All course information is listed within this syllabus.

FDSC 516: Consumer Insights (3 credits). This course covers leading-edge research and approaches to integrate the consumer voice into the product development process. Knowledge of how consumers interact with products and ways in which to assess their values, opinions, and beliefs is fundamental to delivering benefit-based and differentiated products to the marketplace. The course is organized around an objective-based framework where the consumer is at the center and focuses on key approaches including qualitative, quantitative, and hybrid methods to capture relevant consumer insights.

Concurrent: STAT 500


Instructor for FDSC 516

Dr. Sarah V. Kirkmeyer
Adjunct Professor of Food Science

Sr. Manager, User Research
The Kroger Company

Main Office: Cincinnati, OH
Home Office: Liberty Township, OH 45011

Phone: (609) 213-9468
E-mail: Canvas Inbox,, or

Website: LinkedIn profile

Office Hours: Tuesdays from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. Eastern.

If you need to contact me regarding your course, the best way to reach me is through Canvas Inbox. You can also reach me at I will respond within 24 hours on the weekdays, and by Monday on the weekends.

I will do my best to respond to your e-mails within 24 hours, but I do have work commitments and will let you know if I'm going to be unavailable for any length of time.

I will be available during the discussion session, and if for any reason they might change I will be sure to inform you. During that time, we will have a Zoom call. If you need to set up an appointment with me outside of these office hours, please contact me so that we can arrange a time. The best way to reach me outside of office hours is by Canvas Inbox. I will do my best to respond to messages within 24 hours.

Course Overview

Consumer insights is fundamentally the study of the interaction of people with products. When developing both food and non-food products, it is important to understand how people engage with the product, like the product, compare the product to other things, and ultimately gain an understanding of purchase behavior of the consumer for the product. FDSC 516 Consumer Insights is different than the consumer courses taught in MKTG as it comes from the product standpoint and not the marketing or brand perspective. There is some overlap of methods between the two, however, Consumer Insights aims to provide actionable insights from consumers to drive product development, improvement and optimization and is extremely relevant for students with a strong technical background to understand, appreciate and leverage consumer feedback in product development.

This course aims to allow each student to develop and apply the fundamental dimensions and value of consumer insights to product development objectives; implement key qualitative, quantitative and hybrid approaches for consumer insights and recognize, identify and apply key consumer biases and examine trade-offs in research and consumer behavior.

Topics covered in the course start with understanding the consumer and key consumer biases and move to objective-based consumer research design including qualitative, quantitative, and hybrid approaches. In addition, research in the fuzzy front end, utilizing social listening as well as new technology in consumer research will be discussed. Throughout, an objective-based framework will be applied where the consumer is at the center and insights are developed related to how consumer interact with products. In addition, the real-world practical examples and assignments will be utilized extensively for real-world application. Taken together, this will allow students to develop and further their critical thinking and communication skills.

Topics of this course include 15 modules:

  1. Understanding the Consumer
  2. Biases in Consumer Product Research and Setting Objectives
  3. Scoping and Defining Context of Consumer Product Insights
  4. Consumer Segmentation
  5. Consumer Research Methods Overview
  6. Qualitative Consumer Research
  7. Qualitative Online Consumer Research
  8. Quantitative Online Consumer Research
  9. Quantitative Consumer Product Research
  10. Quantitative Consumer Research Questionnaire Design
  11. Hybrid Consumer Research
  12. Fuzzy Front End Consumer Research
  13. Innovative Consumer Research Approaches
  14. Social Media Listening
  15. Additional Topics Including Category Reviews and User Research

Disclaimer: The product examples used in this course are chosen based on the purposes of instruction; not for any commercial purposes nor reflecting personal opinions of the products discussed. All images of products have been taken personally by the instructor or are available for use.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will be able to:

  1. Apply the fundamental dimensions and value of consumer insights to product development objectives
  2. Implement key qualitative, quantitative, and hybrid approaches for consumer insights
  3. Recognize, identify and apply key consumer biases and examine trade-offs in research and consumer behavior

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to your Syllabus and Calendar within Canvas.

Course Materials

References from the PSU Library and popular press are included throughout. All links should be accessible by the student.

Grading and Submission Requirements

Each of the different assignments have significant value to your success in the course.

For the Weekly Assignments and the Final Project, the length is specified in each assignment. Use standard fonts such as Calibri, Times New Roman, or Ariel, 11- or 12-point font, 1.5 spaced with 1" margins. If using OneDrive, you must download to a Word, PowerPoint, or PDF file and upload that file to Canvas. Name each file using the following convention: yourLastName_M#Assignment.doc where # is replaced by the module number.

  • For the weekly reading assignments, a critical review includes introduction, summary, analysis, and conclusion. The analysis is the key section to explain your ideas related to the assignment details. Reference citations should be included as appropriate. For each assignment, you can receive up to 10 points.
  • For some modules, there are additional weekly assignments related to research design or implementation. For each, details should be captured and communicated related to the assignment and objective. For each assignment, you can receive up to 10 points.
  • For each peer-review assignment, you must provide at least 3 comments and/or builds for full credit. For each assignment, you can receive up to 10 points.
  • For the personal reflection, you need to provide your perspective and relate to the learning objectives of the module. The personal reflection is worth more points and you are expected to provide more thoughts, detail, and personal discovery and learning. Full credit will be awarded for well-developed ideas and connections between the TED talks and the module material. Points will be deducted for lack of depth, not addressing the learning objectives, or failure to show comprehension of the topics covered in the TED talks. For each assignment, you can receive up to 20 points.
  • For the 2 projects and the final, you will select a product and will be required to create and execute research for 1) one on one interview and 2) online survey. For the final, you will integrate these projects into an overall research plan and supported by external resources including 4 scientific journal articles. You must describe the objective, approaches, expected outcomes, conclusions, and impact on the business. Conclusions and interpretations are worth half of the credit of the final project presented in a PowerPoint presentation. The other half of the credit is a clearly defined objective, description, and rationale of selected approaches, anticipated results, and effective use of references. For the 2 projects, you can receive up to 50 points each, and for the final, you can receive up to 60 points.
  • The online platform will be used for online discussions weekly throughout the course. The goal for the discussion is to have you apply the module topics to a real product example and share these thoughts and build upon with the class as a whole. Although we do not know what type of consumer research was conducted on each product, the idea is to think about what could be done to answer key questions related to the objective. A post includes answers to the key questions asked in the assignment including reference citations from the web, scientific journals, or other sources. You are expected to read posts by other class members and comment on their posts. Each week you can earn up to 10 points including your initial post and your responses.

Late Submission Policy

Students are responsible for any of their missed work. The instructor will not inform students of any missed work. Each module builds upon one another and the time frame of each one is planned to be one week. Assignments can be submitted at any time during the week but will not be accepted for full credit after the date and time indicated. To ensure reasonable turnaround time of approximately 1 week, you must submit on-time. For weekly contribution to discussions, quizzes, and final project, no credit will be given if submitted after the due date.

For the weekly assignments, if the deadline is missed, you can achieve up to 50% credit by turning in by the end of week 14 of the semester. After that date, no credit will be awarded.

Assignments Timing/Number Credit Awarded
Weekly contribution to discussion including 1 post and 1 response Weekly/15 total Must be completed by the due date or no credit awarded
Quizzes Every 3 weeks/4 total Must be completed by the due date or no credit awarded
Weekly Assignments including critical literature review, personal reflection, research design, implementation, peer review Weekly/20 total Must be completed by the due date or no more than 50% can be earned. If completed by the following date (by the end of week 14 of the semester at 11:59 p.m. Saturday), you can earn up to 50%.
Final Project 2 projects and final project Must be completed by the due date or no credit awarded

Due dates for assignments, quizzes, and discussions are in your Canvas Syllabus listed under Course Summary.

Scheduling Conflicts

If you inform the instructor ahead of time, I will work to make arrangements for scheduling conflicts. However, if you wait until 24 hours prior to the deadline or after the deadline to ask for an accommodation, I am not able to make any adjustments.

Grading Policy

The learning objectives will be assessed in 4 different ways as described in the table below.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value Weight
Participation & Engagement 150 15%
Quizzes 100 20%
Assignments 200 40%
Projects and Final 160 25%
TOTAL: 610 100%

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 93%
A- < 93% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 87%
B < 87% – 83%
B- < 83% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 77%
C < 77% – 73%
C- < 73% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Graduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State World Campus students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer, but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian and is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

Getting Help With Canvas Courses

Canvas support is available 24/7 via chat or phone.

It is in your own best interest to be as specific as you possibly can. Try to include information such as the specific course page, quiz question, etc. you were on; what you attempted to do when that failed; the exact language of any error message displayed on your screen; the date and time when your problem occurred; and any other pertinent information (does the problem happen consistently and always in the same way, etc.).

Support Services

As a student, you have access to a variety of services and resources, including advising, tutoring, library services, career services, and more. Please visit the following resources for more information:

Accessibility Information


The term "Netiquette" refers to the etiquette guidelines for electronic communications, such as e-mail and discussion postings. Netiquette covers not only rules to maintain civility in discussions but also special guidelines unique to the electronic nature of messages. Please review Virginia Shea's "The Core Rules of Netiquette" for general guidelines that should be followed when communicating in this course.

Penn State Policies

Login Policy

Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

Course Availability

Your course will be available to you beginning the first day of class and will remain open for one year. After one year the course will close.

Academic Integrity

Academic integrity is the pursuit of scholarly activity in an open, honest, and responsible manner. Academic integrity is a basic guiding principle for all academic activity at The Pennsylvania State University, and all members of the University community are expected to act in accordance with this principle. Consistent with this expectation, students should act with personal integrity, respect other students' dignity, rights, and property, and help create and maintain an environment in which all can succeed through the fruits of their efforts. Academic integrity includes a commitment not to engage in or tolerate acts of falsification, misrepresentation, or deception. Such acts of dishonesty violate the fundamental ethical principles of the University community and compromise the worth of work completed by others (see Faculty Senate Policy 49-20, G-9 Procedures, and the Code of Conduct).

Please read the academic integrity guidelines for the College of Agricultural Sciences.

A lack of knowledge or understanding of the University's academic integrity policy and the types of actions it prohibits and/or requires does not excuse one from complying with the policy. Penn State and the College of Agricultural Sciences take violations of academic integrity very seriously. Faculty, alumni, staff, and fellow students expect each student to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity both inside and outside of the classroom.

Educational Equity Statement

Penn State takes great pride in fostering a diverse and inclusive environment for students, faculty, and staff. Acts of intolerance, discrimination, or harassment due to age, ancestry, color, disability, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religious belief, sexual orientation, or veteran status are not tolerated and can be reported through Educational Equity on the Bias Response page.

Privacy Policies

For information about Penn State's privacy statement and what it encompasses, please read their Web Privacy Statement. Visit Penn State's FERPA Guidelines for Faculty and Staff page for information regarding its rules governing the privacy of student educational records.

Copyright Notice

All course materials students receive or to which students have online access are protected by copyright laws. Students may use course materials and make copies for their own use as needed, but unauthorized distribution and/or uploading of materials without the instructor's express permission is strictly prohibited. University Policy AD40, Recording of Classroom Activities and Note-Taking Services, addresses this issue. Students who engage in the unauthorized distribution of copyrighted materials may be held in violation of the University's Code of Conduct, and/or liable under federal and state laws.

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)

Many students at Penn State face personal challenges or have psychological needs that may interfere with their academic progress, social development, or emotional well-being. The University offers a variety of confidential services to help you through difficult times, including individual and group counseling, crisis intervention, consultations, online chats, and mental health screenings. These services are provided by staff who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy respectful of clients' cultural and religious backgrounds, and sensitive to differences in race, ability, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

Accommodations for Persons With Disabilities

Penn State welcomes students with disabilities into the University's educational programs. Every Penn State campus has an office for students with disabilities. The Student Disability Resources website provides contact information for every Penn State campus. For further information, please visit the Student Disability Resources page.

In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

Course Availability

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