“Do You Speak Research?”
A Glossary of Market Research Terms

Market research has a language of its own, which like any terminology or jargon can be intimidating. The following is a glossary of terms that we frequently receive questions about. Definitions are provided courtesy of Quirk’s Marketing Research Review.

AAU (attitude, awareness and usage) study
A type of tracking study that monitors changes in consumer attitudes, awareness and usage levels for a product category or specific brand.

Ad positioning statement tests
Testing to determine reactions of the target audience to positioning statements that are being considered for use in advertisements.

Ad tracking research
Periodic measurements of the impact of advertisements over time.

Applied research
Any research which is used to answer a specific question, determine why something failed or succeeded, solve a specific, pragmatic problem, or to gain better understanding.

The proportion of people who are familiar with a product, brand name or trademark.

Balanced scales
Scales with the same number of positive and negative categories.

The column headings, or cross-tab breaks, that run horizontally across the top of a computer table.

The number on which the percentages in a table are calculated.

Basic research
Research aimed at expanding knowledge rather than solving a specific, pragmatic problem.

A control source against which you compare the area you're studying. For example, you may compare the results of a study in one state to the results of the nation as a whole.

Brand associations
Components of brand image, usually (but not always) assessed by qualitative research method.

Brand equity
The level of awareness and consumer goodwill generated by a company's brands and/or products.

A sample consisting of the entire population.

Closed-end question
Questions that ask the respondent to choose from a limited number of pre-listed answers.

Concept description
A brief description of a new product or service.

Conceptual mapping
A moderation technique in which participants are asked to place the names of products or services on a grid. How they group the items on the diagram is used to stimulate discussion.

Confidence intervals
The range around a survey result for which there is a high statistical probability that it contains the true population parameter.

Confidence level
The probability that a particular confidence interval will include the true population value.

Conjoint analysis
A multivariate technique used to quantify the value that people associate with different levels of product/service attributes. Respondents trade product attributes against each other to establish product (brand) preference and the relative importance of attributes. Based on utility theory and consumer rationality. Better for functional than fashionable brands.

Correlation analysis
Analysis of the degree to which changes in one variable are associated with changes in another.

Data processing
Organization of data for the purpose of producing desired information; involves recording, classifying, sorting, summarizing, calculating, disseminating and storing data.

Dependent variable
A symbol or concept expected to be explained or caused by the independent variable. It is the variable measured on each subject to determine whether its value is affected by the independent variable. Also known as criterion variable.

Depth interview
One-on-one interviews that probe and elicit detailed answers to questions, often using nondirective techniques to uncover hidden motivations.

A qualitative research methodology in which an interviewer works with two participants at once. This technique is particularly appropriate for products and services for which two persons are relatively equal partners in making a purchase decision.

Focus group
A qualitative market research technique in which a group of participants (approx. 10) of common demographics, attitudes, or purchase patterns are led through a discussion of a particular topic by a trained moderator.

A recruitment method in which an interviewer stops people in a mall or other public location and administers survey.

A probing technique, used in one-on-ones and focus groups, designed to delve into the real reasons for participants' attitudes and behavior toward the topic. It is generally considered to be an intensive technique. The moderator seeks the reason behind each answer until he or she arrives at a basic human need such as ego or status.

Longitudinal study
A long-term survey based on repeated analysis of either the same sample (called a panel study) or new samples chosen at regular intervals.

Market segmentation
The process of dividing a total market into sub-groups of consumers who exhibit differing sensitivities to one or more marketing mix variables.

Marketing research
The planning, collection, and analysis of data relevant to marketing decision making, and the communication of the results of this analysis to management.

The sum of the values for all observations of a variable divided by the number of observations.

The numerical observation that divides the distribution of observations in half. Sometimes referred to as the second quartile.

A focus group that contains between four to six participants. More than six is normally considered a full group, and fewer than four is a triad or a dyad.

The most frequently occurring measurement. The peak of a frequency curve.

Mystery shoppers
People employed to pose as consumers and shop at the competitors and their own stores to compare prices, displays, etc.

Omnibus panel
Study over time in which the sponsoring research company defines the audience to be surveyed and the intervals between studies. Numerous clients participate by submitting proprietary questions. Generally clients only receive results from their proprietary questions and general demographic questions.

A qualitative research technique in which a moderator interviews one participant.

Online focus groups
A qualitative research methodology in which people in separate locations use their computers to participate in a discussion about a particular topic in a private Internet chat room, facilitated by a trained moderator. Basically a focus group that is conducted online. These can be conducted “real-time” or over an extended period of time. They can be especially useful when respondents are dispersed geographically or when the research topic is sensitive. (Note: Definition provided by JRS Consulting.)

Open-ended question
A question that has no prelisted answers, which requires the respondent to answer is his or her own words.

A survey in which the same respondents are interviewed several times over an extended period. Also called longitudinal analysis. Group interviews (focus groups) are sometimes called panels.

Location of a brand or product in consumers' minds relative to competitive products.

A trial run of a questionnaire sent to a small sample to be sure that actual responses are clear and that any problems with the questionnaire are detected.

Primary research
Conducting research to collect new data to solve a marketing information need. See also secondary research.

Product concept testing
The testing of new product ideas before they have been turned into prototypes.

Product positioning research
Research used to determine how competitive brands are perceived relative to each other on key dimensions.

The capability of research results to be extrapolated to the larger universe, on the assumption that the sample is representative of the total.

A class of moderation techniques used to stimulate discussion among participants. These techniques force the participants to think about the topic in a more subjective or creative way than they might in a regular discussion. Projectives include sentence completion, expressive drawing, anthropomorphization and associations.

Research data not subject to quantification or quantitative analysis; characterized by the absence of empirical measurements and an interest in subjective evaluation. Qualitative methodologies include focus groups, mini-groups, one on-ones and open ended-questions.

Quantitative research
Research conducted for the purpose of obtaining empirical evaluations of attitudes, behavior or performance. Designed to generate projectable numerical data about a topic.

Quota sample
A sampling procedure that includes specified numbers of respondents having characteristics known or believed to affect the subject being researched. Selection is by nonprobability means. A moderator might set a quota of having half the group be users of Brand X, or one-fourth be aware of Product Y.

Random sampling
A sample in which each unit has an equal and independent chance of selection. Also known as probability sample.

Regression analysis
A multivariate technique that relates a dependent variable to one or more independent variables.

A subset of the population of interest selected for a research study. It is a finite portion that is used to study the characteristics of concern in the population.

Secondary research
Analyzing information from previously conducted research projects. See also primary research.

Stratified random sample
Probability samples that force sample to be more representative of the population. It is obtained by dividing the population into groups called strata, then simple random samples are taken from each of the strata.

Telephone focus groups
A qualitative research methodology in which seven to 10 people are connected in a telephone conference call and a trained moderator leads them through a discussion about a particular topic. Basically a focus group that is conducted via conference calling.

Tests of significance
Tests for determining whether observed differences in a sample are sufficiently large as to be caused by something other than mere chance.

Studies repeated over time to monitor changes in a brand or product category.

A qualitative research methodology in which a moderator works with three respondents. Some researchers maintain that the limited number of participants in a triad permits the moderator to get more information from them than is possible in a minigroup of full group.

Video focus groups
Focus groups conducted using satellite video technology in which participants are located in different places, normally in different countries. Also called global focus groups.

Assigning a numerical coefficient to an item to express its relative importance in a frequency distribution.


Jenny Schade is president of JRS Consulting, Inc., a firm that helps organizations build leading brands and efficiently attract and motivate employees and customers. Subscribe to the free JRS newsletter on

© JRS Consulting, Inc. 2007