Schottler Consulting Social and Market Research Knowledge Centre

How do I use research literature to improve social and market research design?

When conducting social and market research, it is sometimes difficult to identify the types of measures or questions that should be included in the research design. 

While qualitative research can inform these measures, it's not always practical to do this.


For this reason, it can be helpful conducting a review of past research literature to identify:

  • What other similar studies have been conducted?

  • What other studies have measured?

  • Whether other studies tend to use certain validated scales?
    (as these could be helpful in your study)

  • What methods have been used to research the topic you are researching?

While this may not necessarily always provide a definitive direction for your research design, invariably it helps to provide you with a range of ideas for consideration.


Tips for success in using literature to design social and market research


As conducting a review of scholarly literature can sometimes be daunting for those less experienced in social and market research, the following tips can be helpful:

  • Use publicly available resources such as Google scholar and PubMed, if you do not have access to electronic databases to search journals

  • Another useful electronic resource is This provides a link to thousands of electronic journals which allow you to read the latest peer reviewed papers for a monthly subscription. It also can be cancelled after only one month, so can be quite cost-effective, if you don't have a need for ongoing access to research journals

  • Be specific in your search terms - start by reading a range of papers to see what terms are commonly used to describe your research topic and use these terms in your searches

  • Unless you need older papers, limit searches to the past 5 years. Though if papers are rare, you may need to go back further than this

  • If you lack the time to conduct a more comprehensive search, look for papers with the terms meta analysis or systematic review. These types of reviews typically summarise the results of other studies, so can be helpful to get a big picture over of a research topic

  • If you are getting overwhelmed by the sheet volume of papers, try to narrow your search further. Then set up a landscape table with columns that summarise important information about the paper. 

    For instance, this can include:

    (A) The authors
    (B) The topic
    (C) Dot points on the method
    (D) Dot points on any useful measures included in the research design
    (E) Dot points on the themes

    Then sort the table by theme and you have information in a much easier to follow format, which can be used to influence your research design. 

  • It can also be helpful to put together a measurement framework that shows the variables measured. This helps to provide a big picture overview of possible measures to include in your research design.