Squeezed between automation and machine learning, between consultants and analytics professionals, between Boomers retiring and Millennials bypassing the field, the market research industry is being disrupted as never before. And that’s changing what researchers need to learn to be successful – as well as how they should learn it.

The nonprofit Market Research Institute International (MRII), in cooperation with the University of Georgia Center for Continuing Education, has been radically transforming itself to better meet the evolving educational needs of the market research industry. The MRII is in the middle of restructuring its venerable Principles of Market Research course into a portfolio of 13 Principles Express courses, many of which are now available.

When the redesign is completed in mid-2019, the former monolithic 200-hour course will be carved into 13 10-to-12-hour courses, each capable of being taken independently. For instance, someone transferring into the industry from another field might want to take the first six courses, from Introduction to Market Research and the Research Process toMeasurement and Questionnaire Design, while someone promoted from fieldwork to analysis might want to take the new bundle Analytics 1-2-3. A certified researcher, needing 20 contact hours every two years to maintain their certification, might be interested in Emerging Methods and the Future of Market Research and Ethical and Legal Issues.

To better meet the needs of today’s practitioners, the new line of asynchronous online courses has made a number of improvements.

Each author added greater interactivity to enable participants to learn through drag-and-drop exercises, dynamic exhibits and recorded media.

A textbook is no longer required (it is optional), reducing a student’s cost to take a course while providing added detail to those who want it. As Jackie Lorch of Dynata, a member of the MRII board of directors and former chair of the curriculum committee, said, “Reducing the reliance on the textbook let us add material on emerging methodologies that have become mainstream and reorient the overall approach away from an academic viewpoint to one that focuses on solving business problems.”

Due to the interactivity and the move away from the textbook, the course now takes about 140 hours to complete (dropping from 200 hours of study).

Historically, a unique edition of the full Principles course focused on the pharmaceutical industry; each Principles Express course now includes sidebars about the needs for health care research in general, not just pharmaceutical research.

Each course has been written by well-known industry experts, such as Ray Poynter of NewMR; Pete Cape and Keith Phillips of Dynata; and Fred John of Consilience Research (see the sidebar Principles Express for a list of all the authors).

Each change was driven by research. When Reg Baker became executive director in 2014, he immediately updated the strategic plan for the MRII to become more data-driven. As a nonprofit, the MRII has enjoyed participation from volunteers across the research industry. One of those volunteers, Terry Grapentine, a past president of the MRII, conducted IDIs with former participants and corporate client and end-user decision makers. His conclusions:

“For the most part, researchers are very pleased with the course. Their primary advice: keep continually updating it.”

“The more modalities incorporated, the better. Increased variety in how content is presented increases engagement.”

“The course provides an excellent foundation of the Market Research Core Body of Knowledge (MRCBOK™). Some respondents want slightly more material in one or two subject areas. Nevertheless, there is no consensus as to what these subject areas are.”

Pamela Bracken with a participant at the ESOMAR MENAP conference in 2017.

Pamela Bracken, a member of the MRII board of directors as well as the MR program manager at UGA Georgia Center for Continuing Education since 1999, said, “Based on the calls we made to corporate clients, who often send multiple participants through the course at the same time, we realized that there was an appetite for a buffet for those who didn’t need an 11-course meal.”


As part of the development of Principles Express, the MRII and UGA are systematically updating the MRCBOK™. Originally created in 1994 by William Neal and Dr. Malcolm McNiven, the MRCBOK has been shepherded ever since by the MRII and University of Georgia. Periodically, a unique mix of practitioners and academics have reviewed and updated the MRCBOK so that it can serve as a firm, contemporary foundation for market researchers. It represents an international consensus of business practitioners on the required fundamentals for research education.

Today, mastery of the MRCBOK by taking all the Principles Express courses (through the Principles of Market Research bundle) can lead to industry certification by the Insights Association or AMSRS.

Pam Bracken with Sherry Behnke (center) and Simone Hollin (right) at The Quirk’s Event in Brooklyn.

The Principles Express courses provide learners at all levels with the foundation they need to conduct successful market research. Each nine-to-12-hour course is loaded with practical information that practitioners can begin to apply immediately:

Introduction to Market Research and the Research Process, by Fred John of Consilience Research (and formerly of Mastercard Worldwide), is coming in Q2.

Research Design and Data Identification, by Susan Frede of Aimpoint Research, is coming in Q2.


A history of service to the research industry

In 1994, the Marketing Research Association (MRA) board of directors appointed a task force to determine the feasibility of creating a separate nonprofit organization to create educational and training materials for the marketing and opinion research industry. This was fueled by a desire to create an independent study program based on the Market Research Core Body of Knowledge (MRCBOK™) developed by William Neal of SDR Consulting Inc. and Dr. Malcolm McNiven of the University of Georgia. Approval was given and funds allocated in 1995 to establish the Marketing Research Association Institute (MRAI).

A board of directors of industry representatives was formed to oversee the development of thePrinciples of Marketing Research in conjunction with the University of Georgia. The MRAI was incorporated in June 1996 and was granted nonprofit status as an educational institute by the IRS. In 1998, the MRAI, MRA and the University of Georgia entered into an alliance with the European Society of Opinion and Marketing Research (ESOMAR) for the purpose of marketing the Principles of Marketing Research course worldwide. In July 1999, the organization formally changed its name to the Marketing Research Institute International (MRII). This was done to eliminate confusion about the Institute’s affiliation with any other industry organization, build broad-based industry support and demonstrate the global nature of its programs.

The first training course developed for the organization is the self-study program widely known as the Principles of Marketing Research. The intent of the program is to provide a common basis of knowledge among those currently in the marketing and opinion research industry or those interested in entering the industry. This independent study program was developed using teams of academicians and practitioners to ensure the practical application of the material. It opened for enrollment in October 1996 and initially was a joint venture between the University of Georgia and the Marketing Research Association.

As part of its commitment to provide true distance learning programs to the industry, the Institute introduced a Web-based version of the program in July 2000. At this time, the University of Georgia implemented a coach-mentor program to enrich the student experience. On request, students are assigned a coach-mentor with whom they can communicate via e-mail when they have a question about course content.

In 2006, the original Principles of Marketing Research was supplemented with pharmaceutical marketing research material and the result was called the Principles of Marketing Research with Pharmaceutical Supplements (The Supplements). In 2007, Version 2.0 of the Principles was written and the course was renamed thePrinciples of Pharmaceutical Marketing Research (PoPMR).

In 2009, MRII completed a two-year project to rewrite the original PoMR course. It was updated so that it incorporated the latest distance learning techniques and its curriculum contained the latest marketing research techniques and trends.

In 2015, the organization changed its name to the Market Research Institute International.

In 2018, the MRII introduced Principles Express, the new line of on-demand courses, each designed to be completed in 10 to 12 hours. Taken together, they cover the entire MRCBOK.

Sampling in Market Research, by Keith Phillips of Dynata, will teach you how to select the best sample for your research project. You’ll understand how well the sample covers your target population and how any potential sample biases may impact your results.

Qualitative Market Research, by Jeff Walkowski, a former president of the QRCA and co-editor of Qualitative Research Online, teaches you how to find the “why” behind various respondent behaviors, perceptions and motivations. Qualitative research effectively surfaces ideas and hypotheses.

Quantitative Data Collection Methods, by Pete Cape of Dynata, will teach you how to choose the most appropriate data collection method given your audience, the topic area of your research and the methodology you plan to use.

Measurement and Questionnaire Design, by David Ashley of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is coming in Q3.

The new Analytics 1-2-3 bundled course includes the following courses, which are also available separately:

Working with Secondary Data: Syndicated and Big Data, by Bill Bean of Bean and Associates Consulting, introduces the many secondary data sources available to you. You will learn about the value and challenges you might encounter when linking primary and secondary data and gain insights into the “big data” world in which businesses now operate.

Introduction to Data Analysis, by Ray Poynter of NewMR, introduces you to the critical concepts common to the analysis of quantitative research data, with special attention to survey data analysis.

Advanced Analytic Techniques, also by Poynter, serves as a primer for some of the more advanced statistical methods you may encounter as a researcher, with greater attention to techniques which are frequently used with secondary data. Topics include: conjoint analysis; multiple regression; cluster analysis for segmentation; linear regression; perceptual mapping; and factor analysis.

Communicating Research Results, by Fred John, shows you how to turn market research findings into actionable recommendations. Learn how to translate your findings from market research studies of all kinds into reports and presentations that grab your audience’s attention, address the business decision your client needs to make and offer sound and useful recommendations.

Global Market Research, by Nancy Kramarich of Anderson DDB Health & Lifestyle, reveals the complexities of managing a global market research project with multiple clients and stakeholders. Without the ability to “localize” the tools of data collection and analysis, findings may be subject to misinterpretation.

Emerging Methods and the Future of Market Research, by Zoe Dowling, Ph.D., of FocusVision, describes rapidly evolving trends in the market research industry. The course reviews broad technological, cultural and business trends and the impact of these trends on how research is conducted and insights generated.

Ethical and Legal Issues, by Adam Phillips, is coming in Q3.

Each course is available to Insights Association and ESOMAR members at a discount in recognition of the role both organizations played in the history of the MRII.

MRII board president Dan Coates is excited to add these Principles Express courses to the institute’s continuing education offerings. “We’ve updated these courses with added content and more interactive exercises. We now offer more courses than ever before in our history, helping researchers come up to speed quickly.”

Our mission is to offer global, market-leading continuing education programs for the practice of market research and insights. We pursue that mission by developing and delivering online courses designed to fulfill the core market research educational needs of individuals and companies worldwide. Our courses are written and continually updated by subject matter experts from across the research industry and they are designed to meet the certification requirements of major national and international professional and industry associations.