Elements Of Business Research
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Research is a discerning pursuit of the truth. It is a careful scientific and systematic search for pertinent information on a specific topic to infer some results. Research turns information into knowledge. An organized, systematic and objective oriented scientific inquiry or investigation into a specific problem encountered in the work settings of a business, undertaken with the objective of finding solutions to it is known as BUSINESS RESEARCH.
For example, starting any type of business requires research into the target market and the competition to create a business plan. Conducting business market research in existing businesses is helpful in keeping in touch with consumer demand. Small business research begins with research of an idea and continues with research based on customer demand and other businesses offering similar products or services. All business research is done to learn information that could make the company more successful.
Elements of Business Research
Business Research includes several interrelated components. The scope of business research is broad, and the types of phenomena business researchers study are expanding rapidly. Thus, business research is truly dynamic in that researchers are constantly studying new issues with new tools. The important ones are described below:
Business research involves the study of a wide range of phenomena, such as:
People, including employees, customers, supervisors, managers and policy makers.
Systems or groups of people, including strategic business units, offices, factory labor, management groups, boards of directors, managing directors, market segments, cultures, subcultures, corporate cultures, communities, companies and industries.
The interaction of people with systems, including accounting or audit systems, legal systems, management practices, compensation systems, manufacturing systems, production processes, and financial systems.
Business research can be formal. Researchers may undertake systematic and sometimes exhaustive projects aimed at answering very specific questions. For instance, One-shot research projects are performed to address a single issue at a specific time.
Business research can be informal. Restaurant owners or managers often spend a portion of each night circulating through the dining room asking the customers about the food and services. While this sort of research is easy for small ventures, it is more of a challenge for larger firms. Informal research is often ongoing.
Good research is replicable. A goal of scientific research is to be as objective as possible. When research is objective, it is replicable, meaning that another researcher could produce the same results the identical procedures employed by the original researcher.
Good research should provide more benefits than it costs. Ultimately this is of primary importance in determining if the research was worthwhile.
Business research is scientific inquiry. But the terminology of business research differs depending on what motivates a particular study. Applied business research is motivated by an attempt to solve a particular problem faced by a particular organization. Basic business research is motivated by a desire to better understand some business phenomenon as it applies to an entire industry or business in general.
OBJECTIVES OF RESEARCH
The purpose of research is to discover answers to questions through the application of scientific procedures. The main aim of research is to find out the truth which is hidden and which has not been discovered as yet. Though each research study has its own specific purpose, we may think of research objectives as falling into a number of following broad groupings:
1. To gain familiarity with a phenomenon or to achieve new insights into it (studies with this object in view are termed as exploratory or formulative research studies);
2. To portray accurately the characteristics of a particular individual, situation or a group (studies with this object in view are known as descriptive research studies);
3. To determine the frequency with which something occurs or with which it is associated with something else (studies with this object in view are known as diagnostic research studies);
4. To test a hypothesis of a causal relationship between variables (such studies are known as hypothesis-testing research studies).
TYPES OF RESEARCH
THE BASIC TYPES OF RESEARCH ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. Descriptive vs. Analytical: Descriptive research includes surveys and fact-finding enquiries of different kinds. The major purpose of descriptive research is description of the state of affairs as it exists at present. In social science and business research we quite often use the term Ex post facto research for descriptive research studies. The main characteristic of this method is that the researcher has no control over the variables; he can only report what has happened or what is happening. Most ex post facto research projects are used for descriptive studies in which the researcher seeks to measure such items as, for example, frequency of shopping, preferences of people, or similar data. Ex post facto studies also include attempts by researchers to discover causes even when they cannot control the variables. The methods of research utilized in descriptive research are survey methods of all kinds, including comparative and correlation methods. In analytical research, on the other hand, the researcher has to use facts or information already available, and analyze these to make a critical evaluation of the material.
2. Applied vs. Fundamental: Research can either be applied (or action) research or fundamental (to basic or pure) research. Applied research aims at finding a solution for an immediate problem facing a society or an industrial/business organization, whereas fundamental research is mainly concerned with generalizations and with the formulation of a theory. "Gathering knowledge for knowledge's sake is termed as "pure" or "basic" research." Research concerning some natural phenomenon or relating to pure mathematics are examples of fundamental research. Similarly, research studies, concerning human behavior carried on with a view to make generalizations about human behavior, are also examples of fundamental research, but research aimed at certain conclusions (say, a solution) facing a concrete social or business problem is an example of applied research. Research to identify social, economic or political trends that may affect a particular institution or the copy research (research to find out whether certain communications will be read and understood) or the marketing research or evaluation research are examples of applied research. Thus, the central aim of applied research is to discover a solution for some pressing practical problem, whereas basic research is directed towards finding information that has a broad base of applications and thus, adds to the already existing organized body of scientific knowledge.
3. Quantitative vs. Qualitative: Quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity or amount. It is applicable to phenomena that can be expressed in terms of quantity. Qualitative research, on the other hand, is concerned with qualitative phenomenon, i.e., phenomena relating to or involving quality or kind. For instance, when we are interested in investigating the reasons for human behavior (i.e., why people think or do certain things), we quite often talk of "Motivation Research", an important type of qualitative research. Other techniques of such research are word association tests, sentence completion tests, story completion tests and similar other projective techniques. Attitude or opinion research i.e., research designed to find out how people feel or what they think about a particular subject or institution is also qualitative research. Qualitative research is especially important in the behavioral sciences where the aim is to discover the underlying motives of human behavior. Through such research we can analyze the various factors which motivate people to behave in a particular manner or which make people like or dislike a particular thing. It may be stated, however, that to apply qualitative research in practice is relatively a difficult job and therefore, while doing such research, one should seek guidance from experimental psychologists.
4. Conceptual vs. Empirical: Conceptual research is that related to some abstract idea(s) or theory. It is generally used by philosophers and thinkers to develop new concepts or to reinterpret existing ones. On the other hand, empirical research relies on experience or observation alone, often without due regard for system and theory. It is data-based research, coming up with conclusions which are capable of being verified by observation or experiment. We can also call it as experimental type of research. In such a research it is necessary to get at facts firsthand, at their source, and actively to go about doing certain things to stimulate the production of desired information. In such a research, the researcher must first provide himself with a working hypothesis or guess as to the probable results. He then works to get enough facts (data) to prove or disprove his hypothesis. He then sets up experimental designs which he thinks will manipulate the persons or the materials concerned so as to bring forth the desired information. Such research is thus characterized by the experimenter's control over the variables under study and his deliberate manipulation of one of them to study its effects. Empirical research is appropriate when proof is sought that certain variables affect other variables in some way. Evidence gathered through experiments or empirical studies is today considered to be the most powerful support possible for a given hypothesis.
5. Some Other Types of Research: All other types of research are variations of one or more of the above stated approaches, based on either the purpose of research, or the time required to accomplish research, on the environment in which research is done, or on the basis of some other similar factor. Form the point of view of time, we can think of research either as one-time research or longitudinal research. In the former case the research is confined to a single time-period, whereas in the latter case the research is carried on over several time-periods. Research can be field-setting research or laboratory research or simulation research, depending upon the environment in which it is to be carried out. Research can as well be understood as clinical or diagnostic research. Such research follows case-study methods or in-depth approaches to reach the basic causal relations. Such studies usually go deep into the causes of things or events that interest us, using very small samples and very deep probing data gathering devices. The research may be exploratory or it may be formalized. The objective of exploratory research is the development of hypotheses rather than their testing, whereas formalized research studies are those with substantial structure and with specific hypotheses to be tested. Historical research is that which utilizes historical sources like documents, remains, etc. to study events or ideas of the past, including the philosophy of persons and groups at any remote point of time. Research can also be classified as conclusion-oriented and decision-oriented. While doing conclusion oriented research, a researcher is free to pick up a problem, redesign the enquiry as he proceeds and is prepared to conceptualize as he wishes. Decision-oriented research is always for the need of a decision maker and the researcher in this case is not free to embark upon research according to his own inclination.
Operations research is an example of decision oriented research since it is a scientific method of providing executive departments with a quantitative basis for decisions regarding operations under their control.
SIGNIFICANCE OF RESEARCH
"All progress is born of inquiry. Doubt is often better than overconfidence, for it leads to inquiry, and inquiry leads to invention" is a famous Hudson Maxim in context of which the significance of research can well be understood. Increased amounts of research make progress possible. Research inculcates scientific and inductive thinking and it promotes the development of logical habits of thinking and organization.
Research provides the basis for nearly all government policies in our economic system. For instance, government's budgets rest in part on an analysis of the needs and desires of the people and on the availability of revenues to meet these needs. The cost of needs has to be equated to probable revenues and this is a field where research is most needed. Through research we can devise alternative policies and can as well examine the consequences of each of these alternatives.
Decision-making may not be a part of research, but research certainly facilitates the decisions of the policy maker. Government has also to chalk out programs for dealing with all facets of the country's existence and most of these will be related directly or indirectly to economic conditions. The plight of cultivators, the problems of big and small business and industry, working conditions, trade union activities, the problems of distribution, even the size and nature of defense services are matters requiring research. Thus, research is considered necessary with regard to the allocation of nation's resources. Another area in government, where research is necessary, is collecting information on the economic and social structure of the nation.
Such information indicates what is happening in the economy and what changes are taking place. Collecting such statistical information is by no means a routine task, but it involves a variety of research problems.
These days nearly all governments maintain large staff of research technicians or experts to carry on this work. Thus, in the context of government, research as a tool to economic policy has three distinct phases of operation, viz.
Investigation of economic structure through continual compilation of facts;
Diagnosis of events that are taking place and the analysis of the forces underlying them; and
(iii) The prognosis, i.e., the prediction of future developments.
Research has its special significance in solving various operational and planning problems of business and industry. Operations research and market research, along with motivational research, are considered crucial and their results assist, in more than one way, in taking business decisions. Market research is the investigation of the structure and development of a market for the purpose of formulating efficient policies for purchasing, production and sales. Operations research refers to the application of mathematical, logical and analytical techniques to the solution of business problems of cost minimization or of profit maximization or what can be termed as optimization problems. Motivational research of determining why people behave as they do is mainly concerned with market characteristics. All these are of great help to people in business and industry who are responsible for taking business decisions. Research with regard to demand and market factors has great utility in business. Research, thus, replaces intuitive business decisions by more logical and scientific decisions.
Subaru: "Mr. Survey" Monitors Customer Satisfaction
Marketing research can play an important role in helping Subaru understand the devotion of consumers to its brand. It can help them understand the motivations, perceptions, and preferences of consumers in their market. It can also provide them with a profile of their loyal customers. The marketing research problem is to determine customer preferences for automobiles and discover what things create loyalty among these customers. More specifically:
What criteria do consumers use for evaluating automobiles?
How do consumers evaluate Subaru and competing brands on the identified criteria?
What is the demographic and psychographic profile of customers loyal to Subaru?
What characteristics differentiate Subaru loyalists from consumers loyal to other brands?
Qualitative research would help Subaru define the problem and set up an approach to improving customer loyalty. Focus groups and depth interviews would be the most useful techniques. Since complex questions and a diversity of questions will probably be asked, personal interviews will be effect. Of the three personal methods, mall intercepts will be the most efficient in terms of cost and speed. Subaru needs to address differences in the lifestyle/pastime (autobahn) and popular sports (soccer) in their marketing research. They also need to consider other socio-cultural factors such as environmental friendliness and research methodology in Germany. In addition, economical/infra-structural factors, marketing environment, government environment, legal environment, and information and technological environment should be considered as well. With regard to the general public, ethical concerns revolve primarily around the methods of generating and reporting research results. It is the joint responsibility of the researcher and the client to ensure that the research findings are being disseminated accurately. In particular, care should be taken by both the market researcher and the client to avoid incomplete reporting, misleading reporting, and biased research. It is the marketing researcher's responsibility to protect the respondents from unethical research practices. Two issues deserve special attention: conducting a survey as a guide to sell products, and the invasion of the privacy of the respondent.
Given the complexity involved, it is not surprising that the ethical issues surrounding the researcher-client relationship are somewhat numerous. Areas that deserve special attention from an ethical standpoint are: abuse of position arising from specialized knowledge, unnecessary research, and an unqualified researcher, disclosure of identity, treating data as no confidential and misleading presentation of data. The researcher (or the research firm) has the right to be treated ethically as well. Ethical treatment by clients involves several issues: improper solicitation of proposals, disclosure of proprietary techniques, and misrepresentation of findings.
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