Market research: Problem analysis

Before starting any market research, it is wise to analyze the problem. This is done in the problem analysis on the basis of relevance, objective, problem definition and question. The problem analysis is the first step in setting up market research. The research design follows, which determines how the research will be conducted. This will be discussed in a follow-up article. Example: the director of the school wants to conduct market research into the choice of courses for his exam candidates. Before he can actually start the research, the problem must be analyzed and a research design formulated. The problem can be analyzed using the following steps:


The relevance is a short description of the company (its history, structure, etc.) which also indicates the reason for the research (the hidden agenda). What do they really want to know? Possible hidden agendas:

  • Number of registrations at other schools
  • Distribution between different courses
  • Dropouts during the propaedeutic phase
  • Higher profitability
  • Better utilization of the formula


What is the end state you want to achieve? (BEWARE: Not too general) What can the client expect? Objective of the research. In most cases, the objective includes only a few words or one sentence.


What information is needed to achieve the objective? In most cases, the problem definition starts with ‘Gaining insight into…’ It briefly states what the research is about. Who are you conducting the research for (client/stakeholder), which target group is the research about and what are the boundaries of the research area. A distinction can be made between different information domains. Information domains = the information divided into smaller groups. Example:

  • Target group: student population of exam candidates
  • Competitors: training offering
  • Too high costs?
  • Retail wishes
  • Consumer wishes


Another word for questions is sub-problems or research questions (structure per domain). What do you want to know about the information domain? If this classification does not work, you can present the problems to a focus group. Example: Student population of exam candidates

  • Number of students
  • Age structure
  • Current profile (NT, NG, EM, CM)
  • Holiday spending

Looking for indicators that divide the questions/sub-problems into measurable aspects. The problem analysis is followed by the research design.