Overcoming Your Math Curse
Learning the math behind market research is not easy because there is no programmatic way to master it as a body of learning. It is not like algebra, geometry, calculus, or statistics in high school or college. It is complex and multifaceted and draws upon nearly every area of theoretical mathematics, but it must be continually adapted to the needs and practical problems of measuring and predicting customer behaviors and attitudes.
So it requires both (1) a rigorous foundation in mathematics and (2) years of experience to understand how it gets re-worked and applied to the real-life questions of market research. And even the rigorous foundation needs to be continually reinforced and expanded as the scope of our capabilities expands. Twenty years ago, who would have thought that Bayesian statistics and Monte Carlo simulations would become so central to our work?
The best way to continue building a rigorous foundation of mathematics for market research is, in our view, to enroll in academic courses in the social sciences at universities. It is tough to master the minutia of factor analysis or logistic regression on your own or in a typical work setting. It is impossible to do it by trial-and-error while clicking through menus of SPSS.
Here are some recommendations for where you can find short, focused, intensive summer courses that will help you build a stronger mathematical foundation for quantitative research methods:
- The American Psychological Association’s Advanced Training Institutes — offers courses during the month of June in nonlinear methods, structural equation modeling, and exploratory data mining.
- The University of Kansas’ Summer Stats Camps — offers five-day courses in the month of June on topics such as structural equation modeling, categorical data analysis, and social network analysis.
- The Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research — offers a huge number of courses throughout the summer (and throughout the country) on topics ranging from data mining to categorical data analysis to game theory and latent class analysis.
- The University of Michigan’s Survey Research Center — offers courses in June and July focusing on sampling, questionnaire design, and other essentials of research methods.
It is never too late to learn, and even the most mathematically-inclined market researchers need to deepen and extend their training as the field evolves. Our second suggestion? Partner with a firm like Versta Research, where we apply our academic brainpower to your market research and business questions. We’re the types who loved our classes in algebra, calculus, and probability — and we love putting it all to work for you.
—Joe Hopper, Ph.D.