Live blogged at the #AMSRS 2015 national conference. Any errors or bad jokes in the notes are my own.
- phd researchers have a bad reputations [yup i don’t say i have a phd unless it is necessary, if i do tell people they think i am pretentious or too smart to talk to. if you’ve met me in person, you know neither of those are true]
- most phds move into private business, a miniscule number become professors
- are phds undervalued? are they too detailed?
- three benefits of hiring a phd – do phds know too little beyong their thesis? do they have any practical skills? perhaps phds are really good at challenging new methods and innovations, not fearful to speak up about new methods; learn to adapt their style to different people; good at learning a new topic or approach; good at project management; good at self education; definitely persevere with passion
- “the academic” type of research – phds learn to do lit reviews or as business researchers call it desk research; they know how to design research that is scientific including qualitative research and these skills don’t come from an undergraduate degree; understand scientific rigor; have expert knowledge in an area that can be extremely useful [in my case, my dissertation was on data quality of online surveys]
- lack real world value and practical skills – research ready, budget management, presentation skills and delivery, quick learners, and your company can charge more money for you
- [my favourite interview question “what do you think of my painting?” the interviewer wanted to see if i could have a regular conversation not a research conversation]
- academia vs business – timelines are very different, budget is very different, it’s like learning a new language
- advice to employers – mould the phd graduate, ensure training from a senior staff member, give feedback and support to recalibrate for business, get phds involved in company thinking, encourage them to talk at conferences
Guest Post by Prof. Dr. Peter Ph. Mohler
Having listened to uncountable papers and reading innumerable texts on non-response, non-response bias, survey error, even total survey error, or global cooling of the survey climate it seems to be timely considering why after so many decades working in a, according to the papers, seemingly declining field called “survey research” I still do not intend to quit that field.
The truth is, I am mighty proud to be a member of survey research because:
- We can be proud of our respondents who, after all these years, still give us an hour or so of their precious time to answer our questions to the best of their abilities.
- We can be proud of our interviewers who, despite low esteem/status and payment, under often quite difficult circumstance, get in contact with our respondents, convince them to give us some of their time and finally do an interview to the best of their abilities.
- We can be proud of our survey operations crews, who, despite low esteem/status and increasing costs/time pressures organize data collection, motivate interviewers, and edit/finalize data for analysis.
- We can be proud of our social science data archives who for more than five decades preserve and publish surveys nationally and internationally as a free, high quality service unknown of in other strands of science.
- We can be proud of our survey designers, statisticians and PIs, who constantly improved survey quality from its early beginnings.
Of course there are drawbacks such as clients insisting on asking dried and dusted questions or, often academic, PIs who do not estimate the efforts and successes of respondents, interviewers, survey operations and all the rest, and there are some who deliberately fabricate surveys or survey analyses (including all groups mentioned before).
But it is no good to define a profession by its outliers or not so optimal outcomes.
Thus it seems timely to turn our attention from searching for errors to optimizing survey process quality and at long last defining benchmarks for good surveys that are fit for their intended purpose.
The concepts and tools are already there, waiting to be used to our benefit.
As originally posted to the AAPOR distribution list.
Peter is owner and Chief Consultant of Comparative Survey Services (COMPASS) and honorary professor at Mannheim University. He is the former Director of ZUMA, Mannheim (1987-2008). Among others he directed the German General Social Survey (ALLBUS) and the German part of the International Social Survey Programme (ISSP) for more than 20 years. He was a founding senior member of the European Social Survey (ESS) Central Scientific Team 2001- 2008. He is co-editor of Cross-Cultural Survey Methods (John Wiley, 2003) and Surveys in Multinational, Multiregional and Contexts (John Wiley, 2010, AAPOR Book Award 2013). Together with colleagues of the ESS Central Coordinating Team, he received the European Descartes Prize in 2005.
- Reflecting on AAPOR 2013 (csrindiana.wordpress.com)
[tweetmeme source=”lovestats” only_single=false]I’ve been asked on a number of occasions how I found a job in market research after completing a Phd in psychology. You’d think the opportunities are endless but, like any career path, there are always obstacles.
Interviewers have told me to my face that they refuse to hire or they don’t like Phds. They’ve even given me strange tests to determine whether I’m human or robot, like “What does this abstract painting on my wall mean to you?” (Honestly, that piece of crap is major ugly.)
So here is my advice. It’s free advice so the confidence intervals are wide. Please do ask questions and I promise I’ll answer all of them.
- The fact that you have a Phd means you know research and statistics. Don’t waste your cover letter proving this.
- The fact that you have a Phd means employers think you don’t know the real world and that you can’t speak casual english. Prove this wrong in your cover letter. Write in business dialect not in dissertation dialect. This is one case where fancy words do NOT impress.
- Forget the stats speak. When they ask you what a t-test is, don’t tell them it’s an analysis of mean scores and confidence intervals of a quantitative variable for a second qualitative variable. Speak english. Say it’s a way to determine if two groups of people differ on a measure like height or weight.
- Join a few online survey panels so you can get a lay of the land. What questions get asked? How are they asked? Do you want to shoot yourself during the survey because it’s so horrid? This will give you insight about the business you think you want to get into and…
- … something to talk about during interviews. In which you will speak like a human being not a professor.
- Go to a used bookstore and buy a Market Research 101 textbook. Learn it.
- If your field isn’t psychology, you would do well to take a course in social psychology or personality psychology. It will give you great insight into survey question design.
- Learn either SAS or SQL. Not the menu driven kind, the syntax programming type. Even if you don’t end up using it on the job, you will be better able to talk to the statisticians and get what you need in the time you need.
- Accept that in the business world, projects take 14 days not 14 months, with sample sizes of 200 not 2000, and conclusions that are final not proposals for 8 more years of research. Now is not the time to try to convince your gracious hosts otherwise. They aren’t stupid.
You are already qualified. You just need the right vocabulary and the right perspective on research for business. Any questions?
Read these too
Welcome to my quick and easy comparison of Academia and the real world of marketing research. I hope this helps young’uns decide which career path is most suited to them. Let’s begin!
Academia: Precise and perfectly applied statistics down the fourteenth decimal place matter. Multi-collinearity. Bonferroni vs scheffe post hocs.
Real world: Shove in the decimal places. You got 8 minutes.
Academia: Biased sampling of broke college students
Real world: Biased sampling of broke volunteers
Academia: Strive for perfection in all aspects of your question while accounting for four-way interactions
Real world: Strive for Friday while accounting for overtime
Academia: 300 pages, 500 references, 10 peer reviews
Real world: 300 pages, no references, 1 forgotten spell check
Academia: Time, No money
Real world: No time, Money
Academia: No one understands a word you say
Real world: No one believes a word you say
Academia: Multiple test and control groups, balanced and randomized.
Real world: Groups
Suggestions from the peanut gallery?
In Canada, there are very few schools that specialize in teaching the skill of market research at the undergraduate level. In fact, I only know one.
Now, there are many, many programs that inclde a couple courses in statistics, or research design, or marketing. These at least provide some fundamental knowledge so that when you hear a term later on, you at least recognize that it is a term. If you can’t find an MR program, the next best thing is to do a degree in psychology, sociology, geography, or marketing. I may be biased but I think the best option is a major in psychology with a minor in marketing. You can see though, that even if you create an optimal program, none of these focus on the art and science of MR as its own academic area.
Even those folks who go on to earn graduate degrees fall into the same bucket. Psychology graduate students do their research on psychology topics and probably never take a marketing course. Their research skills are top notch but an internalized perspective on marketing is lacking. And, marketers do their research in marketing and don’t have the background in social psychology to better understand why people buy the way they buy.
What it means is that most new market researchers come to the table with serious gaps in knowledge. They must resort to learning on the job. If they’re lucky, the person who trains them is a wonderful mentor with many years of experience. But those folks are few and not always readily available to the junior folk. What is more likely the case is that someone barely senior to them tells them just enough to get the job done because they are still trying to learn the skills themselves. In my case, the only mentor I had was an intro marketing textbook that I picked up at a used book store.
We are fortunate that our MR societies have ongoing training courses and certification. Unfortunately, these cost money and new graduates just don’t have that kind of cash. Nor do their employers have money to invest in a newbie. Which means a lot of people in the MR industry are not as skilled as they should be.
Maybe this is partly why our industry is struggling through data quality issues. Not enough people understand the psychology behind survey answering. Not enough people understand the myriad precise techniques of writing survey questions. This lack of MR skills leads to bad surveys which leads to bad survey experiences and results in declining response rates.
So, here’s my idea. It’s not new. If you work with newbies, be that missing link. Be a mentor. Teach them everything you can. Send them to conferences. Make the time to set up lunch and learns not because you have to, but because its the right thing to do. Invest in your company by financing their CMRP certification. This will lead to a better research product, happier employees, and a stronger company.
I thank you, and your newbies thank you too!