Class Projects in Research


GG Ganesh requested new ideas for semester-long projects in a Market Research class. In this posting there are several responses

 ARC: Connections: ELMAR: Posting

GG Ganesh had previously asked ELMAR subscribers for ideas on class market research projects. He received a number of helpful replies, including those summarized below from the following folks. The order of the names is not necessarily the order in which their contributions are presented.

Arnaud De Bruyn []
Thomas DeWitt []
Yancy Edwards []
Jule Gassenheimer []
Melissa Markley []
Keith Wallace []


Believe it or not I conduct applied research projects in all my marketing classes. I generally find that students are much more receptive and engaged in projects that are closest to them. For example, last semester my principles of marketing class worked on two projects (different groups):

– a marketing plan for the College of Business, which included focus groups in local high schools and an online survey of existing students

– a marketing plan for a campus wide initiative to increase faculty and student involvement in on-campus sustainability efforts, which involved surveying students and faculty and completing focus groups consisting of the leaders of on campus student organizations sympathetic to sustainability

On critical lesson is working through the identification of research objectives then working with students to understand the best type of research methods to use and the types of questions to ask.


I teach a MBA Marketing Research class. The class is project driven. I have a couple of organizations visit the first day of class and pitch their marketing research problem. The teams in the class (5 to 6) can select one of these organizations or find their own. I am attaching my all inclusive syllabus to give you an idea of the semester process. My goal is not to make marketing researchers out of the students but to better enable them to make key managerial decisions based on research. If they experience the process they realize the pitfall as well as the benefits. (Our classes are 3 hours in length. The semester is 12 classes long.)


I have attached my most recent spring semester syllabus. As you’ll see, I have my students work in teams on a semester long project. It’s basically new product development (NPD). Through the NPD stages, my goal is for my students to be doing marketing research. The stages of the project do coincide with the lecture material.

Should you have additional questions please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, please share with me any other syllabi you may get. While I like my project idea, I would love to be able to do something different yet meets or exceeds the bar for being a semester long project.


I always did semester-long projects and have found a system that covers everything and seems to fit into a semester really well.

Start early, usually the second class meeting, at getting them into groups (I allow them to choose the group since it’s already hard to get together with people…they might as well pick people they know and are comfortable with). Then I have them hand in 3 topic ideas. This is where you talk about brainstorming for ideas, coming up with interesting and applicable questions, deciding on the focus/objectives, etc. I review the topics and make suggestions about the most research appropriate one.

The project continues by having them do secondary research on the topic. I usually hold one class meeting at the library where a librarian talks to the class about sources for research, databases, etc. You can either have them hand in this piece for a grade, or just make it part of the final project.

After secondary research they have to do a qualitative component. They are allowed to do focus groups or interviews, but each person MUST participate. You can either have them write this up for a grade, or have it added into the final paper.

The secondary results are then transformed into an online survey. I specify online because it’s a great skill to have when they graduate and it helps with data entry issues. I talk about different online sources, how to create and analyze questions and sampling. Then they do a test run where they have 10 people complete the online survey. They then can make changes/edits and do a full-blown distribution. They can use any sampling method they want (usually they do convenience or snowball by asking friends/family if appropriate…some really go out by recruiting athletes or special groups) – they have to have a minimum usable sample of 50. This data has to be analyzed and discussed. Finally, they hand in the full research paper and do a brief presentation as they would to a client. It’s GREAT! The students always talk about how challenging it was, but I have had at least 6 students who came back after graduation and told me that they secured jobs because of their research experience.

One other thing I wanted to do but haven’t done yet was to bring in a real company that had a research issue. Then the students could do the same type of project I described above, but about a real topic. Then at the end they could present to the people from that company. That would make it very timely and real-world, but only if you have connections to local businesses.


Students were allowed to pick their group topics so they were interesting to them, as long as they were research appropriate. Topics used have included recycling on campus, marketing/attendance issues with athletics, solving the campus parking/pedestrian issue, alternate transportation sources for students, budget and financing issues for college students – how to market/educate better options, creating a green campus and greener students, charitable participation of students versus normal city population, etc.


I’ve attached my course presentation and copies of 3 student final reports, which show how 3 of my 7 teams differed a little in their work. I avoid much emphasis on stats. The whole course is project driven, and works really well. This year I will include some Interpretative research, and some innovative methods used by Ipsos.


Here is a list of some projects that captured my attention. As usual with student projects… A lot of garbage, but a few real gems.

– Yves Saint Laurent: positioning of two competing products that felt within the same group

– Stimorol: positioning study of a brand working well everywhere in Europe except France (shy?)

– Lenovo: conjoint study to estimate the brand equity of Lenovo in the B2C market

– Wii: segmentation study for advertising campaign optimization

– Debitel: a cell phone company, positioning study to better understand the discrepancy between network quality perception and actual network quality.

– (RED): segmentation study to understand who is willing to pay extra for socially responsible products.

– Soccer stadium: conjoint study to design new stadium

– Leffe: positioning of a "low elite" beer

– Corporate Social Responsibility: congruence between brand, social responsibility initiative, and brand equity


I’ve attached my most recent “Team Research Projects” document. I’ve continually revised this document with each iteration of the course. It is a soup-to-nuts layout of the semester-long project. While not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, I try to answer questions that may arise and present how-to’s during each stage of the marketing research process.

As for MR topics I’ve used, they include: Buying Presents; Eating; Having Fun; Reading; Showering (or Bathing); Sleeping; Snacking; Stress; and Working. I’ve used activities that students are familiar with and hopefully motivate them to work hard on the project. Again, at the end of the project they will have a new product and will advise a decision maker whether to move forward with production, strategy, and targeting, or not. If the recommendation is to not move forward, they must also provide cogent prescriptions of what the decision maker needs to do to hopefully bring the new product to market.

I don’t know if I spell out in the document but I provide new product ideas that are off limits. They include catering services, escort services, and takeout taxis. I’ve seen my share of horrible new product offering of this ilk. Students fail to see issues of insurance and other costs associated with this concept.

For part of the same reason already stated, I also rule out websites. Gone are the lawless dotcom days when someone could just throw up a website and they will come. Since my students haven’t clue about web design or things like getting your site registered on things like search engines, the product concept is awful.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m looking for perfection. Namely, I don’t ask my MR students to provide a marketing plan or business model. Still, it’s frustrating grading these half-baked ideas. You would think since our students are so savvy with the Internet they would know this. They don’t. So, I eliminate this from their consideration set.

Finally, I eliminate male or female enhancement products. I usually get a snicker from my students when I mention this. They know exactly the type of products I’m referring to. Products with drugs are also out. Basically, I tell them that any product you would be embarrassed to tell your parents or grandparents about is out of the question. So far, I’ve not students challenge me on this last point by saying their family is a bunch of hippies. ?

That then leaves them only considering physical products. It’s easier for them to get at the 4Ps for physical products. They can better describe the product in their questionnaire. Depending on the product concept, they may even be able to photoshop it.