Phil Hearn: Blogger, Writer & Founder of MRDC Software Ltd.

How to upgrade from QPSMR to MRDCL

Upgrading from QPSMR to MRDCL to produce crosstabulations and survey analysis/reporting is not a decision you should make lightly. There is a considerable gulf between a program with a graphical user interface (GUI) and any programming or scripting language. This is true about all software, not just QPSMR and MRDCL. So before looking at how to upgrade, let’s briefly look at the four main reasons why you should upgrade from QPSMR to MRDCL, although this is discussed more fully in another blog article.

The Big Five

There are Five Big Reasons you should consider upgrading from QPSMR to MRDCL, which come in no particular order:

  • There are things in QPSMR you cannot do which are important to you
  • There are things in QPSMR that seem time-consuming or laborious to do
  • Your analysis and reporting needs are becoming more complex
  • You want to be able to automate processes more (including reading data from non-QPSMR sources like SPSS, embedding your analysis in your own or other systems or wish to automate PowerPoint reporting)
  • You struggle with particular types of surveys – tracking studies, occasion-based surveys, hierarchical data etc.

If you are a QPSMR user and you do not fit into at least one of these categories, it’s unlikely that MRDCL will benefit you unless you have someone skilled at MRDCL in-house or you are handling large volumes of analysis. However, please read the BLOG ARTICLE ON THIS TOPIC.

How to upgrade

Let’s assume you fit into one or more of these Big Five categories and get down to how you should upgrade from QPSMR to MRDCL. Like learning a foreign language, you need to know the basics before you can communicate, in this case, with the software rather than with people. QPSMR makes this first step easy. Whenever you run tables in QPSMR, QPSMR ‘secretly’ produces a .stp file. In practice, it is this .stp file that QPSMR runs using the same engine as MRDCL to make your tables. In other words, QPSMR and MRDCL use the same engine, but when using QPSMR, QPSMR generates the script, whereas when you use MRDCL, you create the script, or MRDCL’s tools autogenerate it.

Learn by comparing QPSMR input to the .stp file

As QPSMR generates an MRDCL .stp file, you can teach yourself much of the basic MRDCL scripting language by comparing what you entered into QPSMR and viewing the script it generates. I guarantee 90% or more of the script that QPSMR generates for you in the .stp file will be easily understandable. Of course, you will need to become ‘fluent’ at writing this script from scratch, but it’s an excellent way to understand the basic structure of MRDCL .stp files and the basic syntax.

How to become proficient in the basics

Whilst QPSMR produces MRDCL script for you, it may not always generate the most efficient script. The next step is to watch six introductory videos that take you through the most common syntax you should learn. Again, these are not difficult to follow; the script relating to each video is downloadable so that you can experiment further. At this stage, it is a good idea to practice what you have learnt and become comfortable writing the script without errors. This step might be mildly frustrating initially, but writing the analysis for a reasonably simple project will soon allow you to become familiar.

Learn the shortcuts

The next step is to learn how to write the script for repetitive chunks of your questionnaire or analysis. Market research questionnaires often have repetitive sections, such as rating scales or analysing a whole string of questions by a standard banner. Learning how to write this in a shorthand way will allow you to take shortcuts and reduce the amount of code you need to write. Additionally, if you want to make changes, it will be simple to do. You will be starting to make the first steps of significantly improving your productivity. Again, there are videos and downloadable sample files to help you with this.

Take stock

When you have mastered these essentials, it is easy to lose direction. I always recommend that new users of MRDCL take stock of the situation. By this, I mean it is time to think differently about your data processing. QPSMR mainly puts you on a single track to where you want to go. With MRDCL, there may be several routes and a vast amount of knowledge you could gain. The key is choosing the right tools to use. There are over 50 videos that can help you with your next stage of learning, but I would encourage you to look at things like:

  • What takes the most time?
  • What are the most complex things that you struggle with?
  • What is most prone to error?
  • What is laborious to handle?
  • What data is hard to handle efficiently?
  • What would benefit from automation?

We can help with this and always welcome the opportunity to discuss what will benefit you most.

Learning the most important tools

Your use of MRDCL will gradually improve over a long period. It is, therefore, essential to start by focusing on the things that give you the biggest wins. This may entail learning how to handle complex data structures, how to build templates in MRDCL that junior/less skilled staff can use, and how to generate complex or cumbersome tables. By thinking about the pain points in your data processing, we can guide you to the best possible outcome.

What are these templates?

I mentioned template-building in the last paragraph. So, what are these templates? MRDCL has tools that allow you to build custom templates with your own set of options to automate more or less any analysis you want. This feature means you can create a template that can be shared for use by your team members on any project or multiple times within the same project. Effectively, you are turning complex or laborious tasks into custom templates, which are a series of selections or options that anyone with minimal training can use.

What’s an example of an MRDCL template

There are many creative examples of templates that MRDCL users have generated over the years. The one I like most is one that a team developed at a workshop I was running. When hearing about this feature, someone had a lightbulb moment at the workshop. They realised there were several types of tables that, as a company, they might generate from a series of rating statements. Between the team at the workshop, they came up with fifteen different table outputs they might want from a series of rating scales. In two hours, we turned this into an MRDCL template, which meant after that, they would only have to check off the particular table output or outputs they wanted from each series of rating scales. The payback for these two hours has been immense. It’s why I suggest taking stock of your needs after you have learnt the basics.

Becoming experts

Like any programming language, there is always more to learn. Not everyone needs to be an expert who tries to know everything that is in MRDCL. Some users are fast at inputting code; others find innovative ways to handle complex scenarios, and others may build templates that others can benefit from. There is always room for growth, and reappraising your needs occasionally can bring the best results.

Let’s not forget automation

Although MRDCL is built on its powerful scripting language, MRDCL Central, which comes with the MRDCL Classic software, allows automation. Its key features are importing data, automating multiple runs of tables and generating Excel reports in the desired format.

What about PowerPoint output?

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the automation of PowerPoint reports. This module is still in development but will be available in 2024. It will mean that you can go from data to PowerPoint reports with a single click.

Advice and critiquing

At MRDC Software, we are always keen for you to make the optimum use of MRDCL. We like to support our claim that MRDCL offers greater productivity than any other tabulation software. This might be general advice on approaching a complex project or a potentially laborious task. If so, we can help, mostly free of charge. Additionally, we can look at your scripts to advise on better ways to handle things, as it is easy to overlook a feature that may benefit you.

Picking the right time

Upgrading from QPSMR to MRDCL will involve some pain, but there is the opportunity for a big gain. Choosing when to make the upgrade and the projects to switch to MRDCL is essential. Indeed, having QPSMR and MRDCL in your toolbag gives you greater flexibility in choosing how you handle each project. Further, it is not a one-way decision; you can seamlessly switch between QPSMR and MRDCL and MRDCL to QPSMR.

If you need any further advice, please get in touch with, so that she can put you in contact with the right person to assist you.