meters attached to their television sets to register when the set is turned on and to what channel it is tuned.

Test-retest reliability Measures the stability of rating scale items over time. Respondents are asked to complete scales at two different times under as near identical conditions as possible. The degree of similarity between the two measurements is determined by computing a correlation coefficient

Text analysis software Software used for data analysis in qualitative research. Such software helps segment the data and identify any patterns that exist.

Third-party techniques See Projective questioning.

Topic list Sometimes known as an interviewer guide. It outlines the broad agenda of issues to be explored in an individual depth interview or group discussion. It may also indicate the points at which stimulus material or projective techniques should be introduced.

Transcript A detailed "word for word" record of the depth interview or group discussion setting out the questions, probes and participant answers

Triangulation Using a combination of different sources of data where the weaknesses in some sources are counterbalanced with the strengths of others. The term triangulation is borrowed from the disciplines of navigation and surveying, where a minimum of three reference points are taken to check an object's location.

Twitter A microblogging service. See Blog

Type I error Rejection of the null hypothesis when it is actually true.

Type II error Failing to reject the null hypothesis when it is actually false.


User generated content Online material such as comments, profiles photographs that is produced by end users.

Universe See Population of interest.

Unstructured questions See Open-ended questions.


Validity Whether the subject requiring to be measured was actually measured.

Video conferencing The bringing together of a group of individuals using a video link and telecommunications. Can potentially be used for group discussions, particularly where the respondents are located in various parts of the world.

Viewing rooms Specialist facilities/locations for group discussions. They are set out in the form of a boardroom or living-room setting with video cameras or a large one-way mirror built into one wall. Some are owned by research agencies, but the majority are independent and available to anyone willing to pay the hourly room-hire rates.


Web 2.0 Web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing, interoperability and collaboration on the Internet.

Web survey see Online survey

Weighting The process of adjusting the value of survey responses to account for over- or under-representation of different categories of respondent. Weighting is used where the sample design is disproportional or where the achieved sample does not accurately reflect the population under investigation.

Word association tests A projective technique that involves asking respondents what brands or products they associate with specific words. In addition to the direct outputs regarding brand imagery, it is also a very useful technique for building rapport within a group discussion and getting everybody contributing and involved.

Word cloud A visual depiction of words used by respondents in qualitative research or the content appearing on social network sites or publications. The font size of the words, is determined by the number of times a word has been used. The more that a topic or word is talked about, the bigger it is.


Z test A hypothesis test about a single mean where the sample size is larger than 30.