Takeaways from MR&S

Takeaways from MR&S

Hello all! I would like to thank everyone who has followed me on my blogging journey this year for my Marketing Research & Strategy class. It has been a rewarding experience and I have learned so much valuable information that I know will be useful to me in the future. The following are the top five takeaways from this course:

  1. Databases: At the beginning of the year we heard from librarian Beth Rogers who informed us about several different databases that are at our disposal to help us find reliable information. I found what she showed us to be extremely useful in this class as well as others and have had the opportunity to use databases like Mintel for free, which real companies pay thousands of dollars to have access to.
  2. Big Data: I found this topic to be particularly interesting because I became aware of just how much Big Data affects us. Not only does Big data serve to benefit companies and businesses, but it also has the ability to aid in solving social problems. Understanding how far technology has come and what this means for the world of marketing will definitely be beneficial to me in my future career.
  3. Exploratory Research: This was one of my favorite topics discussed in class. I found all of the different methods of exploratory research and when to use each kind to be very interesting. Conducting focus groups in class gave me a great idea of what skills are required to be a moderator as well as what it would be like to be in an actual focus group and what kinds of probing questions are asked. The thoughts and feelings expressed in focus groups are often very important to have for further research.
  4. Surveys: Learning how to create a survey and what order to ask questions in has been a very valuable takeaway. I had no idea that so much was involved in making a survey and trying to get a decent sample size. We asked questions in our survey based off the information we gained from classmates in the focus group. Knowing how to properly create a survey will be very useful to me in future research projects.
  5. Ethics: Since this whole course had to do with research, ethics is a very important part of this. It is extremely important that the research being conducted is ethical. I learned about several terrible past ethical mistakes in research and understand the importance of not harming research subjects. Things like confidentiality, risk management, and the safety of participants need to be considered.

-Sydney Pineault

Reflection on Ethics

Reflection on Ethics

For this weeks entry I will be expanding upon a blog post by of my classmates about ethical research. I found the post written by Lindsay Gregory about “Little Albert” to be particularly interesting. Little Albert was a 9 month old child that was chosen by psychologist John Watson to be the subject of one of his experiments. John Watson, also known as the father of behaviorism, wanted to know if the idea of fear was an innate or conditioned response. To do this, Watson exposed Little Albert to a white rabbit,  white rat, a monkey, masks with an without hair, cotton wool, and many other objects for two months during which the child showed no signs of fear when playing with the objects. The next phase of the experiment involved striking a suspended steel bar with a hammer any time the Little Albert touched the white rat to create a loud noise behind the child’s back. After doing this several times, Albert became very distressed when he saw the white rat. He gave fearful and emotional responses and was never desensitized to his fear before leaving the experiment.

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Lindsay expressed in her post that the case was unethical because it is hard to obtain the rights and permissions to use a small child in psychological studies, especially ones that intentionally cause fear and emotional distress. She also wrote that the worst mistake made within this experiment was that Watson did not desensitize Albert after the completion of the experiment making it likely that the child would be fearful of white rats for the rest of his life. I agree with what Lindsay has said in regards to this experiment and did some further research of my own on the current status of ethical standards in research concerning children.

I found that there are a lot more laws and regulations than there were in 1920 when the experiment conducted on Little Albert took place. I found the website of a group called ERIC (Ethical Research Involving Children) whose mission is to pursue and refine research approaches that respect the rights, dignity, and wellbeing of children. One part of the website that I found to be relatable to the research done by Watson on Little Albert had to do with harm and benefits. This should be one of the most fundamental considerations when undertaking research that involves children. It is extremely important to decide whether the research actually needs to be done, if children need to be involved in it, and in what capacity. In the case of Little Albert I do not believe that this research needed to be done on a child, especially one that young. Albert was not able to give consent and could not pull out of the experiment if he had wanted to because he could not talk. In my opinion, the harms of this experiment greatly outweighed the benefits of the research.

-Sydney Pineault

Resources:

https://lgregorymktgblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/03/ethics/ 

http://childethics.com/ethical-guidance/

Stanford Prison Experiment

Stanford Prison Experiment

Ethics, in any kind of research, is very important and needs to be considered in all aspects of the research. For my blog post this week I will be discussing a research study conducted by psychologist Philip Zimbardo in which the the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner or prison guard were examined. An ad was placed in a local newspaper asking for volunteers to study the psychological effects of prison life in which there were over 70 applicants. Out of these 70 only 24 college students from the U.S. and Canada in the Stanford area were selected to participate. All of these students were an average group of healthy, intelligent, middle-class males. The participants were randomly divided into two groups. Half of them were assigned the role of guards while the other half were assigned the role of prisoners.

A prison like environment was constructed in the basement of Stanford’s Psychology Department. All of the events that occurred in this experiment were videotaped through a small opening. The prison contained a very dark and tiny solitary confinement area where “bad” prisoners would go as well as in intercom system that could be used to make announcements to prisoners and listen to their conversations. There were no windows or clocks in the building so the prisoners had no way of telling what time of day it was.

The volunteers that were assigned the role of prisoners were swept up in a mass arrest simulation during which they were formally booked, given Miranda rights, finger printed, blindfolded, and taken to a holding cell. The prisoners were later transported to the “Stanford County Jail” for more processing. They were individually brought to the jail and explained how serious their offense was as well as their new status as prisoners by the warden. Next, they were strip searched and deloused. In addition, they were given uniforms that resembled dresses (and were not allowed to wear anything under), rubber sandals, women’s nylon stockings to put over their hair, and chains on their right ankle to be worn at all times. This was all meant to humiliate the prisoners and emasculate them. The chains provided an atmosphere of oppression and served as a reminder to them that they could not escape (Zimbardo, 1999-2017).

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The guards in this experiment were given no instructions on how to act as guards and were free to do basically whatever they felt was necessary to maintain law and order. They all dressed in khaki uniforms and had a whistle and billy club with them as well as sunglasses that prevented anyone from seeing their eyes/reading their emotions. The guards asserted their authority through a series of blasting whistles that occurred each night. The first time this happened the prisoners were not used to their roles and did not take this seriously which lead to confrontations between the prisoners and guards. Guards used push-ups as one form of punishment and sometimes stepped on their backs or commanded other prisoners to sit on them while they did push-ups. This form of punishment was also used in Nazi concentration camps (Zimbardo, 1999-2017).

On the second day of this experiment, the prisoners rebelled. They barricaded themselves inside their cells and began to taunt and curse the guards. The guards were very angered by this and called for reinforcements. the proceeded to break into the cells using fire extinguishers, stripped the prisoners naked, and put the leaders of the rebellion into solitary confinement. After this the guards had no problem harassing and intimidating the prisoners. The guards began to use psychological tactics on the prisoners to turn them against each other. Gradually the experiment became a reality for the participants and the guards believed that the prisoners may actually cause them harm leading them to become more controlling and aggressive (Zimbardo, 1999-2017). Every detail of the prisoners lives were controlled by the guards. Several prisoners suffered extreme mental breakdowns and their reality was further blurred by visits from a priest and lawyer. Some had to be released early.

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This experiment was meant to last two weeks but it only made it six days. The study was ended early due to the escalated abuse of prisoners during the nighttime where the guards believed no researchers were watching. Their boredom led them to do very disturbing and degrading things to the prisoners. I found it very intriguing how regular people could turn into completely terrible people by simply being given a role and put into that environment. I think it is very important to always keep in mind that you are researching human beings. Some of the trauma endured by those prisoners continued to affect their lives even after the study was ended. The study should have been ended the moment that signs of abuse were shown. The lives of the people being studied should be valued over what the research will tell you.

-Sydney Pineault

Works Cited:

Zimbardo, P. G. (1999-2017). The Story: An Overview of the Experiment. Retrieved from (April 9, 2017) Social Psychology Network: http://www.prisonexp.org/the-story 

Determining Sample Size

Determining Sample Size

This week in class we discussed survey research and how to calculate sample sizes. Sample size is extremely important when deciding to conduct survey research because it is one factor that will determine how accurate the survey is. Question 4 from our book contains 3 problems that are meant to test our ability to apply the sample size formula given in the chapter, one of which I will work through in this post. The following is the question that I have chosen to complete:

To determine the effectiveness of an ad campaign for a new DVD player, management would like to know what percentage of the market has been made aware of the new product. The ad agency thinks this figure could be as high as 70 percent. In estimating the percent aware, management has specified a 95 percent confidence interval and a precision of +-2 percent. What sample size is needed?

The first thing you need to know in order to begin this problem is the formula for computing the sample size. Step one is to square the Z value associated with the desired confidence interval, step two is to multiply it by the population variance, and step 3 is to divide by the square of the desired precision. The Z value is referring to the area under the curve for normally distributed data. The Z value for a 95% confidence interval, like the one in this problem, is 2.0. Variance refers to variability and is also very important in determining sample size because the greater the variance, the larger the sample size required to secure a given margin of error (McQuarrie 2016). The formula for determining variance is as follows: Variance= proportion #1 x [1 – proportion #1]. In our problem the variance would be 0.70 x [1 – 0.70], which equals 0.21. The desired precision for this problem is +-2 percent. Now, if we put all of this information together this is what the formula will look like: 4 x 0.21 / 0.0004 = 2100, so the sample size necessary for this problem is 2100 people.

In my opinion, the desired precision of +-2 percent for this problem is excessively tight. The textbook expresses that it is impractical for commercial studies of proportions to seek a precision any tighter than +-5 percentage points. A sample size of 2100 people is way too much for this study. One of the problems dealt with a restaurant that wanted to determine the average amount spent per month on sit-down restaurant dining by households in the area. This problem had a precision of +-$5, which I also found to be a bit too tight. Since the problem is tracking months expenditures I think that +-$10 or $15 would be more reasonable. The last problem had to do with a firm that wanted to track satisfaction on a quarterly basis using a 10-point scale. This problem had a precision of +-0.05, which I found to be excessively tight as the recommended variance for a 10 point scale is around 3. Ultimately, it is up to management to determine the desired precision in different cases and this exercise showed me that it can sometimes be challenging to determine what is reasonable and what is not.

-Sydney Pineault

Stances on Surveys

Stances on Surveys

As we begin talking about quantitative data in class, one of the first methods discussed was survey research in which a certain type of questionnaire is completed by a large sample of respondents. Unlike qualitative research, survey questions are not meant to discover and explore. They are meant to provide descriptive and evaluative information. When proposing a survey effort it is very important to understand what the value is of the information that will be provided as well as what change this information will enable and how important that change is. Chapter 9 of our textbook expresses that evaluative surveys, which describe a customer’s stance towards a brand or whatever positive/negative feedback they have with a certain product, are ultimately more valuable than surveys that simply describe customer characteristics and behaviors.

Being someone that has participated in several evaluative surveys, I am inclined to agree with the stance the textbook takes on evaluative surveys. I have completed numerous course evaluations during my time here at Wesleyan, which are surveys that we take for each class asking us to rate the performance of our professors throughout the year. I usually take these surveys seriously as they are personal to me and pertain to a service that I care about. I feel that I am able to voice my opinion and also that it will be heard since I am part of a fairly small sample for each class.

Descriptive survey research tells you what but it does not tell you why, and how are you supposed to change something or keep it the same if you do not know why it is something is/is not not going the way  you want it to? From the point of view of  a marketer conducting research, I would also be inclined to agree that evaluative surveys are more valuable. One downfall to these kinds of surveys is that they will most likely have a smaller sample size, yielding less accurate results. Surveys rely on self-report data, or data that customers know, can verbalize, and accurately report (McQuarrie, 2016). Evaluative surveys will be most useful when the participants are knowledgable about the product and are willing to take their time with the survey and give truthful answers.

-Sydney Pineault

 

Resources:

McQuarrie, E. (2016). The Market Research Toolbox A Concise Guide for Beginners

(fourth edition). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.

 

 

Qualitative or Quali-great-ive

Qualitative or Quali-great-ive

Today’s blog post will be dedicated towards discussing qualitative research. Qualitative research is different from other types of research in the way that human beings are the primary  measuring instrument used to gain information. This kind of research focuses on the words spoken by customers instead of the numerical representation of responses. It involves collecting, analyzing, and interpreting unstructured data by observing what people do and say. If successful, qualitative research will lead to new discoveries and new insights.

There are several different kinds of qualitative research, which include the following: ethnographies, interviews/customer visits, focus groups, marketing research online communities, neuromarketing, and projective techniques. Ethnographies involve studying behavior in places where it occurs for prolonged periods of time. They are particularly effective for studying trends, personal habits, lifestyle factors, and the effects of social/cultural context on behavior. Interviews are usually conducted by trained interviewers who ask probing questions to respondents to gain an understanding of their opinions and behavior. Customer visits typically involve decision makers from outside the typical sales person deliberately arranging to interact with consumers to learn more about their experiences. During class these last couple of weeks we have had the opportunity to experience first hand what being part of a focus group is like. We also developed our own screener questions and probing questions to ask during our very own focus groups. The screener questions are usually easy, yes or no questions that simply determine who will be in the focus group, while the probing questions are more in depth and asked during the focus group to gain insight from participants.

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After looking over several journal articles that discussed the use of qualitative research, I found one in particular to be quite compelling. The article, On ‘being researched’: why do people engage with qualitative research, focuses mainly on the participants of qualitative research and what motivates them to become involved in research. I found this to be a new and interesting perspective to add to what I have already learned a lot about in class. The article expresses that the demands for qualitative research engagement are often more than we believe so they found the levels of cooperation that participants go through to engage to be rather surprising. Therefore, the engagement of participants in research often serves some type of purpose for those who choose to engage. Some motivators identified in this article include the following: suggestions from professionals, the desire to help others, having ‘nothing to lose,’ and therapeutic benefits. Furthermore, people derive satisfaction from expressing their opinions in subjects that they have an interest in.  The article also suggests that engaging in research may be an enlightening experience for participants as well as the researchers. Some of the most important mechanisms that have been identified in supporting research relationships are trust, credibility, and rapport. Negative experiences with research engagement can be avoided through the establishment of informed consent, anonymity, confidentiality, the avoidance of harm/deception, and the right to withdraw. Qualitative research can be very effective when the people who are engaging in the research are motivated in some way to participate instead of simply trying to get it over with as soon as possible. Ultimately, this journal article gave me a new and unique perspective on qualitative research from the point of view of the participants and has helped me to better incorporate what I have learned through class and readings.

-Sydney Pineault

 

Focusing in on Focus Groups

Focusing in on Focus Groups

Focus groups are a kind of group interview used by market researchers in which a particular topic is discussed among the people chosen for the focus group in the hopes of discovering new insight on the topic. They are a type of qualitative research and require a moderator to lead the group discussion. The moderator must have the general skills needed to conduct interviews as well as specific skills in managing group interaction. Group interviews are much more demanding than one-on-one interviews and as such require someone equipped with the skills to converse with a group effectively and efficiently. By watching the video “How to Moderate a Focus Group” I gained some insight on what it takes to conduct a successful focus group.

The first step in conducting a focus group is the setup. This involves making sure that the table, chairs, and food is all satisfactory. The recording devices need to be put in place and tested to make sure they work and name tags need to be placed at each spot on the table. The moderator may place certain people in certain places at the table depending on their personality. All of the people participating in the focus group have been picked because the topic is somehow relevant to them. In this video, the topic being discussed was airline travel and the people chosen were people who frequently traveled. The next step is the arrival of the participants. The moderator greets people as they walk in and shows them to their assigned seat. It is very important that the participants feel welcome and comfortable in the atmosphere where the focus group is taking place so this step is fairly important.The third step is to actually begin the focus group. This involves a welcome and introduction in which everyone introduces themselves. During this step the moderator gives the participants some background information about the research they are conducting, the ground rules for the focus group, and the opening question for the group. During the discussion the moderator will ask several questions that they have carefully come up with. After asking and discussing all of the questions the moderator will conclude the group by asking participants what they though to be the most important thing said in the focus group. The next step is the summary of the focus group given by the assistant moderator in which final questions are taken and the summary is read aloud to make sure nothing important was missed. The final step is to compile the qualitative research gained from the focus group into a report.

Dr. Krueger described many useful tips for moderating a focus group in this video. He explained that short pauses after asking a question are a good thing because it allows participants to gather their thoughts. Another useful tip he gave had to do with how to deal with ramblers. If someone is talking too much the moderator should avert their gaze from that person and look at others, and if they still have not stopped talking it is best to interrupt them and redirect the question to others. On the other hand, if someone has not talked at all the moderator should call on them and ask their opinion to involve them in the discussion. One tip I found particularly interesting was the use of role play in a focus group. Role play helps to express complex ideas. Another tip Dr. Krueger gave was the use of lists. Lists are a good strategy for getting information out of people. In the video he combined everyones lists into one large list and asked participants what they believed to be the three most significant things. Lists are helpful for identifying a large number of items as well as the most relevant items.

I found this video to be very informative about everything involved in moderating a focus group. I found all of the tips given by Dr. Kreuger to be very interesting. I enjoyed watching the video and seeing him demonstrate the things he talked about. I found it interesting that the moderator wanted people to not only answer his questions but to converse with one another instead of solely with him. I think this method is fairly successful for gaining consumer thoughts and feelings. I didn’t like how repetitive the questions were in the video. It seemed like the same question was asked over and over again, just in different ways. I understand that asking the same question in a couple of different ways may be helpful, but I would have a greater variety of questions asked if I were to conduct a focus group.

-Sydney Pineault