Bill Neal – long-time colleague and founder/senior partner at SDR Consulting – wrote an article back in 1998 titled, “The Marketing Research Methodologist.” In it, Bill advocates for “the recognition of the marketing research methodologist as a specialty and specific job title in the marketing research profession.” He defines the methodologist as someone “who has a balanced and in-depth knowledge of the fields of statistics, psychometrics, marketing, and buyer behavior and applies that knowledge to describe and infer causal relationships from marketing data.” I espoused a similar notion in a 2001 article where I talked about the benefits of striving towards the methodologist title and, specifically, the significant strides qualitative researchers could gain from “widening their knowledge and appreciation of quantitative design issues.”
The idea of researcher transformed into methodologist is an important one because of its impact on research design. I believe that a methodologist approach to design is neither quantitative nor qualitative but the learned consideration of all methods and techniques in order, as Bill says, “to understand why buyers (consumers and organizations) do what they do”; not unlike Research Design Review’s recurring theme – to understand how people think.
Back in 1998 and 2001 the goal of methodologist was a daunting one requiring: lots of academic schooling in brick-and-mortar institutions, traveling long (and expensive) distances to conferences, finding time from our work schedules to meet informally with peers to absorb their knowledge, searching for training workshops to learn new methods and techniques, and subscribing to many journals and trade publications to keep us abreast of the latest breakthroughs (as well as the comings and goings) across the realms of research, marketing, advertising, psychology, sociology, and political science.
Thank goodness we are where we are today. I cannot think of a better time to strive for methodologist status. At no other time has the research community had such a fluid and accessible opportunity to grow and gain knowledge within and across traditional marketing research borders. Twitter and LinkedIn have totally changed the way we communicate with our peers, our clients, and our trade associations. We no longer wait weeks or months between networking events to hear what others are doing in the industry. We no longer need to travel long distances to participate in an educational presentation because countless (generally, free) Webinars are offered to us each week. While organizations such as AMA, TMRE, CASRO, QRCA, and MRA continue to hold live, in-person conferences, we no longer miss out if a scheduling conflict prevents us from attending because continuous online feeds nourish us with a blow-by-blow of events – and in December we can conference virtually at The NewMR Virtual Festival. Our journals and trade publications have been abundantly supplemented with online access, e-versions, as well as blogs and discussion groups of every conceivable stripe. And, if this was not enough, our entire U.S.-centric research world has burst open to embrace the knowledge and perspective of our colleagues across the globe.
What a great time to become a methodologist!