A Study on Research Methods And Approaches
This section describes the methods used in carrying out this research. Methodology is an overall approach to research process, from theoretical underpinning to the collection of data (Collis and Hussey, 2003). This section informs the reader of research design, whether it is explanatory, descriptive or he exploratory, and why a particular design is design is chosen. It informs the reader about the primary and secondary sources of data along with argument and rationalization (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2005).
Baker (2003) describes methodology as the critical evaluation of alternative research strategies and methods. Methodology is a combination of techniques used to enquire into specific situation (Easterby-Smith, et al. 2002). Methodology is the analysis of, and the rationale for, the particular method or methods used in a given study, and in that type of study in general (Jankowicz, 2000).
3.2 Research approaches
The extent to which the theory is clear at the beginning of the research is important in the design of the research project. The researcher can use the deductive approach and/or the inductive approach (Saunders et.al, 2007).
3.2.1 Deductive approach
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In this approach, a theory and hypothesis is developed and a research strategy is designed to test the hypothesis. The theory allows examining the specific outcome of the inquiry, which will tend to confirm the theory or indicate modifications (Saunders et.al, 2007).
3.2.2 Inductive approach
In this approach, first the data is collected and theory is developed from the result of the data analysed. The result of this analysis would be the formulation of a theory. This approach is concerned with the context in which the events are taking place. Therefore the study of a small sample of subjects might be more appropriate than a large number as with the deductive approach (Saunders et.al, 2007).
According to Saunders et al. (2003), followers of the inductive approach would criticise the deductive approach because of its tendency to construct a methodology that is not flexible and that does not allow alternative explanations of what is going on. On the other hand, the deductive approach emphasises scientific principles, moving from theory to data, the need to explain underlying relationships between variables, collection of quantitative data, the application of controls to ensure validity of data, the working of concepts to ensure clarity of definition, a highly structured approach, researcher independence of what is being researched and the necessity to select samples of sufficient size in order to generalise conclusions (Saunders et al., 2003).
According to Saunders et al. (2003), the inductive approach also emphasises 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 that allows room for changes as the research progresses, a realisation that the researcher is part of the research process and less concern with the need to generalise. This approach to research also gives room for alternative theories to be put forth.
According to Saunders et al. (2003), deductive research can be quicker to complete. However, time must be devoted to setting up the study prior to data collection and analysis. On the other hand, inductive research can be more prolonged. While the deductive approach to research can be a lower risk strategy, inductive research poses the risk that no useful data patterns and theory may emerge. According to Saunders et al. (2003), most managers are familiar with the deductive approach and are much more likely to put faith in the conclusions emerging from this approach.
Having looked at both the research approaches individually and weighing them against each other, it is also useful to look at whether a combination of both these methods is possible. According to Fowler (2002), although most surveys use a single data collection method, it is not uncommon for a combination of methods to be used. This is further reiterated by Saunders et al. (2003) who say that these approaches can not only be mixed and matched, but it is also beneficial to do so. There are two major advantages of using multi-methods in the same study. Another advantage of using a combination of two methods is that it enables 'triangulation' to take place. The advantage of using triangulation is that the weaknesses in each single method will be compensated by the counter-balancing strengths of another. The researcher has used the combination of two methods i.e. triangulation approach which was best suited for the undertaken study.
3.3 Research Design
Research design is about organising research activity, including the collection of data, in ways that are most likely to achieve the research aim (Easterby-Smith, et al. 2002). Saunders, at al. (1997) suggests that a research design needs to consider the extent to which you should collect data from a research population.
Vogt (1993) defines research design as the science of planning procedures for conducting studies so as to get the most valid findings. Research design is an overall plan for relating the conceptual research problem to relevant and practicable empirical research which provides a plan or a framework for data collection and its analysis (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2005). Collin and Hussey (2003) argue that determining a research design would give a detailed plan, which will be used to guide and focus on research. Hair, et al. (2003) argues that a research design provides the basic direction for carrying out a project.
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For the purpose of this research a case study approach has been used i.e. the case study of SVR Institutions, Bangalore (SVR), an educational institution in India. Collin and Hussey (2003) define a case study as an extensive examination of a single instance of a phenomenon of interest and is an example of a phenomenological methodology. Case study is a research study, which focuses on understanding the dynamics present within single setting (Eisenhardt, 1989). Robson (2002) defines case study as the development of detailed, intensive knowledge about a single case or related number of cases. Case study method is used when thesis focuses on a set of issues in a single organisation, and when researcher wants to identify the factors involved in an in-depth study of the organisation (Jankowicz, 2000). The case study approach is suitable because the researcher looked into an educational organisation to ascertain whether this organisation benefits the economically weaker and deprived families in the community.
3.4 Adopting Qualitative and Quantitative Research Methods
Research method is that section of research report that describes the research methods used in conducting the research (Hair, et al. 2003). Research method is a systematic and orderly approach taken towards the collection and analysis of data so that information can be obtained from data (Jankowicz, 2000).
Two main type SVR of approaches to research are qualitative and quantitative approaches. The quantitative approach is collecting and analysing of numerical data and applying statistical test, while quantitative approach is more subjective in nature and involves examining and reflecting on perceptions in order to gain an understanding of social and human activities (Collis and Hussey, 2003).
Qualitative approach is the nature and content of what is said while quantitative approach determines the number of who said it (Jankowicz, 2000). Baker (2003) argued that quantitative methods are usually regarded as more robust, leading to actionable results and recommendations, whereas qualitative methods are seen as lacking in rigour, resulting in indecisive outcomes. Van Maanen (1983) defines qualitative techniques as an array of interpretative techniques which seek to describe, decode, translate and otherwise come to terms with the meaning, not the frequency, of certain more or less naturally occurring phenomena in the social world. Collis and Hussey (2003) argue that quantitative approach to data collection provides relative ease and speed with which research can be conducted. Ghuari and Granhaug (2005) describe qualitative method of data analysis as the interactive way where collected data are analysed initiating new question and further data collection.
Qualitative research is thus common in social and behavioural sciences and among practitioners who want to understand human behaviour and functions. Since this research has to do with social sciences, it makes qualitative analysis relevant to the research. The rationale of using quantitative methods for this study was in order to obtain the opinion of the management, staff and students rather than seek only statistical data which can eliminate the human aspect and only seek to measure a predetermined variable (Black, 2003).
The quantitative data analysis gives the research more direction and viable to readers by numeric interpretation of responses to the questionnaires given out, apart from this using quantitative method of analysing is rational. The quantitative data analysis has been used in the research by quantifying responses from the management, staff and students of the organisation via questionnaires.
"Rather than using large samples and following a rigid protocol to examine a limited number of variables, case study methods involve an in-depth, longitudinal examination of a single instance or event: a case. They provide a systematic way of looking at events, collecting data, analysing information, and reporting the results. As a result the researcher may gain a sharpened understanding of why the instance happened as it did, and what might become important to look at more extensively in future research" (Collis and Hussey, 2003).
The figures obtained by the researcher from the different questionnaires and the bar charts could be referred to as the quantitative element of this research while the subsequent analysis and explanation of ideas could be referred to as the qualitative element.
Questionnaire is a list of carefully structured questions, chosen after considerable testing, with a view to eliciting reliable responses from chosen sample. The aim of a questionnaire is to find out what a selected group of participants do, think or feel (Collin and Hussey, 2003). Questionnaires are used to collect data by asking the sample/participants to respond to exactly the same set of questions.
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Saunders, et al. (2003) identifies two basic type SVR of questionnaires as self-administered and interviewer administered. They further identified the following type SVR of self-administered questionnaire: Online Questionnaire, The Postal or Mail Questionnaire, Delivery and Collection Questionnaires, Telephone Questionnaires, Structured Interview Questionnaires. For the purpose of this research the self-administered questionnaire shall be used through the use of delivery and collection system.
The questionnaire method will facilitate this research due to time constraint on the part of both the researcher and the respondents. To justify this, other methods used in collecting primary data are semi structured and in depth interviews.
The questions in the questionnaire will be a combination of Yes/No questions, questions that will give the respondent an option to add comments/justification further to his/her answer. Open questions are also used to allow the respondents free to express his/her view, so that it helps in critical analysis.
Interviews are a method of collecting data in which selected participants are asked questions in order to find out what they think or feel. Interviews make it easier to gather the necessary information and opinions, maybe face to face, voice to voice or screen to screen; conducted with individuals or group of individuals (Hussey and Hussey, 1997).
For the purpose of this research, conducting interviews, a qualitative method of data collection is used. According to Saunders et al. (2003) interviews are categorised as follows:
Semi- structured interviews
Structured interviews are based on a pre-determined set of questions that are asked by the interviewer in a particular order with no room for flexibility. There is no much room for interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee. A semi-structured interview also involves a pre-determined set of questions, but gives the interviewer scope to change the order of questions asked, query certain areas of interest based on the answers given. However, unstructured interviews are informal. This method of interviewing allows the interviewer to ask any questions without being bound to a pre-determined set of questions. It looks more like a casual chat which allows the interviewer to talk about the issues pertaining to the research (Saunders et al., 2003).
The interviewer conducted semi-structured interviews, as it is more flexible and helpful in this research.
3.6.1 Interviews Procedure
Prior to the interview, each respondent will be met personally to provide him or her with details about the topic, time and details about the topic. All the respondents were issued a consent form, which mentioned that participation will be voluntary, without coercion and they could withdraw from the study at any time. Interviews will be physically constructed in the organisation rooms, with prior permission.
3.7 Samples and Procedures
Jankowicz (2000) describes sampling as a deliberate choice of a number of people, the sample who are to provide data from which you will draw conclusions about some larger group, the population whom this represents. Sample is a subset of a population, while population is a body or any collection of items under consideration (Collis and Hussey, 2003). Ghauri, et al. 1995 defines sampling as saving work, examining the sample instead of whole population.
Sampling saves time; this is evident when you have tight deadlines. Occasionally, to save time, surveys collect data from the entire population but analyse only a sample of the data collected. For reasons of economy this procedure has sometimes been adopted for hard-to-code questions, such as occupation and industry, in the United Kingdom 1991 census. Data were collected from the total population for all questions but, for the hard-to-code questions, only 10 per cent were entered into the computer and subsequently analysed, although it should be noted that, for the 2001 census, advances in automated and computer assisted coding software meant all these were coded (Teague, 2000).
Many researchers, for example Henry (1990), argue that using sampling makes possible a higher accuracy than a census. The smaller number of cases for which the data is collected means that more time can be spent designing and piloting the means of collecting these data. Collecting data from fewer cases also means that the collected information will be more detailed.
For the purpose of this research, the sampling method has been used because it is practically impossible to reach the entire population due to time constraints on the part of the researcher.
3.8 Sampling Techniques
Sampling techniques are a range of methods that enable the researcher to reduce the amount of data to be collected by considering only data from a subgroup rather than possible cases or element (Saunders, et al. 2003).
Two types SVR of sampling techniques are identified as follows:
Probability or Representative sampling
Non-probability or Judgemental sampling (Saunders, et al. 2003).
Probability sampling is the selection of elements based on random sample procedure that gives a known and non-zero chance of being selected, thereby minimizing selection. It involves taking large samples considered to be representative of target population from which they are drawn (Saunders, et al. 2003).
In non-probability sampling, the probability of each case being selected from the total population is unknown. Non-probability sampling is more frequently used for case study research. In this sampling the researcher uses subjective methods such as personal experience, convenience, and expert judgement to select elements in the sample (Saunders, et al. 2003).
For the purpose of this research a non-probability or judgmental sampling was used because samples were determined by the use of researcher's judgement, experience and convenience.
3.9 Population for Study
The population will compromise of all the employees of the SVR Institutions, Bangalore.
3.10 Sample Size
Collis and Hussey (2003) assert that the question of appropriate number of subjects to include in a sample is complex and it is a question of deciding how accurate the researcher wants the result to be and how confident is the answer.
For the purpose of this research, the total sample size is confined to 110 individuals.
3.11 Pilot Study
Pilot study refers to so-called feasibility studies, which are small scale versions or trial runs, done in preparation for the major study (Polit et al. 2001: 467). A pilot study can also be the pre-testing or 'trying out' of a particular research instrument (Baker 1994: 182-3). De Vaus (1993: 54) quotes "Do not the risk, Pilot test first". The advantages of conducting the pilot study is that it will caution the researcher in advance where the research project could fail, whether the proposed methods or instruments are appropriate or too complicated.
Pilot studies are conducted for the following reasons:
To assess the feasibility of a (full-scale) study.
It wasn't feasible to consider all the UK companies, hence the case study research.
Designing a research protocol
Use of case study approach, research questionnaires to sample views and opinions about the project topic, subjective selection of sample based on the researcher's judgement, disregarding response questionnaires, which were incomplete.
Assessing whether the research protocol is rational and feasible
The case study approach, use of questionnaires and interviews are tried and proven methods, hence the researcher's confidence in employing them. These research protocols were taken to ensure that project deadlines were achievable.
Establishing whether the sampling frame is affective
The chosen sampling frame was deemed to be effective because the researcher found the method successfully applied in similar research.
Identifying logistical problems, which might occur using proposed methods
Issuing of questionnaires to a very large sample size was a problem, hence an appropriate sized sample was chosen. Interviews with the sized sample were conducted to gain their views and opinions.
Developing a research question and research plan
The researcher developed his research questions based on his primary research on the project topic.
Convincing other stakeholders that the main study is worth supporting
The stakeholder was the researcher's supervisor. Before embarking on the project, the researcher had to complete a proposal outlining the importance and benefits of researching the project topic.
3.12 Method of Data Analysis
The data collected through responses in the questionnaires, were analysed and interpreted with the use of the Pie Chart: this is a data presentation which is use in analysing quantitative data's to show the proportion of occurrences of categories or values for one variable. (Saunders et al, 2003, p.340).
The data collected through semi-structured interviews were analysed through the use of conceptualization, meanings expressed through words and classifying the results into categories.
The above methods used indicate that validity and reliability of data will be ensured and problem of bias will be reduced (Collis and Hussey 2003). Both the qualitative and quantitative methods of data collection will lead to actionable result. The case study approach has helped the researcher to be more focused and facilitate a meaningful result.
3.13 Ethical issues
Another very important consideration during research is the ethical issues that may arise. Some of the data to be collected during research could be of highly sensitive nature and therefore may need a formal consent. Some other ethical issues could be - privacy of the respondents, possible harm to participants, and possibility of deception involved (Diener and Crandall, 1978). These issues have been taken into consideration for the purpose of this research. The data was collected after a formal consent from SVR Institutions, Bangalore. A clear explanation of the purpose of the study was given to the management. All the respondents were explained the purpose of the study and were also given literature about the study and assured confidentiality and anonymity.
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