Welcome to me! It seems that I am the newest member of the Georgian College Research Analyst program advisory committee. I’m not completely sure yet what my role will entail but at least a portion of it will be to advise the college on the types of skills and knowledge their students should acquire as part of the program.
In my first meeting, I learned a number of interested things.
- Only about 20% of applicants are accepted into the program. Wow! That’s tougher than most university programs and many graduate degree programs!
- Their major research projects are often conducted as ‘freesearch.’ In other words, businesses and government offices take advantage of their students to conduct research for free. Given that the research projects I reviewed as part of the Education issue of Vue magazine (September 2013) were on par with a lot of paid-for work I’ve seen, whatever Georgian college is doing is top-notch and worth far more than free.
- Employers hiring RAPP students often write in the student evaluations that the students were productive on the very first day. I saw the quotes. I was impressed!
- While there are a number of awards for students conducting outstanding work during the program, there are currently no entrance scholarships for students who may be deserving of the program but simply cannot afford to apply to attend.
What did I take from this? The RAPP program finds great people and turns them into great researchers. It is to our advantage as market research employers to provide the students with internships as many of those interns will likely become our next awesome new hire. And think about whether your company can provide an entrance scholarship to a deserving student. There are a lot of organizations out there that can could easily make this their good deed of the day.
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In grade 10, my math teacher showed up to class to snooze and babble. He took naps while we took tests, and he used chalk to write out problems on the board while we used chalk to whip at his head. Students enjoyed discreetly dropping inappropriate items into his pockets as he walked past them and they took full advantage of the test scoring keys that he left open on his desk. I didn’t learn much that year. In fact, the classroom was so distracting and intimidating that I managed to achieve my worst math grade ever. Worst teacher ever.
The next year, having realized just how far I had fallen behind in math, I took what, at the time, was an embarrassing step. I chose to enrol myself in the general math program. Not the advanced, headed off to university program. I prepared myself to join a class of losers being taught by a woefully inadequate football coach.
Find me in this photo!
Mr Verhoeven did not employ any discipline in his classroom, even though the students had a reputation as being unruly troublemakers. Truthfully, he didn’t need to. He was quiet, conscientious, and respectful of the students, and the students behaved the same way towards him. He paid attention to who was succeeding and gave special care to those who struggled. It was easy to learn in his classroom because he kept everyone relaxed and comfortable. I caught up quickly and ended up at the top of the class. And when I returned to the advanced math stream, I remained at the top of the class with a new-found respect for the teacher and the students who struggled in the class I left behind.
I fast forward once again to university, to the dreaded first year statistics course where the professor says, “two thirds of you will fail my course.” The first test came along and I managed to fail it along with nearly everyone else in the class. When I attempted to argue my unfair and undeserved grade with the professor, he told me that he knew I knew the answers but I wasn’t expressing myself clearly. For example, the median is not the middle item in a list, but rather the middle item in an ordered list. He was firm about not changing anyone’s grade. He worked hard to teach us that hard work and careful attention to detail would allow us to recover from failure.
I went into the final exam with a terrible grade but we were told if we achieved a better grade on that exam, it would become our final grade. I remember handing in my exam paper early. The professor took it, smiled at me, and asked if I had double checked it, was sure I was finished? I was sure. 🙂
I was in school for a bunch of years, and took a bunch of research design courses and a bunch of statistical analysis courses. Easy ones, hard ones, and a few really interesting ones. Surprisingly, one thing I never learned about was box scores, a statistical staple in the market research world.
Box scores are a way of talking about and working with Likert scales or other types of categorical scales so that everyone knows whether you are talking about the positive end of the scale (top box, top 2 box), the middle of the scale (middle/neutral box), or the negative end of the scale (bottom box, bottom 2 box).
Instead of calculating average scores from the Likert scale responses, box scores are reported as the percentage out of the total number of people who answered the question.(If 10 out of 50 people chose strongly agree, top box score is 20%) Box scores let you clearly identify how many people fall into a subgroup – people who are happy, unhappy, or just don’t care about your product.
Why do box scores matter? In a sense, they do report the same type of information as average scores. But, unless standard deviations are near and dear to you, average scores often appear very similar between groups. It’s hard to explain to a client why scores of 3.6 and 3.9 are very different because there is no intuitive difference between those numbers.
But, let’s think about box scores now. Can you intuitively understand the difference between 30% of people liking your brand and 40% of people liking your brand? I’m pretty sure you can. And you don’t need to understand what a standard deviation is either. I’m not in favour of dumbing down statistics but I am in favour of people understanding them.
Here’s another reason box scores are good. The average score calculated for a result that is 10% top box, 10% bottom box and 80% middle box is exactly the same average score you would get for a result that is 40% top box, 40% bottom box, and 20% middle box. I’d certainly like to know if 10% or 40% of people hated my product. That’s a pretty important difference to be aware of and I wouldn’t want it getting lost because someone had a weak understanding of what a SD is.
So now, psychology/sociology/geography majors, go forth and prosper as market researchers!
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