Determining the research objectives is an early and essential stage of the international trade research process.
When companies do not establish clear objectives, they can incur large costs from having to commission additional investigation, extend timelines or make business decisions based on inappropriate findings.
Clear research objectives are even more crucial in international trade research than they are in domestic research because there might be long distances and time delays involved in collecting data. Clear objectives help ensure that the correct information is gathered the first time.
1. Starting with a problem or opportunity
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Companies usually commission international trade research because they have a business problem associated with international trade or because they want to take advantage of a trade opportunity.
These problems or opportunities will lead managers to ask questions: How can we best expand our business? Should we export to this country? Which product lines would be the best ones to introduce to this new market?
To answer these questions, the company requires information that can guide its decision making.
2. Breaking the problem down
When researchers have clearly identified the research problem or opportunity and the questions that must be answered, they can break the problem down into a series of research objectives that state exactly what information is required to answer the questions posed by company decision makers.
Research objectives will also be influenced by business and competitive factors, so a researcher should find out the answers to the following questions.
3. What is the background to this problem or opportunity?
The history of a company, its structure and its strategic objectives will indicate how a problem or opportunity arose. This information will help researchers understand the exact research required by decision makers and will therefore help them word their research objectives.
4. How does this problem or opportunity relate to the competitive environment?
The competitive environment will affect how a company does business and how it approaches business problems or opportunities. For example, if a company is interested in an opportunity in a European market, it would be wise to find out whether competing companies are also making moves to enter that market.
Considering this type of competitive information can help to identify areas that researchers must investigate further.
5. Is the required research possible?
There might be ethical, legal, financial or time constraints that will make it impossible to complete a specified research objective. In these circumstances, researchers must modify the research.
6. Wording research objectives
Research objectives should always be clear, simple, focused and specific. Some researchers word their objectives as questions, such as: What are the U.S. government requirements for imported electronic goods? Others word their research objectives as statements.
Ideally, when wording research objectives, researchers should include an action verb, such as identify, describe, measure, verify or monitor, and a finding. This wording structure helps ensure the objective is as clear as possible. A few examples of good international trade research objectives are:
- Identify three international markets for the new software.
- Define the U.S. government requirements for electronic imports.
- Monitor the trend for MP3 usage in India over the next 12 months.