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Study on research methodology


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This philosophy was considered as a standard with which this research was designed. Outline of the methods that were employed to complete the research is discussed in this chapter. Saunders et al. (2009) states that any kind of study that can establish casual relationships between variables in the research can be called as Explanatory research. In this dissertation, both primary and secondary data is collected from appropriate audience. Both Qualitative method of data collection and Quantitative method are used.

Richardson (2000), states that qualitative work cannot be easily comprehended through graphical representations and thus it carries its meaning in the entire text. To ensure that the data are telling us the same thing that we think they are telling us and to reduce bias error, Triangulation method is also employed. This method of research was deemed to be the best for the purpose of this research.

3.1 The Research Onion

Saunders et al. (2006) gives an extensive and explicit differentiation about the ways in which a research can be carried out. Right from the first layer of Philosophy of research followed by Approach, Strategy, Choice, Time Horizon and Technique and Procedure respectively. Each layer is vital to the skeleton - the structure of the dissertation. Detailed study of the issues underlying the choice of data collection techniques and analysis procedures lead the researcher to this research (Figure 3.2). However the original model is figure 3.1 below:


Figure 3.1: The Research 'Onion'

Source: ©Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis, Adrian Thornhill (2006) (http://wps.pearsoned.co.uk)

Preferred Methods and Critique

Research Methods preferred for this Dissertation are demonstrated in Figure 3.2 below:

Core of the Onion would be same Techniques & Procedures of Data Collection and Analysis

Figure 3.2: The Research 'Onion' for this Dissertation

Source: Created from model provided by

© Mark Saunders, Philip Lewis and Adrian Thornhill 2008 (Saunders et al., 2009 Pp. 108)

Research Philosophy

The philosophy of this research is mainly based on principles of Realism which is more inclined towards scientific enquiry. Saunders (2009), argue that Realism is a philosophical position which relates to scientific enquiry. Realism is a branch of epistemology which is similar to positivism. It believes that what senses show us is reality: that objectives do have their own existence quite independent of the mind. Bhaskar (1989) being a critical realist adapts the view that "What we see is only the part of the bigger picture." Which is also the view of the author while conducting the research and attempting to look at the bigger picture as already done by famous people like Warren Buffet. Critique

This type of philosophy the researcher is likely to employ the existing theory and data. This can be considered as a drawback as it could have been more insightful if there was primary data backed up with the existing one in the Objectives 1, 2, 3 and 4. It was however unattainable for the capacity of this study. There is also some amount of Epistemology and Positivism seen throughout the research.

Research Approach

Emphasis and nature of the research topic directs the author to adopt the inductive approach of research (Creswell, 2002) where the data are collected and a theory developed as a result of the data analysis. The researcher has a strong understanding of the theory of the topics covered in the literature review and the approach developed was the result of the theories (William, 2006). Hussey et al. (2007) propose that the purpose of this research is exploratory, descriptive and explanatory as there are few studies from which the researcher may obtain information about the specified issue. Critique

As compared to the inductive approach, deductive approach seems to be widely used with the positivist research philosophy. However inductive approach was considered to be good for this research as the aim was not to narrow down by developing hypothesis from theories and then confirming them rather to gain understanding of the meanings humans attach to events and theories and also to address the gap in the literature.

Research Strategy

The approach adapted is of Grounded Theory and some Case Examples to aid the triangulation of the data. Looking beyond its general criticisms the researcher would advocate that the key issue to remember in such an approach is that grounded theory is an interpretive process, rather than a logico-deductive one and researcher should treat it as a highly creative process (Suddaby, 2006). The aim is to discover patterns and develop hypotheses rather than testing or confirming them. The focus therefore is to gain insight and familiarity with the subject area in view of more detailed investigation at a later stage. Critique

Amongst various other available alternatives of experiments, surveys, action research, ethnography and archival research, surveys could have been another choice for the research. The researcher decided not to use a self-administered survey because of various reasons the most important being that one wouldn't be able to prompt respondents if they had difficulty in answering some questions (Bryman & Bell 2007). There are issues which need better understanding are complex in nature which is part of the questionnaire and if the researcher wasn't present respondents might have left some questions out. As a consequence of this the researcher could have been left with incomplete data (Bryman & Bell 2007).

Research Choice

This approach is open and enables the researcher to gather a broad range of data and impressions; however it rarely provides conclusive answers (Beall, 2002). The advantage of exploratory research is that it builds a foundation and offers guidance for further studies within the field. As suggested by Curran and Blackburn (2001), both quantitative and qualitative techniques will be employed and primary and secondary sources of data will be used. Critique

The research mainly focuses on qualitative data and Multiple Method Choices are made for the research following the comment of Curran and Blackburn (2001), that this method is increasingly advocated within business and management research. Detailed comparative criticism of qualitative and quantitative methods is given in section 3.2.

Time Horizon

Time Horizon for the research is chosen to be a longitudinal research as it has the ability to study change and development over the time. Since the problem of personal debt was not as common in old times and as it is now and it has increased as the economy has developed, this time horizon is adapted. Thus according to Bouma and Atkinson (1995, Pp.114), the question here to ask will be "Has there been any change over a period of time?" The specific question here thus becomes: Has there been any change in management and distribution of money over a period of time? Critique

This research can also be criticised as being cross-sectional whereby you 'study a particular phenomenon at a particular time' (Saunders et al 2006, Pp.148) as it is also pointing the reader towards the current economic scenario. This also a result of the word and time limit of the project.

The strategies mentioned above and depicted in the figure 3.2 are not considered as mutually exclusive as suggested by Yin (2003) and will be used along with other strategies and possibilities to answer the research questions in the best possible manner.

3.2 Analyzing the Alternatives

It is important to understand different ways to collect data and conduct research to address the research questions and objectives in the best possible manner. This also forms the core of the research onion. In general terms research consists of:

Seeking answers to questions

Systematically using a predefined set of procedures to answer questions

Collecting evidence

To produce findings that were not determined in advance

To produce findings that are applicable beyond the immediate boundaries of the study


As apparent from the title of the dissertation, the research philosophy here is to develop knowledge (Johnson and Clark, 2006) in the specific field of finance. Below is the table 3.2 which briefly differentiating between the two methods of data collection.

Table 3.2 Comparison of Quantitative and Qualitative Methods

Source: Adapted from www.fhi.org

The table summarises and gives a clear idea on the use of both types of data and their uses. Being an approach which uses mixed meth.ods, this research includes both types of data. Detailed explanation of these methods is given below.

3.2.1 Criticism of Quantitative Methods

Numerical data or other data which can be quantified to address the research objectives can be described as quantitative data. Quantitative data in its original form becomes very difficult to interpret and draw meaning from. Thus these data need to be processed, analysed and presented in the form of charts, graphs and tables for better understanding of the relationships and trends within the gathered data. (Saunders et al., 2009)

Quantitative methods in this research were used in a form of a questionnaire to address objective 5. As they generally confirm hypotheses about phenomena and rigid style of categorising questions is necessary, it was used to segment the respondents and then understand different views of them as a portion of the society. However mainly the nature of the research demanded the qualitative methods to be adapted. Questionnaire

Saunders et at. (2009) argue that many times questionnaires are used by people before the consideration of alternative methods, like examination of secondary sources, observation and semi-structured or unstructured interviews. They advice the researchers to evaluate all the possible data collection methods and choose the one that is most appropriate to the research questions.

It is not the case in this research and it was chosen as the most appropriate method to be used to achieve defined objectives. They will also aid in the triangulation of the data as the results will be used along with the focus group results. This in the descriptive nature of this research, which undertakes the study of attitude of people towards credit, spending and saving regarding personal finance, it will enable me to identify and describe the variability in different phenomena.

3.2.2 Criticism of Qualitative Methods

All non-numeric data or that data which have not quantified can be defined as Qualitative data. These data are analysed and manipulated in ways of summarising, categorising and structuring of the meanings using a narrative. Commonly this research is done to gin deep insight about a particular problem or situation.

One of the major advantages of adapting qualitative methods is that it provides the reader to understand from the view point of people how they experience the research issue in form of complex textual description. This provides us with 'humanistic' side of the issue. This is mostly contradictory behaviours, beliefs, opinions, emotions and relationships of individuals.

The other advantage being qualitative methods also give effective evaluation of many indefinable factors like, some social norms, socioeconomic status, role of genders, also ethnicity, and religion, whose role in this research is very apparent. It is seen that the culture of a country is a big factor deciding the spending and saving habits of an individual. Thus this approach is chosen. Qualitative methods when used along with quantitative methods, they can complement each other. It can improve the understanding of the complex reality of the given situation and the implications of the data collected (www.fhi.org). Focus Group

Administering a Focus Group was important for this project especially for objective 6 as the respondents replies would be considered very valuable to get in-depth knowledge of the given subject. A focus group has been also used to achieve triangulation. This is where qualitative and quantitative methods are both employed, by doing this can result in the negative aspects of one method being balanced by the positive aspects of the other creating a comprehensive and reliable set of findings (Jick 1979). Some of its advantages and limitations are discussed below:

Advantages of using a Focus Group:

It can help to explore issues deeply via encouraging respondents to interact with one another in relation to the topic set (Kolb 2008).

This style has the potential for many views and opinions to accumulate thereby providing a good source of evidence in relation to the topic discussed (Wilson 2006).

Here the interviewer has the ability to ask follow up questions if the respondent gives too general an answer, the interviewer can keep asking until they acquire a finding that is more credible (Kolb 2008)

Some of its Limitations are:

Data from a focus group might be difficult to analyse because of the large amount of data that is collected within a short timeframe. (Bryman & Bell 2007)

There can be a difficulty in finding participants for the activity as it is time consuming and demanding of the individual. (Wilson 2006)

Group dynamics may also affect how much information is actually collected as some participants may contribute more than others. (Bryman & Bell 2007) Observation

Observation is another method which is used in this report and has played a big role in its formation. This approach is also considered to be fun. This mainly involves: systematic observation, recording, description, analysis and interpretation of people's behaviour. (Saunders et al., 2009) Many authors describe that this aspect of the research is to some extent neglected and less used in business and management studies. Although Delbridge and Kirkpatrick (1994) confirm that it is about attempting to learn the symbolic world and trying to get to the bottom of the processes with which an individual constantly constructs and reconstructs ones identity. This idea relates exactly with the aim and objectives of this research.

Gill and Johnson (2002) have developed fourfold categorisation of this research which is available for any researcher. They are:

Complete participant

Complete observer

Observer as participant

Participant as observer

Figure Created from Saunders et al., 2009 form model provided by Gill and Johnson

Here the role of Participant as Observer is used wherein researcher takes part in the activity and researcher's identity is also revealed. Participant Observation is defined specifically as "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 researchers to share their experiences by not merely observing what is happening but also feeling it". (Gill and Johnson 2002, Pp. 144) Thus, adding to the richness of the research data. Main Strengths and Weaknesses of this method of research are depicted in Table below:

Table Strengths and Weaknesses of Participant Observation

Source: Adapted from www.fhi.com

3.3 The Approach towards the Objectives

Described below are the objectives of this research topic and how they were addressed:

Objective 1: To understand 'Money' and 'Debt' employing exploratory research while briefly looking into its evolution.

To address the first objective, extensive secondary research was carried out looking into the history of Money and Debt. This helped the author to understand the origins of these and thus provided fully with the capability to understand and critically analyze it.

Objective 2: To analyze and compare the concepts of money and debt in various countries of world.

This was again done with the help of extensive secondary research into the beliefs and values of many different countries of the world. It was done with mainly two types of differentiations namely developed and developing countries and close context and open context cultures. This will let the researcher to see beyond the particular culture, value and belief system of the UK.

Objective 3: Understand various types of financial markets and institutions in the UK.

This objective was fulfilled simultaneously while addressing the previous objectives. As after the base of the structure of the paper was created, this objective served as a ground floor to build on the other objectives.

Objective 4: Understand various types of debts and reasons behind their creation.

This objective again was achieved with the help of studying established theories and models which govern the current financial system in the world. Mainly secondary research is used and the concept of 'participant as an observer' is reflected all through the dissertation which is also primary research.

Objective 5: Identify critical factors responsible for the increasing personal debt in the UK.

Identification of critical factors responsible for the increasing personal debt in the UK was done after careful consideration, on the basis of secondary data and the facts about UK economy given in Appendix 1. A questionnaire was prepared and given out to members of public. The questions mainly focused on Availability of Credit, Knowledge about Personal finance, Culture and Finance and Some Technicalities regarding fees and charges applicable. The sample included students, unemployed people, part time workers, full time workers and self employed people with different sex and age groups.

Objective 6: Evaluate the awareness of UK residents about financial management and its role.

This objective was achieved by the means of a focus group, some questions were formed to generally access the knowledge about money management in general population and the role it can play in their monetary situation. This was done via open ended questions to give the participant ability to get feedback and discuss in form of complex textual descriptions to access how people experience the given research issue. Sample here also included students, unemployed people, part time workers, full time workers and self employed people with different sex and age groups.

Objective 7: Suggest a New Theory on Money Management in hard times.

Thus in above mentioned way the objectives were addressed and data will be gathered and analyzed and the last objective to suggest a New Theory on Money Management in hard times to emerged as a result of the achievement of the previous research objectives.

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