Assessing The Methodological Means Involving Research Commerce Essay

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Writer Kothari (1996) viewed methodology as the logical means of resolving research problems. On the other hand, Collis and Hussey (2003) also explain the techniques used in obtaining and analysing data. He defined methods as the numerous means through which data can be collected and analysed. Saunders et al. (2007) mentioned questionnaires, statistical and non-statistical and interviews as the approaches through which data is collected and analysed. The following paragraphs will highlight the research design and the method used in the study and specifies the various areas to supply chain activity that the researcher studied. The target units of analysis, instrumentation and data collection procedures are also outlined in this chapter. The last section of the chapter presents the techniques in the analysis of data.

Research design

Bryman and Bell (2007, p.40) viewed research design as "that which provides a framework for the collection and analysis of data; therefore a choice of research design will reflect the decisions about the priority being given to a range of dimension of the research process".

Saunders et al. (2007) in their opinion express research design as general plan which indicate the means through which the research questions and objectives will be answered. These will include the source of data collection, the limitation and the ethical issues that might appear during the execution of the research. Saunders et al. (2007) identified three types of the research design including the exploratory, explanatory and descriptive.

According to Robson (2002, p.59) the explanatory research design is used to find out "what is happening; to seek new insights; to ask questions and to assess the phenomena in a new light". In addition Saunders et al. (2007) outline searching of literature; interviewing experts in the field; and conducting focus group interviews as the primary ways of embarking on exploratory research. The authors stress the flexibility of using this research design and its ability to adjust to change. The explanatory research design on the other hand, is seen as the extension of the exploratory research design which provides an appropriate layout of a specific circumstance prior to the data collection (Jancowicz, 2005). The explanatory research design also ascertains the relationship between the variables (Saunders et al., 2007). The descriptive research design is more of survey or observational studies that is used to describe the data collected on a particular subject (Saunders et al., 2007).

Frorn another perspective, Patton (1990) anchored different types of qualitative research in "the kinds of questions a particular researcher will ask". He suggests qualitative research aspects in ethnography and systems theory for example while Merriam (1998) among others identifies basic or generic qualitative study, grounded theory and case study. This study will lean towards the latter and for the purpose of this research, the researcher will adopt the components of explanatory and exploratory designs as the researcher tries to explore the understanding (or views) on green and the way the firm implemented it.

The case study approach to research is a way of conducting mainly qualitative inquiry, commonly used when it is impossible to control all of the variables that are of interest to the researcher. Merriam (1988) points out that the case study's unique strength is its ability to deal with a full variety of evidence, including documents, artifacts, interviews and observations (1988, p.8).


The use a case study approach is determined by four factors: the nature of the research questions; the amount of control the researcher has over the variables under investigation; the desired end product; and the identification of a bounded system as the focus of investigation (Merriam, 1988, p.8). "How" and "why" questions are the most suitable for a case study because the approach draws attention to what can be specifically learned from the single case.

The choice of a case study as a methodological approach was primarily deemed imperative because the constituents of supply chain activity are quite multifaceted and needed to be treated holistically. Secondly, the phenomenon - which constitutes the greening of supply chain activity as embodied in GSCM, to be assessed involved a single entity, one company. As a type of phenomenological framework, case studies seek data which is drawn from a particular site or context, often using personal observations and case-specific data. Perry et al (2004) defines case study as an empirical method - a defined, scientific, method for posing research questions, collecting data, analyzing the data and presenting the results. He adds that case studies can be used for validating results. Yin (1984) on the other hand defines it as an 'enquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within real-life context in which multiple sources of evidence are used'. It is an exploratory method which can be used to generate hypothesis for further researches. As a disadvantage, case studies lack generalizability and are liable to be exposed to biased findings and low reliability because of small number of cases. Nonetheless, carefully planned and crafted case studies of real -life situations, issues, and problems have become a widely accepted research method in the literature. Thus, the methods of analysis for the case study will lean towards an exploratory qualitative method. Hence, it will make heavy use of interviews. This is because the concept of green supply which is deemed present in every department of Blue Skies company be it in management and or the factory floor, imports and exports, internal controls, use of software and information technology, human resource, logistics and even farming for example possess activities that are undertaken by individuals with various degrees of expertise in their line of operations. This study did not aggregate losses, or define and assign weights to certain carbon content and fallouts but rather focused on the systems and procedures both human and institutionalized that define the green nature of operations - the supply chain. In other words, the researcher is interested in the reasons for the lapses in pursuing a complete green supply chain activity; and how to better the protocols already put in place by Blue Skies to explain the significance of GSCM.

Further, the exploratory analysis will allow the investigation of a single process drawing on all related factors as well as intervening variables to give explanations to phenomena or more plainly events. Relatedly, the research sought to find how entrenched the practice of GSCM by Blue Skies is, the exact motivations or otherwise to pursue GSCM and the various actions geared at greening the production process - that is - internal (model) of activity that protects the environment as subject to international standards but also enhances the marketability of the products and to what extent these inbound activities affect growth and profitability. The out-bound activities of the company were also examined in that perspective. Rather than a broad quantitative analysis which might consider market share and efficiency analysis of the company vis-à-vis its quest to remain green, the qualitative study informs on which holistic set of GSCM activity has proven to be significant and whether the practice in question is sustainable. To his end, the research adopted partially a case study protocol developed by Yin.

Yin (1994) recommended the use of case-study protocol as part of a carefully designed research project that would include the following sections:

Overview of the project (project objectives and case study issues)

Field procedures (credentials and access to sites)

Questions (specific questions that the investigator must keep in mind during data collection)

Guide for the report (outline, format for the narrative) (Yin, 1994, p. 64)

These are expounded in the section under procedure stating aspects that were applicable in this study.


Research setting

The adopted case organisation for the study is Blue Skies Ghana Limited, popularly known as Blue Skies. Blue Skies was founded by Anthony Pile, a British in 1998. The company was first established in Ghana due to the availability of tropical fruits especially pineapples and coconuts. Later on the company established other production sites in South Africa, Egypt and Brazil to address the consumer market and thus became Blue Skies Holdings with similar operations everywhere it operates. The headquarters is in Northamptonshire, UK. The Ghanaian facility which is the biggest and the earliest of the network of production sites is furnished with the state-of-the-art refrigeration systems and employs about 1650 people.

The main activity of the company is cutting and packaging of freshest harvested pure fruit into fruit salad products and supplying it to supermarket chains in the UK, Europe including France, Italy, Switzerland, Holland, Germany and yet to enter into the US market. In addition, the company produces fruit juice for the domestic market. Presently the tropical fruits processed in the Ghanaian factory include Fairtrade Sugarloaf Organic Pineapple, Smooth Cayanne Pineapple, Fairtrade MD2 Pineapple, Passion fruit, Banana, Coconut, Mango and Papaya. The strategy adopted was that, within 48 hours, optimum ripped tropical fruits with its freshness and flavour maintained is harvested, prepared from Ghana and flown to the supermarkets in the destined countries. Majority of Blue skies' customers are in the UK, notably Sainsbury, Waterous, Mark and Spencer, Asda group, Tesco, etc. Some of the airlines used for transporting products include KLM, British Airways, Air France, and Emirates. There are also Ghanaian customers that Blue Skies they supply fruit juice products to.

The prudent and green production process earned Blue Skies the Fairtrade Certification in 2005, enabling them to process tropical fruits to the Fiartrade markets and in 2008 received the Queen's award for Enterprise in the Sustainable Development Category. Gareth Thomas, the UK International Development Minister made a remarkable statement stating "this award is proof that developing countries can export a product and take care of the environment at the same time. The UK imports over 2000 tonnes of prepared pineapples from Ghana every year contributing £2.6 million to the local economy through wages alone. This helps farmers and their families live a better life."

It notable that Blue Skies has been able to achieve this feat as a result of the strategic structures it has put in place to realize their goal. Blue Skies has formed an association called Blue Skies Organic Collective Association (BSOC). The association consolidates the large and small-scale local suppliers (about 136 farmers) located in the four regions of the country where the fruits are grown. And because they export to Europe, they also continually provide training and support to the farmers to attain high ethical, environmental and agricultural standards. BSOC is working very hard to teach farmers the significance of organic farming in achieving accreditation as a result of the rising interest in healthier eating in the European markets and its associated low production cost benefits of organic foods. In doing this Blue Skies is able to guarantee for itself the best raw material for its production process. Coupled with its own internal supply chain activity, it realizes an appreciably green production process.

Target group

In this research, the population can be taken to mean all the members of the target of the study as defined by the aims and objectives of the study. The population for this research will be made up of Management personnel of Blue Skies, and the employees which will cover the agronomy, production, technical, marketing/sales and logistic departments.


Sample and sampling technology

Though our unit of analysis is actually the individual activities that has or otherwise a green a element, personnel in the company were selected to provide thoughts and explanation to issues bordering on the subject matter. Thus the sample for the study included 5 personnel with at least one person from the stated departments: agronomy, production, technical, marketing/sales and logistic departments. The personnel were the departmental head, a supervisor or a knowledgeable staff in a department. Personnel within departments were conveniently sampled. Convenient sampling allows flexibility in the collection of data to save time. It is a non-probability sampling method where the researcher selects subjects for his sample with a purpose in mind and the sample is thus selected to include cases of interest and exclude those who do not suit the purpose. This sampling technique is necessary for this research because the researcher wants to reach the targeted group quickly. Thus, sampling in this study was mainly based on accessibility of required information from management personnel and also availability of relevant data to inform discussion.


The major instrument for collection of data was through interviews. The interview, a widely used method of personality or event assessment, is a means of eliciting from the subject a report of past, present, and anticipated future responses about himself or an issue which he has commanding knowledge of. Most interviews are unstructured, but some use set questions asked in a given sequence. Skilled interviewers pay attention to what is said and notice how responses relate to nonverbal cues such as posture and facial expressions. The interviews were also recorded on an audio recorder in order not to miss any verbal information. To this effect permission was sought from the respondent to make use of the audio recorder. It was in-depth interview which was one-on-one with personnel that were contacted.



Although researchers have recognized the importance of question wording in survey research and other researches for many years, the search for generalize-able rules of question wording has proved elusive. This is because there are differences in the research researches undertake all the time; and even with those that are the same, the focus are slightly different. This at times might necessitate slight changes in even instruments that have proven to be reliable. The questionnaire for this study made use of many open ended questions since it was more of an interview guide. Many of the questions were the same for many departments but varied with a few management positions because of the peculiar informational need that was demanded from them. Many of the questions started with 'why', 'how', 'when' and 'what' because the research is more one of an exploratory nature - a characteristic which is possibly an advantage of case studies. In general, the questions for interviews bordered on the activities that define the management of the supply chain activity. Question were asked on how the company executes tasks that describe sourcing for raw materials, transporting to Ghana, warehousing, processing, packaging, and exporting to the financial consumer. All these were discussed with focus on green consideration, quality control, carbon emission and inherent challenges. 


The procedure for this study involved the designing of the case study protocol, conduct of the case study proper, analysis of the evidence and data collected thereof and development of conclusions, recommendations and implications based on the evidences collected.

The first stage in the case study methodology recommended by Yin (1994) is the development of the case study protocol. This stage comprises of Determining the Required Skills and Develop and Review the Protocol by the researcher. Yin (1994) suggested that the researcher must possess or acquire the following skills: the ability to ask good questions and to interpret the responses, be a good listener, be adaptive and flexible so as to react to various situations, have a firm grasp of issues being studied, and be unbiased by preconceived notions. The investigator must be able to function as a "senior" investigator (Feagin, Orum, & Sjoberg, 1991). In respect of this, the researcher has had prior experience in his academic research when pursuing his first degree. Again, knowledge about the research setting because of the researcher's relationship with the company provides him with more flexibility and impetus to seek the required information. In satisfying the review of protocol the researcher developed a protocol based on extensive readings on similar topics and consideration of the objectives of the study. This for example helped in developing the draft questions for the study. This step is followed by the conduct of the case study which involves preparation for data collection, distribution of the data collection instrument and conducting interviews. These activities were interrelated in this study. Though Yin identifies six sources of data for research methodologies, the study employed the use of only documentation and interviews to collect data. Care was taken to make sure that data collected was authentic by crosschecking it against other data sources and interviewing more than one person on the subject matter. However, before the interviews, the respondents were given the interview guide to help them know the kind of information that will be collected from them. All interviews were conducted in the premises of Blue Skies at agreed times between the interviewee and the researcher.

Issues of validity and reliability

Reliability issues deal with attempts to minimize errors and biases in this study of GSCM. This is based on the principle that if other research exactly replicates the design and method of this study it is will be more likely to get the same findings. On this note this study will be considered a reliable one. Joppe (2000) defines reliability as: The extent to which results are consistent over time and an accurate representation of the total population under study is referred to as reliability and if the results of a study can be reproduced under a similar methodology, then the research instrument is considered to be reliable. (p. 1)

On the other hand, a single statistical measure makes validity difficult to establish. However, as detailed in Robson (1993), a high reliability of responses is obtained by providing all respondents with the same set of questions. To be perfectly valid, a questionnaire must measure in such a way that inferences drawn from the questionnaire are entirely accurate (Lacey, 2000). This is very true for survey questionnaire. However, for qualitative research, the emphasis is on the content of the questionnaire guide and skill of the interviewer to relate appropriately and adequately to specified objectives.

Reliability and validity can be enhanced when certain steps are adhered to by researchers. These include the following:

Preview the survey with a variety of individuals

Ensure the clarity of each item to avoid misunderstanding.

Foster intuitive relationships between the stated goals of the study and the questions being asked (Suskie,1996)

Lincoln and Guba (1985) states that: "Since there can be no validity without reliability, a demonstration of the former [validity] is sufficient to establish the latter [reliability;]"

The questionnaire in this research will be subjected to the steps as proposed by Suskie (1996). The researcher will take steps to insure a high level of reliability by performing several pre-tests and interviews. In addition, academics and authorities on the subject of green supply chain were be contacted to preview the instruments and comments on its applicability to the study and questions at hand.

Techniques of analysis of data

The techniques of analysis of data will first involve a transcription of audio-recorded data in text to complement the notes the researcher took. Information collected will be analyzed at various levels with respect to managerial level, same variables (same content of question items) that run through all the interviews and some partial engagement of content analysis. Flow charts and explanation building techniques were used to summarize information and make it more understandable. To this end, comparisons were noted and clearly indicated to make the analysis more holistic.