Learning from giants: Exploring, classifying and analysing existing knowledge on market research

Agnes Nairn*, Pierre Berthon, Arthur Money

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


The paper presented here is an abridged and adapted version of an article by Pierre Berthon, Agnes Nairn and Arthur Money which appeared in Marketing Education Review, 13, 2 (Summer) 2003. The objective of the paper in the IJMR now is to encourage practitioners and academics alike to build their own research on the foundations which have already been build by previous thinkers. We hope to demonstrate that a good literature review goes well beyond a cursory acknowledgement of other authors who have worked in the area and we present the 'paradigm funnel' as a tool which can be used to this end. We demonstrate how it can be used to go beyond simply listing a series of past studies to move towards the production of a structured analysis of a total body of research which can generate enlightened research thinking. In this paper the paradigm funnel is used to structure a historic body of research on Market Segmentation. Since the publication of the original paper the paradigm funnel has also been used to analyse Brand Management literature in an award winning thesis by Heding and Knudtzen (2006). These authors have added the notion of 'paradigmatic turbulence' to the original funnel and have applied it to a 20-year period of literature. "If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Isaac Newton, 1676 Centuries of wisdom agree that the human race is more likely to advance its thinking if it builds on what has gone before. Yet too many market research papers simply present empirical data with scant reference for how the findings advance our existing body of knowledge. Practitioners may justifiably argue that clients don't want reams of academic justification but need sound, succinct analysis of current data to help them make better marketing decisions. But from time to time practitioners should ask themselves if the research questions posed by clients have been encountered before and if so what solutions were found. Retrospection can save time and energy; can identify major shifts in thinking; and can help construct analytical frameworks within which to investigate new research questions. Academics working within market research do tend to preface their papers with a summary of thinking to date. This is partly a conditioned response to writing a Masters or PhD thesis which formally requires a literature review and is supported by a range of good guide books (Blaxter et al 1996; Hart, 1998; Fink, 1998). However, too often, this exercise is undertaken simply to demonstrate to the reader that the author is familiar with the field. It is not undertaken in the true spirit of clambering onto the shoulders of the giant to gain a new, enlightened perspective.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)257-274
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Market Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007


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