The Function, Process, and Profession of Market Research

The Function, Process, and Profession of Market Research

The University of Georgia (UGA) and the Market Research Institute International (MRII) are proud to offer a new online course Introduction to Market Research and the Research Process, authored by C. Frederic John, the Founder and Principal of Consilience Research & Consulting, LLC. This course introduces the broad set of activities that define “market research.” It will help to convey the many roles and purposes that research plays in business and other settings and how being a researcher often places one at the heart of decision-making. The following is an excerpt from the course on the three facets of market research: function, process, and profession.

What is “Market Research” and how is it distinguished, if at all, from “Marketing Research?” There are many, sometimes conflicting, definitions of both terms. To answer, let’s focus on three of its key facets:

  1. Function
  2. Process
  3. Profession


By function, we refer to the role market research plays within the corporate world and other environments, including nonprofits and political parties. Many companies have market research departments that provide information. The ultimate aim of the departments within all these enterprises is the same—to inform decision-making.

Researchers must be objective, presenting the unvarnished truth regardless of how welcome the findings may be. It is also distinguished by the rigor with which we carry out our inquiries. Logic informs our study designs and guides our analysis. Together, our objectivity enables us to play an even more critical role—that of reducing risk. At the same time, our purpose is evolving from information provider to strategic advisor, providing not only findings and insights but conclusions and concrete recommendations, working closely with stakeholders to make and execute decisions.


Conducting research is also a process, an activity that involves a series of discrete steps and draws on several alternative approaches and tools. The process begins with defining a problem and framing an issue and ends with a report that includes findings, conclusions, and recommendations.

A researcher carries a reasonably large “toolbox” of approaches and methods that can be used to solve a wide array of business and other problems. The richness of the toolbox is a reflection of the many types of roles we play within and beyond the business arena, and the broad range of problems that we are asked to solve. There are two critical aspects we need to consider as we use these tools:

  1. To select the right tool for the job means matching approach and method to the goals and objectives of the inquiry.
  2. To know how the use the tool properly requires detailed knowledge of how to carry out a particular type of inquiry.


Finally, we focus on research as a profession. Market researchers are professionals based on their expertise. To be effective, you need to be seen as authoritative. People skills are essential, starting with selling a proposal, persuading a client to accept your proposed design, and convincing a client to accept your findings and recommendations.

To be a professional also means keeping up with developments in the field, participating in professional membership associations, attending conferences, writing, speaking, and mentoring. Most critically, it means adhering to a strict set of ethical guidelines that enforce our commitment to honesty and accuracy, and also protects our participants, our clients, and society as a whole.

In conclusion, there is no need to define the role of a market researcher, just as long as these basic facets can be articulated and elaborated of whatever it is we are.

To register for the Principles Express course Introduction to Market Research and the Research Process , click here.

We are grateful for the course to be sponsored by Full Circle, a leading global provider of seamless, productive online survey experiences. Such sponsorships have funded the development of our new line of Principles Express courses.

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