Writing a Market Research Brief: Methodological Considerations

Posted by  D&M Research Team

POSTED ON  February 20, 2022


This post is part of a series designed to assist you in capturing and sharpening all the background information and business intentions that any research agency would require to deliver a focused and effective proposal.

In your market research brief, there should be a section that outlines who you anticipate researching (i.e. the target group), your thoughts on how we might go about this (methodology) and any specific materials (stimuli) that we might need to meet your objectives. It also is a good time to outline any known challenges that might be encountered in undertaking the research such as reaching the target, or overcoming any specific response issues or privacy concerns etc. Details of each are outlined below.

The target group

This section should outline the market segment from which the research should obtain a deeper insight (e.g. heavy category users or lapsed brand users, etc.). Whenever necessary, the target group can also be split by demographics, attitudes, media profiles or other relevant segmentation. For products where the purchaser or decision maker is not the consumer, the target needs to be defined accordingly.


This section will generally be guided by the agency but you should at least detail your initial thoughts around methodology so that the agency can build on your initial thoughts and identify any challenges that might exist in recruiting respondents or executing the research.

You might also want to detail here whether you are thinking about a qualitative, quantitative or two-stage approach to the research? Will it be ethnographic (observational), face-to-face, by phone, intercept, online, self-completed, etc? What challenges exist in obtaining a sample? Is this readily available or will the agency need to source this? Is it a low or high incidence group and how likely are they to respond? Will we need to incentivise and, if so, with what or how many or how much?


Stimuli are simply the things you may need to show the respondent during the research, whether it be a focus group or a survey. These can be as simple as brand logos for awareness questions through to actual storyboards or concept boards for new product ideas or ads. Packaging design concepts are also a common form of stimulus used in research.

If it is a product or ad concept, think about the stage of development you are at – this will influence the type of materials required as stimuli. If it’s a communication project, you may require storyboards or an animatic (a cartoon-like version of an ad). These will usually be prepared by an ad or design agency, so you need to think about lead times.

It is also important to think about production values. Generally, concepts perform better if they have higher production values and are further down the production development line.

Other things to consider include how the stimuli will look across different devices, how you will protect confidentiality and how you will ensure that the stimuli are adequately seen or heard and reviewed by respondents (e.g. can they read the text on a mobile or hear the idea for a radio or tv ad?). Although many of these challenges will be addressed by the research agency, it is good to outline any anticipated issues with stimuli and stimulus production.

In the next and final post in this series, we’ll look at covering deliverables, anticipated actions, timing and budget in the research brief. Stay tuned!

For our complete guide to writing a research brief, download our FREE printable Research Brief Guide by completing the form below!

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