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Summary Research Methods for Business Students

CHAPTER 1 Research Undertaken in a systematic way On its own With a clear purpose With interpretation

Research is something that people undertake in order to find out things in a systematic way, thereby increasing their knowledge. Research will involve an explanation of the methods used to collect the data, will argue why the results obtained are meaningful, and will explain any limitations that are associated with them. Purpose of Research Describing Explaining Understanding Criticising Analysing

Business & Management Research

Business and management research needs to engage with both the world of theory and the world of practice Mode 1 Knowledge Reserach in which questions are set & solved by academic interests Little focus on utilisation of the research by practitioners

Mode 2 Knowledge Research controlled by the world of practice Need for production of practical relevant knowledge Bringing supply (universities) and demand (businesses) side of knowledge together

Mode 3 Knowledge Appreciation of human condition as it is and as it might become (future)

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Purpose of assuring survival and promoting the common good at various levels of social aggregation (?)

Rigour and Relevance

Theoretical & methodological rigour (Hrte) Practical Relevance Quadrant Higher science Lower Lower
Pedantic science academic journals



higher lower

popularist science puerile science

Popularist science books targeted at practising managers Puerile science other media

Pragmatic science example (?)

1. Basic, fundamental or pure research Undertaken purely to understand the process of business and management and their outcomes Undertaken largely in universities & largely as a result of an academic agenda (?) Little attention given to its practical applications Mode 2 & Mode 3 business and management research are unlikely to fulfil these conditions (because M2 & M3 make considerations to practical consequences)

Basic Research

2. Applied Research Of direct and immediate relevance to managers Addresses issues that they see as important

Applied Research


Purpose - improve

Presented in ways that managers understand and can act on

- expand knowledge of processes of business understanding of particular and management business or management problem

- results in universal principles relating to the - results in solution to problem processes and its relationship to outcomes new knowledge limited to problem - findings of signigicance and value to society relevance and value in general organizations - findings of practical to managers in



- undertaken by people based in universities - undertaken by people based in a variety of settings, including organizations and - choice of topics and objectives determined by universities researcher

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Beliefs and feelings have an impact on your research process, as well as access to data, time and the resources you have available.

The Research Process Formulating and clarifying a topic (formulating research questions that research must answer) Reviewing the literature Designing the research Collecting data Analysing data Writing up

The research process is a multi-stage process which is rarely straightforward. CHAPTER 2 Formulating and clarifying the research topic

If you have already been given a research idea, you must make sure that your research question and objectives relate clearly to that idea Symmetry of potential outcomes means that your results will be of similar value whatever you find out

Generating research ideas Use both rational & creative thinking Use variety of techniques Examinine own strengts and interests (look for ideas in field of future career) Look at past project titles Scan actual research projects Ask & discuss with colleagues, friends and tutors

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

It is important to choose a topic in which you are likely to do well and, if possible, already have some academic knowledge look at assignments where you received good grades.

Rational thinking Examining your own strengths and interests Looking at past project titles Discussion Searching the literature Searching the media

Creative thinking Keeping a notebook of ideas (note down any interesting research idea and what sparked off your thought) Exploring personal preferences using past projects Relevance trees Brainstorming Notebook diary

Literature for generating ideas Articles in academic and professional journals Reports (contain literature recommendations) Books Review articles (they include considered review of the state of knowledge in that topic area & pointers towards topic areas where further research needs to be undertaken) Preliminary study refining (clarifying) the research idea in order to turn it into a research project

General focus research question first question that flows from your research idea, this may lead to several more detailed questions or the definition of research objectives

Research objectives are likely to lead to greater specificity that research questions. They are evidence of the researcher`s clear sense of purpose and direction

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

SMART test of research objectives Specific what precisely do you hope to achieve from undertaking the research? Measurable what measures will you use to determine whether you have achieved your objectives? Achievable Are the targets you have set for yourself achievable given all the possible constraints Realistic Given all the other demands upon your time, will you have the time and energy to complete the research on time? Timely will you have the time to accomplish all your objectives in the time frame you have set?


A formulation regarding the cause and effect relationships between two or more variables, which may or may not have been tested Logical argument to explain the reasons for the described phenomena must be included if a document is to contain theory (why did the things you describe occur; what is the logical explanation?) Theory is about the connections between phenomena, a story about why events, structure and thoughts occur To understand the systematic reasons for a particular occurrence or nonoccurence

Theory types Grand theories e.g. Darwin & Newton (theories that change the way we think about the world) Middle-range theories lack the capacity to change the way we think about the world, but which are nonetheless of significance (e.g. theories of human motivation) Substantive theories restricted to a particular time, research setting, group or population or problem

Purposes of writing a research proposal Clarifying your thoughts & organise your ideas into a coherent statement of your research intent Convincing reader and tutor that the planned research is possible/achievable Receiving acceptance and agreement for the proposed research

Content of a research proposal

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Title may change as your work progresses, it should closely mirror the content of your proposal Background tell the reader why you feel the research that you are planning is worth the effort (evidence that there is sufficient interest from you). This is also the section where you will demonstrate your knowledge of the relevant literature. Moreover it will clarify where your proposal fits into the debate in the literature. In contrast to the literature review, it will just provide an overview of the key literature sources from which you intend to draw. Statement of research questions & objectives make sure objectives are precisely written and lead to observable outcomes Method details precisely how you plan to achieve your research objectives. It will also justify your choice of method in the light of those objectives (can be divided into research design (overall view of the method chosen and the reason for that choice) & data collection (how specifically the data have to be collected, e.g. sample size/questionnaire type)) Timescale e.g. using a Gantt chart to divide tasks and estimate how much time each will take up Resources will allow you and your reader to assess whether what you are proposing can be resourced. Resource considerations may be categorised as finance, data access and equipment. Think through expenses involved and ensure that you can meet these expenses. References a few key-literature sources to which you have referred in the background section

CHAPTER 3 Critically reviewing the literature

Reasons for reviewing the literature Preliminary search that helps you to generate and refine your research ideas. Critical literature review is part of your research project. It consists of reading and writing about previous work in your field which increases your subject knowledge and helps you to clarify your research questions further.

The literature review process Define the parameters to your research questions and objectives Generate Key words and conduct your first search List of references to authors who have published on these subjects Search Read and evaluate their ideas Record those ideas Start drafting your review Initial

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

After the initial search you will be able to redefine your parameters more precisely and undertake further searches, keeping in mind your research questions and objectives.

Purpose of the critical literature review Main purpose is to help you develop a good understanding and insight into relevant previous research and the trends that have emerged. Use literature to help you identify theories and ideas that you will test using data (deductive approach) Plan to explore your data and develop theories from them that you will relate to the literature (inductive approach) To help you fefine your research questions & objectives further To highlight research possibilities that have been overlooked in previous research To help you avoid repeating work that has already been done To discover and provide insight into research approaches, strategies and techniques that may be useful for your own research questions and objectives

You will need to show how your findings and the theories you have developed or are using relate to the research that has gone before, thereby demonstrating that you are familiar with what is already known about your research topic. Content of the critical literature review Include key academic theories within your chosen field of research Demonstrate that your knowledge of chosen field is up to date Clear referencing in order to enable others to find the original publications you cite

What is meant by being critical about the content Critique of rhetoric language appraising or evaluating a problem with effective use of

Critique of tradition where does justification of being critical exist/ conventional wisdom Critique of authority dominant view in the literature you are reading Critique of objectivity recognising that knowledge & information you are discussing are not value free

Critically reviewing the literature for your research topic therefore requires you to have gained topic-based background knowledge, understanding, the ability to reflect upon and to analyse the literature and, based on this, to make reasoned judgements that are argued effectively. For your review to be critical, you will need to show critical judgement.

What else does critically reviewing contain Refer to and assess research by recognised experts in your chosen field Consider and discuss research that supports and research that opposes your ideas

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Make reasoned judgements regarding the value of others` research, showing clearly how it relates to your research Justify your arguments with valid evidence in a logical manner Distinguish clearly between fact and opinion

Structure of the critical review 0. Explain precisely how you searched for the literature you included in your review, outlining your choice of key words and of databases used 1. Start at a more general level before narrowing down to your specific research questions & objectives 2. Provide a brief overview of key ideas and themes 3. Summarise, compare and contrast the research of the key writers 4. Narrow down to highlight previous research work most relevant to your own research 5. Provide a detailed account of the findings of this research and show how they are related 6. Highlight those aspects where your own research will provide fresh insight 7. Lead your reader into subsequent sections of your project report, which explore these issues

The key to writing a critical literature review is to link the different ideas you find in the literature to form a coherent and cohesive argument, which sets in context and justifies your research. The review should relate to your research questions and objectives.

Literature sources 1. Primary literature (grey literature, because difficult to trace) The first occurrence of a piece of work. They include published sources such as reports and some central and local government publications. They also include unpublished manuscript sources such as letters and memos.

2. Secondary literature Sources such as books and journals. These publications are aimed at a wider audience. They are easier to locate than primary literature. Most research projects make the greatest use of secondary literature.

3. Tertiary literature Also called search tools, are either designed to help locate primary and secondary literature or to introduce a topic. They include indexes, abstracts, encyclopedias and bibliographies.

Elements of a search strategy Parameters of your search

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Key words and search terms you intend to use Databases and search engines you intend to use Criteria you intend to use to select the relevant and useful studies from all the items you find

Defining the parameters of your search Language of publication Subject area (e.g. accountancy) Business sector (e.g. manufacturing) obtain more Geographical area Publication period (e.g. the last 10 years) Literature type (e.g. journals and books) Can be broad, in order to information

Generating key words Read articles by key authors and recent review articles in the field of your research (helps to suggest appropriate key words and contains reference to other work pertinent to your research questions & objectives) Check dissertations and theses in your library Brainstorming Thesauruses, dictionaries & encyclopedias Discussion with colleagues Relevance trees

Purpose of relevance trees Which key words are directly relevant to your research questions & objectives Which areas you will search first and which your search will use later Which areas are more important these tend to have more branches

How to construct a relevance tree 1. Start with your research question or objective at the top level 2. Identify two or more subject areas that you think are important 3. Further subdivide each major subject area into sub-areas that you think are of relevance

Summary Research Methods for Business Students

4. Further divide the sub-areas into more precise sub-areas that you think are of relevance 5. Identify those areas that you need to search immediately and those that you particularly need to focus on 6. As your reading and reviewing progress, add new areas to your relevance tree

An abstract provides the same information as an index but also includes a summary of the article. Nonetheless they should not be used as a substitute for the full article as they exclude much of relevance.

Search engines can be divided into four distinct categories: 1. General search engines (Google; Google Scholar normally large number of sites being found, each engine searches in a different way and in a different part of the internet use more than one engine) 2. Meta search engines (search by using a selection of engines at the same time using the same interface less easy to control the sites that are retrieved, consequently meta search engines often generate more innapropriate or unreliable sites that general search engines) 3. Specialised search engines and information gateways (for specific subject areas, therefore the subject area needs to be defined; the number of sites obtained is fewer, but they can be far more relevant 4. Subject directories (hierarchically organised indexes categorised into subject areas; useful for searching for broad topics; their content has normally been censored and evaluated; number of sites retrieved is fewer but usually more appropriate)

Evaluating the literature Read all the literature that is closely related to your research questions and objectives The literature which is most likely to cause problems is that which is less closely related For new research areas, there is unlikely to be much closely related literature and so you will have to review more broadly For research questions where research has been going on for some years you may be able to focus on more closely related literature

Assessing relevance and value When looking for relevance remember, you are looking for relevance, not critically assessing the ideas within (it helps to think about the criteria for inclusion and exclusion prior to assessing each item of literature)


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Assessing the value of the literature you have collected on the other hand is concerned with the quality of the research that has been undertaken (methodological rigour, theory robustness as well as the quality of the arguments)

Assessing sufficiency (did you read enough) When further searches provide mainly references to items you have already read

Recording the literature (3 sets of information you need to record) Bibliographic details (author`s name, year of publication, title of article) Brief summary of content Supplementary information (ISBN/identifier for any book, quotations, when the item was consulted)

CHAPTER 4 Understanding research philosophies and approaches

3 major ways of thinking about research philosophy Epistemology Ontology Axiology

Epistemology - Involves what forms acceptable knowledge in a field of study

Positivism (epistemological position) You prefer working with an observable social reality and that the end product of such research can be law-like generalisations Only phenomena that you can observe will lead to the production of credible data To collect these data you are likely to use existing theory to develop hypotheses These hypotheses will be tested and confirmed or disconfirmed leading to the further development of theory which then may be tested by further research The hypotheses developed lead to the gathering of facts that provide the basis for later hypothesis testing Research is undertaken (as far as possible) in a value-free way The researcher is independent of and neither affects nor is affected by the subject of the research


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Realism (epistemological position) What the senses show us as reality is the truth Objects have an existence independent of the human mind There is a reality quite independent of the mind (realism opposed to idealism (idea that only mind and its contents exist)) Like positivism it assumes a scientific approach to the development of knowledge Collection of data and the understanding of those data

Direct realism - What you see is what you get what we experience through our senses portrays the world accurately. It argues that the world is relatively unchanging: that it operates, in the business context, at one level (the individual, the group or the organization). Critical realism what we experience are sensations, the images of the things in the real world, not the things directly (representations of what is real). We will only be able to understand what is going on in the social world if we understand the social structures that have given rise to the phenomena that we are trying to understand What we see is only part of the bigger picture. We can identify what we don`t see through the practical and theoretical processes of the social sciences. Thus our knowledge of reality is a result of social conditioning and cannot be understood independently of the social actors involved in the knowledge derivation process. The critical realist recognizes the importance of multi-level study (for example, at the level of the individual, the group and the organization. Each of these levels has the capacity to change the researcher`s understanding of that which is being studied. This would be the consequence of the existence of a greater variety of structures, procedures and processes and the capacity that these structures, procedures and processes have to interact with one another. Therefore the critical realist`s position that the social world is constantly changing is much more in line with the purpose of business and management research which is too often to understand the reason for phenomena as a messenger to recommending change.

Interpretivism (epistemological position) It is necessary for the researcher to understand differences between humans in our role as social actors Emphasises the difference between conducting research among people rather than objects (trucks & computers) Suggests that as humans we play a part on the stage of human life (humans = social actors) We interpret our everyday social roles in accordance with the meaning we give to these roles. We interpret the social roles of others in accordance with our own set of meanings The challenge is to enter the social world of our research subjects and understand their world from their point of view



Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Concerned with nature of reality Raises questions of the assumptions researchers have about the way the world operates and the commitment held to particular views

Objectivism (ontological position) Social entities (Wesen) exist in reality external (independent) to social actors Managers in your organization for example have job discriptions which prescribe their duties (social actors). Managers in your organization are different to managers in another organization (their duties may differ). Therefore one can assume that management in your organization is the creation of those social actors that are concerned with its creation (the managers in your organization). Nonetheless management in your organization has a reality that is separate from the managers that inhabit that reality. Culture is something that the organization has

Subjectivism (ontological position) Social phenomena are created from the perceptions and consequent actions of social actors. This is a continual process in that through the process of social interaction these social phenomena are in a constant state of revision. Necessary to study the details of the situation to understand the reality or perhaps a reality working behind them (constructionism or social constructionism) Social constructionism views reality as being socially constructed Social actors may place many different interpretations on the situations in which they find themselves, therefore they will perceive different situations in varying ways as a consequence of their own view of the world. These different interpretations affect their actions and the nature of their social interaction with others. As the researcher you must seek to understand the subjective reality of the research subjects in order to be able to make sense of and understand their motives, actions and intentions in a way that is meaningful Culture is something that the organization is as a result of continuing social enactment

Pragmatism (ontological position) The most important determinant of the research philosophy adopted is the research question Positivist or interpretivist philosophy can be adopted (depending on the question), or one can work with both Study what interests you and is of value to you, study in the different ways that you think are appropriate, and use the results in ways that can bring about positive consequences within your value system



Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Studies judgements about value Concerned with the process of social enquiry (analysis) The role that your own values play in all stages of the research process is of great importance if you wish your research results to be credible Our values are the guiding reason of all human action A researcher demonstrates axiological skills by being able to articulate his values as a basis for making judgements about what research he is conducting and how he goes about doing it At all the stages in the research process you will be demonstrating your values

Research paradigms A paradigm is a way of examining social phenomena from which particular understandings of these phenomena can be gained and explanations attempted

Four types of paradigms 1. Functionalist 2. Interpretive 3. Radical humanist 4. Radical structuralist Purposes of paradigms To help researchers clarify their assumptions about their view of the nature of science and society To offer a useful way of understanding the way in which other researchers approach their work To help researchers plot their own route through their research; to understand where it is possible to go and where they are going

Four conceptual dimensions that paradigms correspond to 1. Radical change the radical change dimension approaches organizational problems from the viewpoint of overturning the existing state of affairs 2. Regulation the regulatory dimension seeks to work within the existing state of affairs 3. Subjectivist mentioned above 4. Objectivist - mentioned above

Functionalist paradigm Located on the objectivist and regulatory dimensions


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Objectivism is the ontological position you are likely to adopt if you are operating with this paradigm It is regulatory in that you will probably be more concerned with a rational explanation of why a particular organisational problem is occuring and developing a set of recommendations set within the current structure of the organization`s current management This is the paradigm within which most business and management research operates Key assumption: organisations are rational entities, in which rational explanations offer solutions to rational problems Example: an evaluation study of a communication strategy to assess its effectiveness and make recommendations as to the way in which it may be made more effective

Interpretive paradigm The philosophical position to which it refers is the way we as humans attempt to make sense of the world around us Concerned to understand the fundamental meanings attached to organisational life Discovering irrationalities may be the principal concern Your concern here would not be to achieve change in the order of things, it would be to understand and explain what is going on

Radical humanist paradigm Located within the subjectivist and radical change dimensions (radical change dimension adopts a critical perspective on organisational life) Working within this paradigm you would be concerned with changing the status quo The ontological perspective you would adopt here, as in the interpretivist paradigm, would be subjectivist

Radical structuralist paradigm Located within the objectivist and radical change dimensions Here your concern would be to approach your research with a view to achieving fundamental change based upon an analysis of such organisational phenomena as power relationships and patterns of conflict The paradigm is involved with structural patterns with work organisations such as hierarchies and reporting relationships and the extend to which these may produce disfunctionalities


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

It adopts an objectivist perspective because it is concerned with objective entities, unlike the radical humanist paradigm which attempts to understand the meanings of social phenomena from the subjective perspective of participating social actors

Deduction: testing theory 5 sequential stages through which deductive research will progress 1. Deducing a hypothesis (a testable proposition about the relationship between two or more concepts or variables) from the theory 2. Expressing the hypothesis in operational terms (that is, indicating exactly how the concepts or variables are to be measured), which propose a relationship between two specific concepts or variables 3. Testing this operational hypothesis 4. Examining the specific outcome of the inquiry (it will either tend to confirm the theory or indicate the need for its modification) 5. If necessary, modifying the theory in the light of the findings

An attempt is then made to verify the revised theory by going back to the first step and repeating the whole cycle

Induction: building theory Data are collected and a theory developed as a result of the data analysis Concerned with the context in which things are taking place Understanding why something is happening rather than what is happening

Differences between deductive and inductive approaches to research 1. Deduction emphasises Scientific principles Moving from theory to data The need to explain causal relationships between variables The collection of quantitative data The application of controls to ensure validity of data The operationalisation of concepts to ensure clarity of definition A highly structured approach Researcher independence of what is being researched


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

The necessity to select samples of sufficient size in order to generalise conclusions

2. Induction emphasises CHAPTER 8 Secondary data data that have already ben collected for some other purpose (raw data & published summaries) Raw data where there has been little if any processing Compiled data that have received some form of selection or summarising Gaining an understanding of the meanings humans attach to events A close understanding of the research context The collection of qualitative data A more flexible structure to permit changes of research emphasis as the research progresses A realisation that the researcher is part of the research process Less concern with the need to generalise

Documentary secondary data Include written materials such as notices, minutes of meetings, reports to shareholders, diaries () Can also include books, journal and magazine articles and newspapers, but also non-written materials such as voice and video recordings, pictures, drawings, films, DVDs () Can be analysed quantitatively and qualitatively Can be used to help triangulate findings based on other data such as written documents and primary data collected through observation, interviews or questionnaires

Survey-based secondary data Data collected using a survey strategy, usually by questionnaires that have already been analysed for their original purpose Such data normally refer to organisations, people or households Made available as a downloadable matrix of raw data for secondary analysis Survey-based secondary data collected through three subtypes of survey strategy: censuses, continuos/regular surveys or ad hoc surveys


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Censuses carried out by government; participation is obligatory; clearly defined, well documented and of high quality (e.g. censuses of population) continuos/regular surveys repeated over time (e.g. general household survey) ad hoc surveys very specific in their subject matter; include data from questionnaires of independent researchers as well as interviews undertaken by organisations and government

Multiple-source secondary data Different data sets have been combined to form another data set (e.g. compilations of company information; can be based on Documentary secondary data or on Survey-based secondary data or on both)

Locating secondary data (2 stages) 1. Establishing that the sort of data you require are likely to be available as secondary data 2. Locating the precise data you require

The availability of secondary data Books and journals contain references to the sources of data Newspapers often report summary findings of recent government reports References for unpublished and documentary secondary data Subject specific textbooks Tertiary literature such as indexes and catalogues Informal discussions (experts, librarians, tutors)

Point to secondar y data

Advantages and disadvantages of secondary data Advantages: Saving in resources (especially time & money) You may be able to analyse far larger data sets (e.g. those collected by government surveys) As your data will already be collected you will have more time to think about theoretical aims, analysisng and interpreting the data Higher quality data than the data you collect yourself For research questions and objectives that require comparison (make sure that data you are comparing were collected and recorded using methods that are comparable)


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

It can be useful to compare data that you have collected with secondary data in order to to place your own findings in a more general context Reanalysing secondary data can lead to unforseen or unexpected new discoveries Unlike data that you collect yourself, secondary data generally provide a source of data that is both permanent and available in a form that may be checked relatively easily by others the data and your research findings are more open to public inspection

Disadvantages: Secondary data will have been collected for a specific purpose that differs from your research question and to meet your objectives data you are considering may be inappropriate to your research question Access may be difficult or expensive Definitions of data variables may not be the most appropriate for your reaearch question The documents you are using may represent the interpretations of those who produced them, rather than offer an objective picture of reality No control over data quality Initial purpose may affect how data are presented (e.g. newspapers select what they consider most important, therefore the culture and ideals of those who originally collected the data will have influenced the nature of these data to some extent)

Evaluating secondary data sources You need to be sure that: The secondary data will enable you to answer your research question and to meet your objectives The benefits associated with their use will be greater than the costs You will be allowed access to the data

Overall suitability Measurement validity Measures used for secondary survey data may not match those that you need Minutes of a company meeting may be based on the chairperson`s interpretation and may not really reflect what actually happened

Coverage and unmeasured variables


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Coverage of secondary data sets will be concerned with: Ensuring that unwanted data are or can be excluded Ensuring that sufficient data remain for analyses to be taken once unwanted data have been excluded Does the data set cover the population that is subject of your research? Does the data set cover the geographical area that is subject of your research? Are the data for the right time period or sufficiently up to date?

Precise suitability Reliability and validity Reliability and validity are functions of the method by which the data were collected and the source (you can make a quick assessment of those by looking at the source of the data, this is called assessing the authority or reputation of the source )

1. Discover the person or organisation responsible for the data 2. Look for a copyright statement and the existence of published documents relating to the data (on the internet titles such as institute of research ( ) may be made up) However sometimes the webpages/institutes with the most authority often feel the least need to proclaim it 3. Assessment of the methods used to collect the data (is the method clearly described?) 4. Look at the process by which the data were collected or recorded

Measurement bias Measurement bias can occur for two reasons: Deliberate or intentional distortion (change for the worse) of data (when data are recorded inaccurately on purpose, e.g. minor accidents not recorded to improve safety reports, graphs may be deliberately distorted to show an organisation in a more favourable light). Other distortion may be deliberate but not intended for any advantage (employees keeping a time diary may only record the approximate time spent on their main duties) What was the original purpose for which the data were collected? Changes in the way data are collected change of bias

You need to compare the findings with other independent data sources (cross-check verification) Costs and benefits


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

Final criterion for assessing secondary data is a comparison of the costs (time & money) of aquiring them with the benefits (the extent to which they will enable you to answer your research question and meet your objectives) they will bring.

CHAPTER 9 Collecting primary data through observation Observation systematic observation, recording, description, analysis and interpretation of people`s behaviour Participant observation qualitative and derives from the work of social anthropology. Emphasis on discovering the meanings that people attach to their actions Structured observation quantitive and more concerned with the frequency of those actions

Participant observation The researcher attempts to participate fully in the lives and activities of subjects and thus becomes a member of their group, organisation or community. This enables the researcher to share their experiences by not merely observing what is happening but also feeling it. To get to the root of what`s going on Sharing in peoples` lives while attempting to learn their symbolic world High level of absorption Trying to get to the bottom of the process by which the individual constantly constructs and reconstructs his or her identity

Researcher roles in participant observation 1. Complete participant (conceal your identity) 2. Complete observer (conceal your identity) 3. Observer as participant (reveal your identity) 4. Participant as observer (reveal your identity)

1. Complete participant (conceal your identity) Attempting to become a member of the group in which you are performing research Raises questions of ethics (you are spying on people) Because of ethic problems researcher should not adopt this role You may lose objective perspective as you value the trust you gained among the subjects so much that you lose sight of your research purpose

2. Complete observer (conceal your identity) You do not take part in the activities of the group


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

E.g. studying consumer behaviour in the supermarket (at the checkout; observation from some distance)

3. Observer as participant (reveal your identity) You are a spectator (attending activities to observe without taking part) Your identity as a researcher is clear to all concerned You lose emotional involvement

4. Participant as observer (reveal your identity) You are particularly interested to gain the trust of the goup Key informants are likely to adopt a perspective of analytic reflection on the process in which they are involved

Factors that will determine the choice of participant observer role The purpose of your study The time you have to devote to your research The degree to which you feel suited to participant observation (building relationships, personal flexibility, your own personality must be suppressed to a greater extent) Organisational access Ethical considerations

Data collection and analysis Types of data generated by participant observation: 1. Primary note what happened or what was said at the time. Keeping a diary is a good way of doing this. 2. Secondary statements by observers of what happened or was said. This necessarily involves those observers` interpretations. 3. Experiental data on your perceptions and feelings as you experience the process you are researching. Keeping a diary of these perceptions proves a valuable source of data. You also collect data on for example the roles played by key participants and how these may have changed; organisational structures and communication patterns

Data collection Through informal discussions rather than through formal interviews Questions to collect data are of two types:


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

1. To informants to clarify the situations you have observed 2. To yourself to clarify the situation and the accounts given of the situation Data may be classed as : 1. Descriptive observation concentrates on observing the physical setting, the key participants and their activities and the emotions involved 2. Narrative account, which is written on the basis of the descriptive observation How you record data will depend to a great extent on the role you play as the participant observer (e.g. the more open you are the more possible it will be for you to make notes etc.) Recording must take place on the same day as the fieldwork

Data analysis Data collection and analysis activity may be part of the same process While the journalist is interested in a story, you are interested in generating a theory to help you understand what is going on

Threats to reliability and validity The greatest threat to reliability of your research conclusion produced as a result of a participant observation study is that of observer bias (because we are part of the social world we are studying we cannot detach ourselves from it, or avoid relying on our common sense knowledge and life experience when we try to interpret it). We cannot avoid observer bias, but we can become aware of them and try to control them (ask yourself questions about your conclusions, like what other interpretations could I have put on this + use informant verification (present written accounts to informants for them to verify the content) Advantages and disadvantages of participant observation Advantages It is good at explaining what is going on in particular social situations It heightens the researcher`s awareness of significant social processes It is particularly useful for researchers working within their own organisations Some participant observation affords the opportunity for the researcher to experience for real the emotions of those who are being researched Virtually all data collected are useful



Summary Research Methods for Business Students

It can be very time consuming It can pose difficult ethical dilemmas for the researcher There can be high levels of role conflict for the researcher (e.g. colleague vs researcher) The closeness of the researcher to the situation being observed can lead to significant observer bias The participant observer role is a very demanding one, to which not all researchers will be suited Access to organisations may be difficult Data recording is often very difficult for the researcher

Structured observation Is systematic and has a high level of predetermined structure Its function is to tell you how often things happen rather than why they happen Used for example in call centres and big retail chains

Advantages and disadvantages of structured observation Advantages It can be used by anyone after suitable training in the use of the measuring instrument. Therefore you could delegate this extremely time-consuming task. In addition, structured observation may be carried out simultaneously in different locations. This would present the opportunity of comparison between locations. It should generate highly reliable results by virtue (advantage) of its replicability Structured observation is capable of more than simply observing the frequency of events. It is also possible to record the relationship between events The method allows the collection of data at the time they occur in their natural setting. Therefore there is no need to depend on second accounts of phenomena from respondents who put their own interpretation on events Structured observation secures information that most participants would ignore because to them it was too mundane (ordinary) or irrelevant

Disadvantages The observer must be in the research setting when the phenomena under study are taking place Research results are limited to overt (obvious; unconcealed) action or surface indicators from which the observer must make inferences (conclusions) Data are slow and expensive to collect


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Threats to validity and reliability The main threats here are ones of reliability: Subject error May cause data to be unreliable (e.g. if you are concerned with observing the output of sales administrators as measured by the amount of orders they process in a day. Subject error may be evident if you chose administrators in a section that was short-staffed because of illness. This may mean that they were having to spend more time answering telephones, and less time processing orders, as there were fewer people available to handle phone calls. Chose subjects who in as many respects as possible are normal examples of the population under study

Time error It is essential that the time at which you conduct the observation does not provide data that are untypical of the total time period in which you are interested

Observer effect the threat that the process of the observer`s observation of behaviour changes the nature of that behaviour owing to the fact that the subject is conscious of being observed. Ways to overcome the observer effect: Minimal interaction (stay in background as much as possible, as little interaction with subjects as possible, no eye contact) Habituation (subjects become familiar with process of being observed and take it for granted CHAPTER 10 Collecting primary data using semi-structured, in-depth and group interviews Structured interviews Use questionnaires based on a predetermined and standardised or identical set of questions and we refer to them as interviewer-administered questionnaires You read out each question and then record the response on a standardised schedule, usually with pre-coded answers While there is social interaction between you and the respondent, such as the preliminary explanations that you will need to provide, you should read out the questions exactly as written and in the same tone of voice so that you do not indicate any bias. As structured interviews are used to collect quantifiable data they are also referred to as quantitative research interviews


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Semi-structured interviews Non-standardised Referred to as qualitative research interviews The researcher has a list of themes and questions to be covered, although these may vary from interview to interview This means that you may exclude some questions in particular interviews The order of questions may also be varied depending on the flow of the conversation Data will be recorded by audio-recording the conversation or perhaps note taking Used to help identify the questions that should be asked in your questionnaire (used in the design of your questionnaire or structured interview) Used to explore and explain themes that have emerged from the use of your questionnaire

Unstructured interviews (in-depth interviews) Are informal Use these to explore in depth a general area in which you are interested Referred to as in-depth interviews No predetermined list of questions to work through, although you need to have a clear idea about the aspect you want to explore Interviewee is given the opportunity to talk freely about events, behaviour and beliefs in relation to the topic area (this type of interaction is called non-directive) Labelled as an informant interview since it is the interviewee`s perceptions that guide the conduct of the interview

Respondent interview The interviewer directs the interview and the interviewee responds to the questions of the researcher Can be conducted face to face or through telephone, internet or intranet

There are many situations in which the use of non-standardised (qualitative) research interviews as a method of data collection may be advantageous. These can be grouped into four aspects related to interview: 1. The purpose of the research 2. The significance of establishing personal contact 3. The nature of the data collection questions


Summary Research Methods for Business Students

4. Length of time required and completeness of the process

1. The purpose of the research When undertaking an exploratory study you will include non-standardised (qualitative) research interviews in your design Where it is necessary to understand participant`s reasons for decisions, attitudes and opinions, you will conduct a qualitative interview Semi-structured and in-depth interviews give you the opportunity to investigate answers, where you want interviewees to explain, or build on, their responses. This is important if you are adopting a interpretivist epistemology, where you are concerned to understand the meanings that respondents ascribe to various phenomena.

2. The significance of establishing personal contact Interview provides interviewees with the opportunity to reflect on events without needing to write anything down Personal interview provides interviewees with opportunity to receive feedback and personal assurance about the way in which the information will be used (trust) Conducting personal interviews may achieve a higher response rate than questionnaires which were mailed to the respondents and where they never met the interviewer

3. The nature of the questions An interview will be the most advantageous approach to obtain data in the following circumstances: Where there are a large number of questions to be answered Where the questions are complex or open-ended Where the order and logic of questioning may need to be varied

Semistructured or in-depth interview will be most appropriate

4. Length of time required and completeness of the process Questions of an interview get answered right away, whereas completing and receiving back a questionnaire can take longer In an interview you can form some indication of why a question was not answered, in a questionnaire you can`t

Data quality issues in the use of semi-structured and in-depth interviews Reliability Forms of bias


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Validity and generalisability

Reliability The lack of standardisation in such interviews may lead to concerns about reliability In relation to qualitative research, reliability is concerned with whether alternative researchers would reveal similar information Concern about reliability also related to issues of bias

Interviewer bias Where comments, tone or non-verbal behaviour of the interviewer creates bias in the way that interviewees respond to the questions being asked. This may be where you attempt to impose your own beliefs and frame of reference through the questions that you ask. It is also possible that you will demonstrate bias in the way you interpret responses. Where you are unable to develop the trust of the interviewee, or perhaps where your credibility is seen to be lacking, the value of the information given may be limited, raising doubts about its validity and reliability

Interviewee bias May be caused by perceptions about the interviewer or in relation to perceived interviewer bias Interviewee may be willing to participate but may be sensitive to the unstructured exploration of certain themes, therefore they may choose not to discuss an aspect of the topic that you wish to explore interviewee may provide a partial picture of the situation that casts himself in a socially desirable role, or the organisation for which they work in a positive or even negative fashion. Time-consuming requirements of the interview process may result in a reduction in willingness to take part

Validity and generalisability Validity refers to the extent to which the researcher gains access to their participants` knowledge and experience, and is able to infer a meaning that the participant intended from the language that was used by this person Qualitative research using semi-structured or in-depth interviews will not be able to be used to make generalisations about the entire population

Overcoming data quality issues Reliability


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One response to the issue of reliability is that findings derived from using nonstandardised research methods are not necessarily intended to be repeatable since they reflect reality at the time they were collected, in a situation which may be subject to change. The assumption behind this type of research is that the circumstances to be explored are complex and dynamic. The value of using non-standardised interviews is derived from the flexibility that you may use to explore the complexity of the topic. Therefore an attempt to ensure that qualitative, nonstandardised research could be replicated by other researchers would not be realistic without undermining the strength of this type of research.

Preparation Prior planning prevents poor performance (5 P`s) Level of knowledge: -About the organisational or situational context in which the interview is to take place. -Find material (library, internet, newspaper, company reports) about the organisation Establish your credibility in the view of the interviewee, have a basis for assessing the accuray of some of the information offered

Level of information supplied to the interviewee Credibility may be promoted through the supply of relevant information to participants before the interview (list of interview themes) A list of themes should also promote validity and reliability by enabling the interviewee to consider the information being requested and allowing them the opportunity to assemble supporting organisational documentation from their files.

Appropriateness of location Somewhere where the participants feel comfortable A place where you will not be disturbed A place where no outside noise will interfere with the interview or the recording

Approach to questioning Start with general, simple questions to gain the respondent`s trust and to relax the situation. Later on in the interview (as you gained the respondent`s trust) you can ask more sensitive questions Be neutral but interested


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Keep relevant interview themes in mind

Open questions Allows interviewee to provide extensive and developmental answer Used to reveal attitudes or obtain facts Encourages interviewee to reply as they wish Starts with what, how or why E.g. why did the organisation introduce its marketing strategy?

Probing questions Can be used to explore responses that are of significance to the research topic They may be worded like open questions but request a particular focus or direction E.g. how would you evaluate the success of this new marketing strategy?

Specific and closed questions Similar to those used in structured interviews Can be used to obtain specific information or to confirm a fact or opinion E.g. how many people responded to the customer survey?

Group interview all non-standardised interviews conducted with two or more people Make sure everybody gets their say, encourage people who didn`t say anything yet to participate Neutral room people feel comfortable (not managers office) People should be of the same rank (don`t mix managers with low employees) Best with two interviewers, one to facilitate, one to take notes Both questions that search for a particular answer and questions that allow participants to range more freely in discussion Advantage variety of points of view, because several participants (they also challenge each others point of view)

Focus group interview group interview that focuses clearly upon a particular issue, product, service or topic and includes the need for interactive discussion amongst participants


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Participants are encouraged to discuss and share their point of view without being pressured to reach a consensus

CHAPTER 11 Collecting primary data using questionnaires Questionnaires work best with standardised questions that will be interpreted the same way by all respondents. A questionnaire offers only one chance to collect data (because often difficult to identify respondents) Self-administered questionnaires Completed by the respondents Delivered through person, mail or internet

Interviewer-administered questionnaires Recorded by the interviewer on the basis of each respondent`s answer Ensure that respondent is whom you want to fill out the questionnaire Telephone questionnaire & in a structured interview

3 types of data variable that can be collected through questionnaires 1. Opinion variables record how respondents feel about something or what they believe is true or false 2. Behaviour variables when recording what respondents do (what did they do in the past, what will they do in the future e.g. in an organisation) 3. Attribute variables data about the respondents characteristics, things a respondent posesses (age, gender, status, education)

Stages that must occur if a question is to be valid and reliable 1. Researcher is clear about the data required and designs a question 2. Respondent decodes the question in the way the researcher intended 3. Respondent answers the question 4. Researcher decodes the answer in the way the respondent intended Reliability in questionnaires is concerned whether or not the questionnaire will produce consistent findings at different times and under different conditions , such as with different samples and different interviewers

Different types of closed-questions List where the respondent is offered a list of items, any of which may be selected


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Category where only one response can be selected from a given set of categories Ranking where the respondent is asked to place something in order Rating in which a rating device is used to record responses Quantity to which the response is a number giving the amount Grid where responses to two or more questions can be recorded using the same matrix