You’ve decided to conduct a research project and you’re trying to figure out the research that already exists on the topic. The only problem is that the reports you’re reviewing read like they were written in a foreign language. The first time you hear terms such as CATI, design testing and market segmentation get thrown around, you’re lost.

I’m here to help you decipher the lingo. In this article, I’ve compiled definitions of some common research terms you’re likely to see or hear.

Here are the first two you’ll need to know:

Qualitative Research: Qualitative research is a term that encompasses a variety of research methods that gather non-numerical data. Focus groups and in-depth interviews are examples of qualitative research. This type of research focuses on the “why” instead of the “what” or “how many.” It gives you a better understanding of your participants’ motivations and opinions, and is a good method to better understand processes and reasons for purchasing decisions.

A word of caution about qualitative research: Be skeptical if your research consultants say they will be quantifying the qualitative. It is not wise to associate statistics with this type of research. 

Quantitative Research: Quantitative research is a way to collect numerical data and is implemented through different forms of surveys. The results of this type of research are statistics and numbers that can be representative of the population. Here is where you’ll be able to recognize patterns with different audiences and run secondary analysis on specific questions.

Keep in mind that research studies often include both of these methodologies, not just one or the other.

Here are some other terms you’re likely to hear from a research consultant:

Sample: A sample is a smaller group that you’ve pulled from the overall population to conduct your research. If your sample is randomly selected, it will be representative of the overall population. This way you can use your data to make overall assumptions about your population.

Convenience Sample: There are different ways that you can gather a sample group of people to be a part of your research study. If you are trying to survey adults who go to farmers markets on the weekends, recruiting them by standing outside of a farmers market may be the best way to reach that audience. Your sampling method is random since you don’t know who’ll be at the market that day, but it is a convenience sample because you are at an accessible place to reach this audience.

CATI Survey: Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) surveys are used to collect primary data. An interviewer will call a participant and walk them through the survey questions. Here are some of the advantages of this research method:

  • You get a higher response rate from participants.
  • Literacy or technology is not an issue.
  • It’s easier to establish a relationship with the participant.
  • You get real-time clarification or rephrasing of questions.

This is also a good way to target demographics that normally would be hard to reach through emailed survey invitations.

Focus Group: A focus group is a qualitative research method where you interview a group of people together. These sessions normally last about an hour and a half to two hours and allow participants to have a conversation with each other. Do not expect every participant to answer every question; instead, focus groups provide an overall discussion as participants’ answers lead to comments from others.

In-Depth Interviews: In-depth interviews are another qualitative research method, but unlike focus groups, these are one-on-one interviews with participants. The average length of these interviews is 20 minutes to 30 minutes. You do not want these interviews to last much longer than 30 minutes because your participants may experience respondent fatigue. They may answer your questions too quickly without really thinking through their answers in an attempt to end the interview. Some participants may end the interview early.

Leading Questions: These types of questions imply an answer or encourage the participant to answer in a certain way. You want your research data to be representative of your population so that the decisions and assumptions you make are based on valid data.

An example of a leading question is, “How much did you enjoy being with your teachers during the field day at school?” This assumes that the participant enjoyed themselves at the event. Instead, you want to ask questions that encourage people to describe their overall experience.

Copy/Message Testing: This is when you test your messaging in marketing materials before it’s released in the market. This is a helpful way to make sure your messaging conveys what you intended.

There are different ways to do message testing. You can measure responses in a survey if you want quantitative data to compare statements, or (my personal favorite) you can test the statements in focus groups. Focus groups allow you to find out why someone liked a statement or why it resonated with them, or not.

Market research methods are not an “either/or” when it comes to designing a research study; you can use both focus groups and surveys to test your statements. Designing and printing materials can get expensive. You don’t want to release marketing messages that won’t be effective with your audience.

Design Testing: Design testing is when you have a few marketing creative concepts or marketing collateral pieces that you want to test. With design testing, you can get opinions on everything from the color palette to the photography used.

If you only want large numbers to tell you which design is liked more, you can use a survey. If you want to see the reactions to a new branding look, then a qualitative method, such as a focus group, may be a better choice.

I hope this list of terms and their definitions will help you feel more “in the know” when discussing research.

Market research can involve different approaches, depending on your research objectives and needs. Let Vela Agency help you navigate and plan your next research project.