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Market Research as Storytelling: Home

for ECON325 and BUSI521

Purpose of Research Guide

This research guide is to support students completing market research projects.

After reading the guide, students can submit their questions to Nancy via email before scheduling a research meeting.

What is market research?

What is market research?

When you're doing market research, you're looking for answers to questions so that you can use data to tell a coherent, compelling story about whatever it is you're researching. You might answer questions like:

  • What is the size of my market?
  • Who are my competitors?
  • Which market is best suited for my product or service?
  • How much will customers pay for my product or service?
  • What are the emerging trends in an industry?


The best market research is combining primary and secondary information to tell a compelling story.

Primary information: research you compile yourself or hire someone to gather for you.

Secondary information: This type of research is already compiled and organized for you. Examples of secondary information include reports and studies by analysts, government agencies, trade associations or other businesses within your industry. (source)

Telling a Market Research Story

Remember that you are telling a story about your industry in your market research report. Use data & information as evidence to support your story.

Key tips:

  • Base your story on evidence
  • Focus on a problem that needs an answer
  • Make your target audience as specific as possible
    "The more specific the target audience, the more concise the story and the more focused the recommendations."
  • Organize your story around themes
  • "TL;DR" End with a concise summary

From industry professionals:

"Our market research project is most valuable when it delivers a coherent story."

"There is only one thing that is going to make a set of research recommendations listened to, adhered to and returned to, and that is a convincing story well told."

For more, check out this industry article "The Key Ingredients of World-Class Market Research Presentations: It’s All About Storytelling"

What Sources "Count" for Market Research

What Sources "Count" for Market Research

Market research is different than a regular research paper. It's more flexible and expansive, and you can (and should!) use more types of sources than just scholarly articles. Here's some of the types of sources commonly used for market research:

  • Industry Reports
    • Big picture information about an industry
    • Include trends, major companies and market share, chain of supply & demand, consumer information (source)
  • Government & NGO Data
    • U.S. government is single largest collector of data about U.S. consumers, industries and economic activity
    • International organizations (e.g. World Bank, International Monetary Fund) provide international data
  • Trade Publications (Journals, Magazines)
    • Focus on one industry and provide in-depth information on trends, new products and other topics of interest to people working in that industry
  • Industry Associations
    • Organization collects information and data about an industry.
    • Often publishes reports, newsletters, blogs, etc., and member directories
  • Newspapers and News/Opinion Magazines
    • Business news publications (like The Economist and The Wall Street Journal) report on market conditions, policies and regulations affecting industries, and more
    • Learn about Evaluating News Sources
  • Scholarly/academic articles
    • Especially relevant for cutting-edge or research-based products and services
    • Learn the best way to read a scholarly article: Anatomy of a Scholarly Article

Research Resources

Understand the Bigger Picture

The first thing you need to do is understand the bigger picture of your industry.

  • How many major companies or brands are here?
  • What is typical revenue in this industry?
  • Who purchases or uses the product or service?
  • What external factors affect the industry?

Industry reports provide you with the foundation of your story. Details of your story will come next, and help you answer the deeper "why" and "how."

Getting into the Details

Every good market research story has characters who experience the problem and are looking for a solution. Who is the target customer for the product/service? Who experiences the industry trend?

If businesses are the target customer, search for information about the companies.

If individual consumers are the target customer, search for information about the motivations, lifestyles, spending habits, etc., of these people.

Using Library Subscription Resources

Except for government data, reports and data can be incredibly expensive. Use a combination of sources to find information for your market research story. Library subscriptions provide access to high-quality reports and credible data at no cost to you.


Some sources do one thing really well, and some sources do several things. Pay attention to the description to choose the right source! They're listed in no particular order.

Check out this webpage for more Research Resources for Social & Environmental Issues.

Guides for Market Research

Business Research Consultant/Librarian

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Nancy Lovas
Davis Library