Approaches to Research Methodology
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This section will explain the concept of research methodology, including an outline on the main methodological approaches and philosophies that exist; following this, the research strategies that will serve to address the objectives of this research topic will be explained.
According to Saunders et al. (2009), three characteristics exist for carrying out research:
- Systematic collection of data.
- Systematic interpretation of data.
- A clear reason for investigation exists.
Therefore, individuals generally undertake research because they want discover new things in a systematic manner, and hence expand their knowledge about a particular subject. Research in the business and management field is crucial as it serves to provide solutions to problems that exist in businesses. There are particular qualities that are required for carrying out good research including good communication, intellectual, organizational and IT skills. The researcher may already have these skills, or may need to develop them over the course of the research (Collins and Hussey, 2003).
Research methodology is the process used to provide solutions to research problems in a systematic manner (Kumar, 2008). It is multidimensional and is the rationality behind the research methods chosen for the investigation. Research methodology provides the platform for the researcher to explain and evaluate the research strategies implemented.
APPROACHES TO METHODOLOGY
One can choose to take either a deductive or an inductive approach to undertaking research, both of which would influence the manner information and results are collected and distributed. The deductive approach to research involves developing a theory based on knowledge and understanding which is already in place, therefore is scrutinised and faces the risk of being unaccepted. Whereas the inductive approach begins with data collection followed by analysis of results and forming conclusions and theories based on the results (Saunder et al, 2009). In this kind of research approach, the flow of processes begins with observation and ends with findings and forming theories, which can be further integrated into knowledge that already exists. From this, it is planned that this current research will undertake an inductive approach, which will first involve data gathering, and following analysis, form conclusions as to how to enhance the management of information systems in NHS hospitals.
In research methodology, research can be undertaken over two different time periods, using a cross-sectional or longitudinal method for data collection. Cross-sectional relates to research carried out and is based on the current time and place. Longitudinal, on the other hand, concerns research carried out over a certain long period of time (Kumar, 2008). Judging from the topic area and the time constraints, this research will adopt a cross-sectional style.
According to Saunders et al. (2009), there are three main categories of research philosophies, which are positivism, interperpretivism and realism:
- Positivism - this assumes that knowledge has a free value and is directly gained from experience. An important aspect of this viewpoint is that research is carried out in an independent and objective manner away from any kind of influences, and is based on quantitative data from the utilisation of a structured methodology.
- Interpretivism - this adopts a naturalist approach which places emphasisim on social constructionism and focuses on the underlying multiple social structures of knowledge. It is concerned with the attitudes of research subjects and views on the world. This type of philosophy supports the adoption of certain research techniques such as observation and interviews which in turn would enable to gain knowledge from different perspectives.
- Realism - this is similar to the positivist theory, as it also adopts a scientific approach to the concept of knowledge development. It argues that a reality exists independent of the human mind, and that there are certain social forces that influence their behaviours and interpretations; therefore the intention of such approach is to be aware and understand these social forces.
Collis and Hussey (2003) state that the choice of research philosophy to adopt largely depends on the nature of the research, therefore there is no ‘correct' strategy. Having defined the three main philosophies, it is clear that one would be able to incorporate the three of them into one research strategy. However, the philosophy that will be adopted for this research is the realist approach, which is essentially a combination of the positivism and interpretivism philosophies. This would involve the collection, interpretation and analysis of data, and establishing any social processes that might influence the behavior and actions of individuals.
In order to address the objectives of the research topic, one has to implement certain research strategies that will enable the collection of the necessary data. Numerous research strategies are available including experiment, case study, survey, grounded theory, action research, ethnography and archival research (Saunders et al., 2009). The choice of the research strategy must take into consideration certain important aspects about the research topic, including the research questions and objectives, existing knowledge about the topic, the amount of time available and also the availability of other useful sources (Saunders et al., 2009).
This involves the use of different techniques to collect current information. This is an important way to gain an insight into the research topic and it enables the addition of certain information and ideas to the available literature surrounding the topic. This is done using a variety of methods, as illustrated below:
This involves collecting relevant information relating to information systems in the NHS, including details about their roles, impacts and management, with particular reference to the London Ambulance Computer Aided Dispatch system. This requires the review and examination of a number of materials including journals, books, the internet and newspapers.
The researcher will undertake both primary and secondary research to thoroughly investigate the research topic. For primary research, the case study strategy will be chosen as the research strategy for this study, which is explained in more detail as follows.
CASE STUDY STRATEGY
Given the nature of the research topic, a case study has been chosen as the research strategy to be implemented in this research. According to Robson (2002), a case study enables the researcher to focus on a specific situation and explore a single phenomenon, by collection of data using a variety of methods. This research strategy has the ability to provide answers for the ‘why?', ‘what' and ‘how?' questions (Saunders et al, 2009), and it will enable the researcher to gain a thorough understanding of the chosen topic area.
For the purpose of this research topic, both qualitative and quantitiative measures will be used for collection and analysis of data. The research methods chosen will be in the form of questionnaires and interviews. Questionnaires are an effective technique of collecting data in which individuals are asked to answer a pre-set list of questions in a specified order (Creswell, 1994). The questionnaire will be structured, predetermined and standardised; it will contain a mixture of closed and open-ended questions that will serve to address the research objectives. An advantage of using such research method is that it enables access to a great number of people over a large area. Furthermore, a questionnaire is a reliable research method as the questions are structured and predetermined, which means that they cannot be altered and consequently minimizing bias. However, at the same time, this structured approach will also mean that respondents are unable to answer freely and expand on their responses. Additionally, there is the potential of a threat to validity as respondents may not understand the question clearly and therefore give an answer to a question which is not intended by the researcher. Still, however, it is important to ensure that the questionnaire is well-constructed and easy to follow; because one needs to ensure a good response rate from the sampled population which is essential for gaining accurate information that would be helpful for the research.
The second research method that will be used is a semi-structured interview. This will be carried out face to face with certain staff members working for the NHS, such as hospital managers and paramedics. The aim of the semi-structured interviews is to provide more focus on the research topic by gaining reliable information from key staff members who are familiar with the topic area, and hence generate valuable information for the research. The semi-structured approach to questioning will enable the researcher to alter the style of questions appropriately depending on the individual being interviewed. Therefore, interviews provide greater flexibility compared to questionnaires, and are a relatively better tool in ensuring higher response rates. Nevertheless, both of the research methods when combined will enable the researcher to explore the complexity and gain valuable insight into the research area.
For the purposes of this research, a specific sampling method will be utilised, in which the researcher will select key people to include in the research study provided that those chosen can offer relevant information related to the topic; a technique called ‘purposive sampling' (Saunders et al., 2009). The sample will be selected from three Northwest NHS Foundation Trusts, including St. Mary's hospital, Chelsea and Westminister hospital and Hammersmith hospital. The key staff who will be included are hospital managers, paramedics, doctors and nurses. The researcher will aim for a combined sample size of 70 individuals based on questionnaires and interviews.
The main ethical considerations that must be acknowledged by the researcher when conducting the methods for data collection are centered on the periods of gaining access to the hospitals and interviewing the staff. The researcher will need to respect certain ethical values such as the anonymity, confidentiality and personal privacy of the person being interviewed when collecting information during interviews. Moreover, the researcher must obviously gain an informed consent from every person prior to starting the interview or handing over the questionnaire.
In summary, this research of management of information systems in the NHS will assume an inductive and realist approach, to be implemented in a cross-sectional method, using a case study strategy employing both semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. In addition, secondary research will be undertaken in order assist in addressing the research objectives.
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