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LIMITATIONS OF CASE STUDY APPROACH

This chapter presents the methodology for this study in order to achieve the research aims and objectives. This chapter present several stages. First the research approach and strategy are outlined. Secondly the methods of data collection and sources, for both primary and secondary data, are presented. Also the primary data collection method which is semi-structured interviews is presented in detailed and the data analysis method is also explained. Finally, the limitations of the research methodology are outlined.

3.2 RESEARCH APPROACH

Saunders et al, (2007) stated that depending on the nature of a research question, a researcher has three main alternatives to choose from. These alternatives are quantitative approach, qualitative approach and a combination of both.

In relation to the former, quantitative approach involves collecting numerical data which are used to explain phenomena’s (questionnaires, theories) and are analyzed statistically (Muijs, 2004). This approach is quite flexible due to the fact that it can be used to study unlimited number of phenomena’s. In contrast, qualitative approach encompassing of a wider range of methods (interviews, case studies etc) which are used to explain phenomenon’s (Muijs, 2004). It also analyzes the subjective nature of reality (Bryman & Bell, 2003; Muijs 2004). Quantitative and qualitative methods can be used to study different phenomenons, however it should be noted that there is no perfect method (Guba, 1978).

The combination of both approaches in the study of the same phenomenon is called triangulation (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2005). They argued that contradictory results from different sources may weaken the use of triangulation, which is particularly useful when trying to achieve validity of a research. For the purpose of this dissertation, the qualitative approach was adopted. One of the reasons for conducting a qualitative study is that the study is inductive and exploratory (Creswell, 2003).

Though a mix of both quantitative and qualitative method was considered initially because it will help in obtaining large number sampling of opinion and percentages, this was later reconsidered due to the limited time and number of recipients’.

3.3 RESEARCH STRATEGY

3.3.1 CASE STUDY RESEARCH

A case study approach was adopted in order to meet the research objectives. A case study is an intensive study of specific phenomena’s, which is known for simplifying/understanding complex issues and adding strength to what already exists in previous research (Soy, 1997). Researchers have used the case study research method for many years across different disciplines especially social scientists, who have used this method to examine contemporary real-life situations (Soy, 1997; Tellis 1997).

As described by Feagin, Orum, and Sjoberg, (1991), a case study is an ideal methodology when a holistic and in-depth investigation is carried out. In his definition of a case study, Yin (2003 p 13) defines the case study research method as “an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident...” This was also highlighted by Robson (2003) who stated that a case study involves “empirical investigation of particular phenomenons within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence” p (178).

According to Soy (1997), the case study research is a method which is qualitative by nature. Ghauri and Gronhaug (2005) recommend a case study strategy when a ‘how’ or ‘why’ question is being asked. Yin (2003:9) also noted that case study strategy has a distinct advantage when the question is being asked about “a contemporary set of events, over which the researcher has little or no control over”. In other words case studies are used in examining real life situations. There is no single way of conducting a case study and a combination of different methods such as unstructured interviewing, direct observation can be used (Soy, 1997). Case study method is particularly useful for theory development and testing and they can be exploratory, explanatory or descriptive (Yin 2003). All these types of case study methods are useful in single or multiple case applications (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2005).

The aforementioned highlights the interest of the case study research for a qualitative approach. It also confirms that a case study strategy is the most appropriate strategy for this study, as we have seen, this research is qualitative.

Although the case study approach has been chosen for this research, it is important to also know the limitations of using this method of approach. Hodkinson and Hodkinson (2001) have identified several disadvantages as using a case study strategy. First of all, they noted that there is too much data for an easy analysis, which can be difficult to represent in a simple way. They argued that it is also time consuming to collect data, very expensive when done on a large scale and impossible to generalise the results in the conventional sense. This argument was also mentioned by Bell (2005:11) who noticed that when using a case study “it is difficult for researchers to cross check-information”. The reason been that case study is normally based on using single or some cases, rather than a large group of sample. However the data collected should have important features otherwise, it will lead to unreliability in the result. Finally they criticise the objectivity of the case study result. They notice that the result of a case study is stronger when researcher expertise and intuition are maximised but doubts their objectivity. Therefore, it is important that during this research particular effort is made in order to keep an objective view of the results obtained.

As is evident from the foregoing, a case study strategy is the most appropriate for this research as the purpose of this research is to understand how to sustain competitive advantage using technology licensing. With the use of a case study an in-depth understanding, depiction and narration of the role of sustaining competitive advantage using technology licensing in the chemical industry in Nigeria will be achieved.

3.4 DATA SOURCES AND METHODS OF COLLECTION

According to Yin (2003), a case study is a comprehensive methodology, which incorporates appropriate data collection methods and data analysis techniques. Using different types of data from different sources often allows the researcher to gain a more comprehensive picture of the phenomenon being studied, as well as facilitating data triangulation which improves the reliability of findings (Ghauri and Gronhaug, 2005). In order to adhere to the requisite for multiple methods in the case study strategy, but primary and secondary data methods were employed. Yin (2003) describes six sources of evidence appropriate to case study research: documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observation, and physical artefacts. Table 2 below identifies the strengths and weaknesses of each source of evidence.

Source of Evidence

Strengths

Weaknesses

Documentation

Stable: can be reviewed repeatedly

Unobtrusive: not created as a result of the case study

Exact: contains exact names, references, and details of an event

Broad coverage: long span of time, many events, and many settings

Retrievability can be low

Biased selectively, if collection is incomplete

Reporting bias: reflects (unknown) bias of author

Access: may be deliberately blocked

Archival Records

(Same as above for documentation)

Precise and quantitative

(Same as above for documentation)

Accessibility due to privacy concerns

Interviews

Targeted: focuses directly on case study topic

Insightful: provides perceived casual inferences

Bias due to poorly constructed questions

Response bias

Inaccuracies due to poor recall

Reflexivity: interviewee gives what interviewer wants to hear

Direct Observations

Reality: covers in real time

Contextual: covers context of event

Time consuming

Selectivity: unless broad coverage

Reflexivity: event may proceed differently because it is being observed

Participant Observation

(same as above for direct observations)

Insightful into interpersonal behaviour and motives

(same as above for direct observations)

Bias due to investigator’s manipulation of events

Physical Artefacts

Insightful into cultural features

Insightful into technical operations

Selectivity

Availability

(Source: Adapted from Yin 2003 p 86)

Yin (2003) indicates that not all sources are relevant for all case studies but where possible, several should be used collectively to strengthen the research findings. Taking into consideration the research objectives and the strengths and weaknesses of each source, documents and interviews were considered most appropriate for this research. These data collection method are explained below.

3.4.1 SECONDARY DATA (Documents)

The collection of secondary data is very essential before embarking on a primary research as it often helps to define research problems and objectives (Kotler and Armstrong, 2010). According to Churchill (1999: 215), ‘…do not bypass secondary data. Begin with secondary data, and only when the secondary data are exhausted or show diminishing returns, proceeds to primary data’. Several authors note some major advantages of using secondary data. They noted that secondary data is faster and cheaper to collect and it is easier to use since the data may have undergone some form of processing. However, secondary data is also useful to find information and aids better understanding of the research area (Miller & Brewer, 2003; Ghauri & Gronhaug, 2005; Saunders et al, 2007; Yin 1993). In contrast, some authors have also criticised the use of secondary data. They argued that the major challenges associated with this type of data include: the validity of the data, the accuracy, reliability and availability of data (Kumar, 1999; Saunders et al, 2007).

Due to the qualitative nature of this research, the secondary data were collected from multiple sources which include the companies’ websites, publications and articles. In terms of the reliability and the validity of these sources, all the companies’ documents used were written from an objective point of view.

3.4.2 PRIMARY DATA (Interviews)

The collection of primary data is essential in order to resolve the research objectives. It is a significant way to obtain data for the research with the help of adopting suitable research methods. In order to obtain this new information, different process of collection can be chosen such as focus group and interviews (Blaxter et al, 1996). Kumar (1999: 105) highlighted that “the choice of a method depends upon the purpose of the study, the available resources and the skills of the researcher”. Just as researchers must carefully evaluate the quality of secondary information, they must also take great care when collecting primary data, they need to make sure that it will be relevant, accurate, current and unbiased (Kotler and Armstrong 2010). Hence, since the research is about how to sustain competitive advantage through technology licensing in the chemical industry, it is extremely necessary to communicate with some relevant people in the industry to obtain useful information. For this study, the use of interview has been preferred to the collection of data via focus group. The reason been that focus groups are difficult to set up and it is not completely suitable for this study.

3.4.3 INTERVIEWS

Due to the personal nature of the dialogue, qualitative interviews provide significant details about every respondent’s experiences, (Berger, 1998). Sykes (1991: 250) also stated that “the main reason for the potential superiority of qualitative approaches for obtaining information is that the flexibility and responsive interaction which is possible between interviewer and respondent(s) allows meaning to be probed, topics to be covered from variety of angles and questions made clear to respondents” .

Interviews are considered a key source of case study information (Paré 2004; Yin 2003). Interview is one of the research methods that are commonly used for collecting information from selected people. Kahn & Cannell (1995) defined interview as a purposeful discussion between two or more parties. However, there are different types ranging from the structured interview (normally associated with survey research), the semi-structured interview, and in-depth or unstructured interview (Berg, 1998; Saunders et al, 2007). The structured interview approach takes the form of a questionnaire and is primarily used in descriptive and explanatory studies (Saunders et al 2007). This interview technique does not align with the purpose and nature of the research questions for this study, and was therefore unsuitable. In contrast to structured interviews, in-depth interviews are unstructured and informal. The interview is guided by the respondent rather than the interviewer; who may begin with only a clear idea of the topic and a single predetermined question (Saunders et al 2007). In-depth interviews allow the respondent to answer freely and are often likened to conversations (Bryman and Bell 2003).

Semi-structured interviews (SSIs) fall between the two extremes. These interviews are the most commonly used in case studies (Yin 2003). It provides open-ended questions which creates opportunity for the respondents to respond freely (Bryman and Bell 2003). The use of qualitative methods, such as semi-structured and in-depth interviews, is often recommended when the purpose of the research is exploratory, as it is in this research (Saunders et al 2007; Yin 2003). This research employed SSIs as they provided a degree of structure, which allows existing literature to inform the interview questions, while attempting to reduce interviewer bias by enabling the respondent to reply openly.

The interviews were conducted face to face in an informal manner but followed a structure using the same set of questions with each interviewee. Before the interviews were conducted, the interviewees were given consent forms to fill to formally seek their consent to the research (See Appendix 1 for Consent form sample). For the interview, senior managers from the various companies were the target for the research. Interviewing this category of people seemed to be more appropriate for one main reason which was that as managers they have a better overview of the services available to their company. This gave them an edge over other staffs has they have acquired better understanding of technology licensing. However, by not interviewing other staffs, there is a possibility of missing data which could be interesting for this study. This study therefore attempted to provide an explanation on how to sustain competitive advantage using technology licensing in the chemical industry. Through relaxed face to face interview with managers, deep insights were gained into the subject matter. Intelligent and constructive questions and arguments were put forward to the respondents and vital information was extracted. However, due to the limitation of resource and time of this study, interviewing other staffs from the different organisations was too difficult to set up. The table 3 presents the interviewees of this study.

INTERVIEWEES

ORGANIZATION

POSITION

DATE/LENGTH

MR Kayode Atutu

Funman Nigeria Ltd

Chief Operating Officer

11/07/2010

48 mins

Mr Kunle Adesoye

Reals Phamarectuical Industry

Executive Director

18/07/2010

38 mins

Mr Olumide Shoyombo

Blue Chip Technology Ltd

Managing Director

25/07/2010

44 mins

Mr Adedamola Adeyanju

Debyl limited

Executive Director

Marketing

26/07/2010

55 mins

3.5. INTERVIEW DESIGN

The interview was designed to take less than 60 minutes. The questions of the semi-structured interviews of this study were divided by the research objectives. For each research objectives, a set of questions are asked. An interview framework was used for each interview, the questions were all them same. In fact, the analysis of secondary data has allowed the author to identify the specifics points that he wanted to developed during the interview. The questions used were open questions. The use of open questions allowed the interviewees to define and describe a situation or an event according to their own view. Example of open question asked: - What makes the products/services licensed by your organisation different from that of your competitors? Few specific questions are used. This type of questions is asked in order to obtain specific information or to confirm a fact or an opinion.

3.6 DATA ANALYSIS

The data analysis stage is necessary to further document the procedures employed within the study (Patton 1990). This stage is very important in order to analysis the data correctly. This process was done in four stages which were identified by Saunders et al (2007).

Categorisation: This stage provides a structure for organizing and analyzing the data. At this stage the data collected are classified into meaningful categories. Each of the 3 research questions represents a category.

Unitising data This stage deals with the reduction and the rearrangement of the data. Charts and graphs were used in order to arrange and display the data. This is highlighted by Miles and Huberman (1994), they said that use of data display constitutes a significant help for the data analysis and the drawing of conclusion. It allows the researcher to display reduced or selected data drawn from the extended text.

Recognising relationships and developing categories: this stage involves the use of data displays to reorganise the categories into new categories.

Developing and verifying findings: After the findings presentation and analysis, a comparison with former researches was carried out.

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3.7 Limitations

Due to resource and time constraints, there were a limited number of interviews. A higher number of interviews would have enabled to cover more organizations and therefore, the possibility to generalise the finding of this study would have been greater. The second limitation of this study is the limited journals on the topic.

3.8 Conclusion

Based on the research aim and objectives of this study, it has been demonstrated that the most appropriate research strategy is a qualitative case study method. Both primary and secondary data are used in this study. The secondary data are collected from multiple sources. The collection of primary data is made through semi-structured interviews of managers in various organizations. The analysis of the data collected from these interviews follows a 4 steps process in order to extract the maximum amount of valuable information. Although there are limitations in this research methodology, the data collected are enough to reach valid conclusion.

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