This chapter provides research aims and objectives of the research which is very important in research method selection. As the research method is developed to decision making process for data collection methods and analyses accordingly. Furthermore, in this section also provides research design diagram which illustrates the process of working step by step in order to find the answer for each research objectives.
3.1 Research aims
In a competitive environment of logistics services market, logistics service providers have been trying to develop service process in order to achieve customers' satisfaction which leads to loyalty in the future. This is aiming at maximize their profitability and maintain competitive advantages in the market. In general, world leader logistics companies have been developing their ICT systems, and it seems that ICT will be more commonly use as it strongly impacts to logistics service process performance.
However, I am interesting in how small and medium size logistics service providers in Thailand use ICT systems and how it impacts their service process performance. Therefore, this dissertation aims to investigate the ICT systems which are currently used in order to service customers in one medium size logistics service providers in Thailand. In addition, as promised to the managing director of the company, finding customers' expectation to logistics service is required in order to make a decision of future development accordingly.
3.2 Research objectives
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Since Thailand has many agriculture produces and products, and handcrafts as main products to export, and also there are many products which are needed to import from overseas, logistics markets are being quite competitive. In order to gain more competitive advantage in the markets, logistics service providers have been trying to increase their service processes to be more effective. There is no doubt that ICT plays important role in service process as many large companies still keep developing their ICT systems. Therefore the objective of this study is to conduct a case study in Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd (Thailand); A medium size company in Gateway Container Line Group, which adopted ICT systems in some part of service process for years. This is in order to find out: How ICT systems impact to logistics service processes in Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd.(Thailand)? In order to find out this question, the study on what staffs behavior on using ICT to service customers has to be conducted as well.
The second question will focus on what customers' expectation to logistics service processes is. Therefore, the study in customers' expectation will not conduct in specific customers of Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd (Thailand) but will do in general. This is in order to survey the market and to be able to suggest the company about the area needs to develop in general perspective.
3.3 Research philosophy
According to Crossan (2003) cited Practor (1998), before making any decision on research method, the understanding of research philosophy need to be explored and understood. "The research philosophy which you adopted contains assumptions about the way in which you view the world" (Saunders et al, 2009). In addition, Saunders et al (2009) also claimed that different philosophy is 'better' at doing different things. Therefore, the research philosophy is always depends on the research question(s) you are finding to answer. Therefore in this section, the characters of research philosophy; ontology and epistemology will be discussed.
Ontology is concerned with nature of reality. This raises questions about the way the world operates and the commitment held to particular views (Saunders et al, 2009). Ontological assumptions are underpinned about what kind of entities can exist.
An epistemological issue concerned about what is (or should be) acceptable knowledge in a field of study (Saunders et al, 2009). There are sub contents of epistemology such as; positivism (quantitative research), interpretivism (qualitative research) and realism (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Saunders et al, 2009).
3.4 Research Methodology
With regard to the previous section, in this dissertation, my field of study is more alike epistemology as I have my specific area to study. However, in terms of research methodology, I would like to do both type of research method; quantitative and qualitative research. As mentioned earlier that research method is depends on the research questions. And these two general research methods are used based on how data will be collected and analyzed.
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Quantitative research: data comes from statistic data. The objective of this research is in order to measure, explain and answer research question begin with how many, how often and what.
Qualitative research: data comes from in-depth answers and discussions. This in order to understand the phenomena by asking open-ened questions such as why, what, whom, where and how (Maylor and Blackmon, 2005)
In this study, I have two different kinds of question; one is quantitative research and another one is qualitative research. Therefore the use of mixed method will be considered. The figure 4 shows the difference of quantitative, mixed and qualitative research. It can be seen that mixed research takes good point of quantitative and qualitative research. (Bryman and Bell, 2007) explained that the term 'mixed methods research' is used as a word to define the use of quantitative and qualitative research within a single project.
Hence in order to answer my two research questions, I decided to use quantitative research for surveying what customers' expectation is and qualitative research for studying staffs' behavior of using ICT in logistics service process in order to find out how ICT impact to logistics service process.
Figure 4: Emphases of Quantitative, Mixed, and Qualitative Research
Source: Johnson and Christensen (2008)
3.5 Research Design
Identify the answers for 2 research objectives and identify future development for Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd. (Thailand) based on customers' expectation and current staffs' working behavior.
Data analysis by Microsoft Excel
Data collection from online survey
Semi-structured interview by phone
Selecting Samples (Random)
Design online questionnaire
Secondary research from literature review
Secondary research from literature review
Objective2: Quantitative research
Objective1: Qualitative research
The diagram shows how I conducted the researches both qualitative and quantitative. Firstly, I started from secondary research from reviewing literature in order to study theories which is necessary to design the questionnaire. After that, I designed the questionnaire based on the theories from the literature review. I did both types of research in the same time as the limitation of time only 3 months and I consumed 1 month for reviewing the literatures already. Moreover, the questionnaire was set up based on the literatures and independent from each other.
For qualitative data collecting, the interviews with 3 staffs of Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd. (Thailand) were conducted by telephone call and were recorded in order to transcribe for content analysis. In terms of quantitative data, I created my online questionnaire on www.surveymonkey.com and used the statistics data to analyze. The result of 2 methods research is used to identify the answers for 2 research objectives and future development for Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd. (Thailand)
3.6 Data Collection and analyses
3.6.1 Secondary research
Apart from qualitative research and quantitative research, the use of secondary research also applied in this dissertation. Johnson and Christensen (2008) described secondary data as the data that were collected or recorded in the earlier time. Moreover, Johnson and Christensen also stated that the use of secondary data must be used by researchers in their study. The secondary data in this dissertation was collected from various sources included; textbooks, academic journals, research papers and websites. These data were used in order to generate clear idea for forming questionnaires for qualitative and quantitative research.
3.6.2 Qualitative data collection
In qualitative research, there are many methods for data collection. However, according to Naslund (2002) cited Silverman (1993) and Mack et al (2005), there are three most common data collection for qualitative research which is suitable for a specific type of data collection. These are participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus group.
In-depth interview - this method is good for collecting data in terms of histories, perspectives and experiences. This type of data is not able to observe or discover in other methods.
Participant observation - in order to collect data on naturally behaviors, researchers have to take part in their daily routine activities of a group of people (Dewalt and Dewalt, 2002).
Focus groups - The data collection in this method is base on group's perceptions, opinions, and attitudes. Therefore, researcher can motivate group members to talk, ask questions, exchange their opinion and comment to each other (Kitzinger, 1995).
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With regard to my research questions (qualitative one); I was able to conducted survey with staffs as well but with the limited time only 1 month, therefore, in-depth interviews and participant observation seem to be appropriate methods. However, as I am not able to go back to Thailand to observe staffs' behavior and set up the interview in person, the telephone interview is considered as the most proper method for this dissertation.
According to Saunders et al (2003), the level of formality and structure of interview is categorized into three groups;
Structured interviews: Sets of questions in this interview are structured based on prediction and standard.
Semi-structured interviews: Researchers list sets of questions in non-standardized basis which are considered that cover all theme.
Unstructured interviews: Lists of questions are performed without planning. This is informal and non-standardized interviews.
Consideration on semi-structured interviews, it is useful for discovering what is happening in a process. Saunders et al (2003) and Ian (2005) stated that valid and reliable data which is related to research questions and objectives can be collected through the semi-structured interviews.
In this dissertation, I, therefore, conducted the semi-structured interviews with a set of open-ended questions to the relevant staffs in Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd. (Thailand) as I do not want to lead them by my structured sets of questions in order to obtain realistic data and their opinion. The interviews were arranged based on staffs' available times which have made appointment with me earlier. The interviewees involved staffs that are participated in communication in the service processes both import and export. The set of questionnaire was created based on 'Measuring departmental service quality' by Cook (2004). Cook (2004) stated some questionnaires for checking staff behavior and customers' satisfaction. I used these questionnaires and analyzed the result in my perspective which regard to the impact of ICT to logistics service processes. The questionnaire consisted of 6 questions aim to study the impact of ICT to inter-departmental working relationship and how it impact to logistics service process.
3.6.3 Quantitative Data collection
With regard to another one research question; what is customers' expectation to logistics service process? In terms of customers' expectation, the use of quantitative research will be utilized in order to obtain statistic data of customers' demographic and their feelings to logistics service provider. Therefore, the use of survey method is considered.
As pointed out by Grant et al (2005), surveys method is a method which has been widely used for logistics and supply chain management research. "The survey is the questionnaire, which is understood as a data collection technique where different persons are asked to respond to the same set of questions in a prearranged order" (Kotzab, 2005 cited de Vaus, 2002 or Zikmund, 2000). In addition, Lin and Jones(1997) pointed out that customer surveys is a great method in order to access customer satisfaction. Basically, the surveys can fulfill two needs of research; to provide information which allows companies to measure their performance and to obtain source data for constructing improvement plan.
The use of customers' expectation survey in this dissertation is provided on web-based basis. In terms of sampling selection, the use of convenience sampling technique was applied in this research. Convenience Sampling is one of nonrandom sampling techniques. Johnson and Christensen (2008) described that convenience sampling is used when researchers collect data from their sample people who are 'convenient' to participate in the research study. Moreover, convenience sampling allows researchers to be more time and cost effective (Curwin and Slater, 2004). Therefore, I created my questionnaire on www.surveymonkey.com as it is the cheapest way and it is easy to access and answer for my sampling. The link is;
Furthermore, Centre for learning & performance technologies claimed that surveymonkey.com is one of the top 100 survey tools in 2008 (Centre for learning & performance technologies, 2010). With the cooperated with Gateway Container Line Co.,Ltd., staffs who involved in the interview helped to spread the questionnaire to their customers as well. Therefore, the result of analysis is covered both Gateway's customers and general customers in the market. This result would help Gateway to strategy planning for improvement in the future.
The survey questionnaires was created based on measuring quality scale by Slack et al (2004), Takala (2002) and Parasuraman et al (1998) cited by Saura et al (2008). The questionnaire consisted of 2 parts. Part1 is the introduction part which aimed to collect participant demographic included; participants' status and type of shipment. These data might effect to their expectation to logistics service process. Part 2 is customers' expectation survey. In this part, there is a question surveying customers' preferable ICT system for contacting logistics service providers and also a question regards to their expectation to quality, speed, dependability, flexibility and cost in logistics service process. In contrast, there is a question for surveying the factor which can contribute to dissatisfactions in service as well.
3.6.4 Qualitative Data Analyses
In order to analyze qualitative data especially the interview methods, Saunders et al (2009) pointed that the interview must be audio-recorded and transcribed. Transcribed is the process that transferring information from interview by using the actual words in written or typing. Moreover, Saunders also stated that transcribing is known as 'data cleaning' because when the interview has been transcribed, some researchers send a copy of transcript to the interviewees for final checks. After that, the coding of interview transcripts will be processed. The coding process is to manage pieces of data into each represent code (Bryman and Bell, 2003), for example; demographic, behavior, satisfaction or dissatisfaction. The use of CAQDAS software is widely used in order to analyze qualitative data.
Therefore, the use of transcribing and coding data was conducted in order to analyze the qualitative data from the interviews in this dissertation. I recorded the interviews over the phone and transcribe them into transcripts. In order to obtain the accurate data, I sent copies of transcript to 3 participants and they proofed that the transcripts are correct. Then, I started to do the content analysis. As mentioned earlier about CAQDAS software, however, in this dissertation I analyzed the data by using DIY method by set up the criteria which I would like to analyze these are; participant demographic, staffs' behavior, customers' satisfaction customers' dissatisfaction, customers' feedback to service process and improvement area, in order to coding the interview contents and interpret data accordingly.
3.6.5 Quantitative data analyses
SPSS program is well-known and widely used for quantitative data analyses (Saunders et al, 2009; Bryman and Bell, 2003; Curwin and Slater, 2004). The use of statistics data is analyzed by SPSS program into to graphs, diagrams or tables. However, with the limited of time and my shortage of knowledge in SPSS, I decided to use Microsoft Excel in order to analyze my quantitative data from survey methods in this dissertation. The raw data from www.surveymonkey.com will be downloaded in form of Microsoft Excel in order to be analyzed in to tables and charts. The data in form of graphs, diagrams and table diagrams and table will allow me to analyze and compare numeric data tangibly.
3.7 Research Limitations
The data collections of this research are not without limitation. Qualitative data collection had to be interviewed in Thai which is participants' mother language. As their English expertise is not in high level, therefore, in order to be more convenience to them, the interviewed had to conduct in Thai and was translated into English. Even though, the transcripts which were translated might not definitely define conversation with participants but it is an opportunity to gather data in depth as participants are more comfortable to answer the questionnaire in Thai.