Research approach and methods

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Methodology

The purpose of this chapter is to provide reader a brief introduction to the research approach and methods. A method is a tool, a way to solve a problem and research new knowledge. [10] In this chapter, the procedure of the research will be presented.

Research Purpose

The purpose of this study is to provide the opportunity to the reader that how the adoption of VoIP can be improved. And at the same time it will also tell the reader that which reasons of slower adoption of VoIP are most important for consideration and how those reasons or problems can be rectified. According to Yin (2003), the purpose with research is to state what is to be accomplished by conducting research and how the results of the research can be used. The research purpose can be divided into different groups. According to [17] and Yin (2003), scientific research has three purposes: exploratory, descriptive, or explanatory.

Exploratory

  • Become familiar with the basic facts, setting, and concerns.
  • Create a general mental picture of conditions.
  • Formulate and focus questions for future research.
  • Generate new ideas, conjectures, or hypotheses.
  • Determine the feasibility of

Descriptive

  • Provide a detailed, highly accurate picture.
  • Locate new data that contradict past data
  • Create a set of categories or classify types.
  • Clarify a sequence of steps or stages.
  • Document a causal process or mechanism.

Explanatory

  • Test a theory's predictions or principle.
  • Elaborate and enrich a theory's explanation.
  • Extend a theory to new issues or topics.
  • Support or refute an explanation or prediction.
  • Link issues or topics with a general principle.

Conducting research.

  • Report on the background or - Determine which of several
  • Develop techniques for measuring and locating future data.

context of a situation.

explanations is best.

This study is descriptive since it is our intention to describe the area of research and try to explain the data collected in order to find out the differences and similarities with frame of reference of different cases. The research purpose is partly exploratory since we begin to explain by evaluating the results for the research questions. Thus this study will be partly descriptive and partly explanatory.

Research Approach

Different approaches can be taken such as deductive or inductive and quantitative and qualitative approach. Deductive research starts with existing theories and concepts and formulates hypotheses that are subsequently tested; its advantage point is received theory. Inductive research starts with real-world data, and categories, concepts, patterns, models, and eventually, theories emerge from this input. After the initial stages, all types of research become iteration between the deductive and the inductive. This is sometimes referred to as adductive research. [16]

The qualitative and quantitative methods refer to the way one chooses to treat and analyze the selected data. Selectivity and distance to the object of research characterize a quantitative approach, whereas a qualitative approach is characterized by nearness to the object of research. Both approaches have their strengths and weaknesses and neither one of the approaches can be held better than the other one. The best research method to use for a study depends on that study's research purpose and the accompanying research questions. [1]

In quantitative approach results are based on numbers and statistics which are shown in figures. In quantitative approach focus lies on describing an event with the use of words. Which approach to choose depends on the problem definition together with what kind of information is needed. The two approaches are used for their suitability and will also be used together. [10]

We started our research by studying existing theories relating to our problem area which will be later compared with reality. So, our research is mostly deductive.

The quantitative approach is also characterized by studying few variables on a large number of entities. To find answers to its research problem, this is normally done in a broad sense by using surveys with already set answering alternatives. Furthermore, this approach is considered especially useful when conducting a wide investigation that contains many units. [10]

Characteristics of qualitative studies are that they are based largely on the researcher's own description, emotions and reactions. [1] The qualitative approach also includes a great closeness to the respondents or to the source that the data is being collected from [10]. It is characterized by gathering abundant information and to investigate several variables from a few numbers of entities. To make use of the possibility to gather high quality data, the most common way to do this is with the use of case studies and interviews where no set answering alternatives are being offered. [10]

As our purpose of this study is to provide reader a better understanding of the reasons of slower adoption of VoIP and then how that adoption can be improved. So, we believe that both the qualitative and quantitative approaches were found to be more suitable for the purpose of this thesis.

Research Strategy

A research strategy may be thought of as providing the overall direction of the research including the process by which the research is conducted. [15] According to Yin (2003), there are five primary research strategies in the social sciences: experiments, surveys, archival analysis, histories, and case studies. Based on Yin (2003) each strategy has its own advantages and disadvantages depending on three conditions:

  • The type of research question posed.
  • The extent of control an investigator has over actual behavioral events.
  • The degree of focus on contemporary, as opposed to historical, events.

The first and most important condition for differentiating among the various research strategies is to identify the type of research question being asked. A basic categorization scheme for the types of questions is the familiar series: ''who'', ''what'', ''where'', ''how'', and ''why'', ''How'' and ''why'' questions are more explanatory and likely to lead to the use of case studies, histories, and experiments as the preferred research strategies. [1]

A case study is an empirical inquiry that investigates a contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context, especially when the boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clearly evident. The case study allows an investigation to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events. A case study can involve a single and a multiple-case study. The single case study makes an in-depth investigation regarding only one entity but in multiple-case study two or more entities are being investigated which gives the opportunity of comparisons. [1]

We have chosen a multiple case studies as our research strategy and also survey. This is more appropriate for our study because it fits to achieve our goals of this thesis. This strategy also helps us in comparing different cases.

Data Collection

Yin (2003) [1] states, the six most commonly sued sources for data collection in case study are documentation, archival records, interviews, direct observations, participant observation and physical artifacts. In this study, the two sources of evidence that are considered valuable are documentation and interviews and will be described. An overview of documentation and interviews sources and their comparative strengths and weaknesses may be found in Table 3.

The data that will be collected is expected to be mainly of a qualitative nature, due to the chosen units of analysis. According to Yin (2003) information found in documents is likely to be relevant for nearly every case study topic, especially for confirming and supplementing evidence from other sources. Documents are important in the data collection stage in a case study, due to their overall value. However, care must be taken in the interpretation of documents, since they are often prepared for another purpose and audience than that of the case study [1].

Source of evidence Documentation

Strengths

  • Stable - can be reviewed repeatedly
  • Unobtrusive - not created as a result of the case study
  • Exact - contains exact names, references, and details of an event
  • Broad coverage - long span of time, many events, and many settings

Weaknesses

  • Retrievability - may be Low
  • Biased selectivity, if collection is incomplete
  • Reporting bias - reflects (unknown) bias of author
  • Access - may be deliberately blocked

study topic

  • Insightful - provide perceived causal inference

questions

  • Response bias
  • Inaccuracies due to poor recall
  • Reflexivity - interviews give what interviewer wants to hear

The data collection methods that will be used for this research are interviews and documentation. For this research, interviews will be performed by emails, telephone calls and may also in person. We will collect the data from different companies that are providing VoIP services and also from the end users.

To collect data from companies and end users, we will build a questionnaire website and will email web link to different companies to participate in the interview. To build an Internet based dynamic questionnaire, we will use MS FrontPage 2002 for designing the questionnaire, ASP (active server pages) as a scripting language and MS Access 2002 as database. The web-based questionnaire would be simple and consists of both open and close-ended questions.

Data Analysis

Data analysis consists of three concurrent flows of activities. These three are data reduction, data display, and conclusion drawing and verification. [13]

Data reduction should not be considered to be separate from analysis, but as a part of it. This reduction of the data is analysis that helps to sharpen sort, focus, discard, and organize the data in a way that allows for "final" conclusion to be drawn and verified. Data can be reduced and transformed through such means as selection, summary, paraphrasing, or through being subsumed in a large pattern.

Data display is the second major activity which the research should go through, and this means taking the reduced data and displaying it in an organized, compressed way so that conclusions can be more easily drawn. Miles and Huberman (1994) explain that, "humans are not powerful processors of large amounts of information," and that "extended text can overload humans' information-processing capabilities". It is further explained that good display are, "a major avenue to valid qualitative analysis". In conclusion, with data reduction, the creation and use of display is not separate from analysis, but it a part of it. [13]

Conclusion drawing and verification is the final analytical activity for the qualitative researcher. It is here that the researcher begins to decide what things mean. They do this by noting regularities, patterns, explanations, possible configurations, causal flows, and propositions. (Miles & Huberman, 1994) However, Miles and Huberman (1994) also add that competent researcher should hold such conclusions lightly, while maintaining both openness and degree of scepticism. [13]

Above three steps will be included in the data analysis. So, after reducing the data, only relevant data is discussed. As this research is a multi case study, then the relevant data is displayed for comparison of different case studies. In the end conclusions and results will be drawn.

Validity and Reliability

Validity and reliability helps to measure the research and add strength to the findings. Validity is the most important requirement on a measurement instrument. Three sorts of validity need to be considered. [1] According to Yin (2003) [1] there are three forms of validity: construct validity, internal validity, and external validity.

  • Construct validity: establishing correct operational measures for the concepts being studied.
  • Internal validity: establishes a causal relationship, whereby certain conditions are shown to lead to other conditions, as distinguished from spurious relationships.
  • External validity: establishing the domain to which a study's findings can be generalized.

As Neuman (2003) [14] states reliability is necessary for validity and is easier to achieve than validity. Although reliability is necessary in order to have a valid measure of a concept, it does not guarantee that a measure will be valid. It is not a sufficient condition for validity. Figure 2.2 illustrates the relationship between the concepts by using the analogy of a target. The bull's-eye represents a fit between a measure and the definition of the contract.

According to Yin (2003), every case study project should strive to develop a formal, presentable database, so that, in principle other investigators can review the evidence directly and not be limited to the written reports. In this manner, a case study database markedly increases the reliability of the entire case study. For case studies, notes are likely to be the most common component of a database. The notes may be a result of an investigator's interviews, observations, or document analysis. [1]

In order to increase the validity of this research, e-mails ere going to send to the interviewees in advance about the matters that are going to be discussed. To increase the external validity and replication logic in multiple-case studies, an interview guide is developed and followed through the study. To make sure that we are contacting right person who has good knowledge over the technical and non-technical aspects of the VoIP technology. We are going to interview the systems administrator, chief executive officer, marketing manager etc.

Data Analysis

In this section, we will be presenting our analyzed data from the empirical study collected from individual end users and VoIP companies. We will compare each company's data and end users data with existing theories and will do 'cross-case analysis'. We analyze the data collected and find the important factors, which are responsible for the slower adoption of VoIP and rank them according to the particular scale.

Cross-case Analysis

In the beginning, we will do the cross case analysis from the empirical data of individual end users and different VoIP companies. We will analyze the data across the different cases and also within a case by cross checking the different questions with each other in order to find out the reasons of slower adoption of VoIP.

So, when we analyze the empirical data of question number 2 of User's questionnaire in which we asked about the service type, we see that mostly people use computer when they want to make calls using VoIP service. The reasons for this is that as we can also cross check with the question number 6 of Company's questionnaire, most companies are offering cheapest calls to local and international calls (sometimes completely free) on a computer Application using computer as a starting communicating point for VoIP service. These companies are also providing simple and effective user interface, which is much similar to the traditional phone, so that user feels more comfortable in using this service.

When we thoroughly analyze the questions 3, 4 and 5 of users questionnaire in which we asked that which companies service is mostly used and about satisfaction with service and also any problems if they are facing, we see that majority of end users using Skype's VoIP services. The reason behind the Skype to be leader here is, because of its sound quality and reliability which is also shown from empirical data of questions 7, 8 and 9 of user's questionnaire, where users were asked that which service provider. According to them is providing best service and where you think that the service provider has the edge on its competitors. The individual respondents who have used the VoIP service from 2 or more companies stated that Skype is providing best service as compared to its competitors because of its sound quality and reliability even though its competitor's price are cheaper than Skype. VoIP Stunt and Wengo phone comes second and third respectively (as empirical data is showing) here the major reason which people told is that they are providing cheapest (even free) calls to many destinations of the world both in case of Local and international calls. At the same time as it is evident from Question 4 of users questionnaire that the people who are using this service they are mostly satisfied with this because they are price conscious people(also evident from empirical data of question 6 of users questionnaire) so they are mostly satisfied. However the people who are unsatisfied they gave important remarks which are mostly sound quality or voice quality that is they said that there are the voice problems and also importantly the connecting problems (difficulties in understanding these problems). When we questioned VoIP companies regarding the reasons associated with the sound problems and connections problems as in Question 8 of company's questionnaire. They answered that latency, packet loss and jitter delays are the most concerns for the deterioration of sound quality so here we see that the above discussed problems and the reasons for these problems are inline with the existing theory which is present in 2nd chapter of the thesis. When we analyzed the empirical data of question 6 of User's questionnaire and question 7 of Company's questionnaire, where we asked about important considerations before taking subscription. We see that customers give price most value but important thing to notice here are sound quality and reliability which are not too far from price. So we can see that although price is one of the major motive but quality of sound and reliability are also two other very important motives for the adoption of this service. Such considerations by different authors have also been shown in 2nd chapter. The above is depiction from the data colleted from the respondents but also notice that we have sent the User's questionnaire to 850 people (who use Internet as a part of daily life). We have only got 53 active responses and most of the other people were the people who don't have any idea regarding the VoIP technology. Many people did not response the questionnaire because they are not using the VoIP service mainly due to no awareness or mainly there is no such service in their regions.

When we analyzed the empirical data of question 10 of User's questionnaire, where we asked the users about annoying things during the service usage. We noticed that the most annoying things for the users who are availing services from different VoIP companies are quality of sound comes first, and then comes call delay, lack of emergency calls and reliability. In question 6 of User's questionnaire, we also observed that while taking subscription user gives importance to the above factors in one or the other way. Companies also stating that the causes for poor sound quality and call delay are mainly network delay, latency and packet loss.

When we analyzed the empirical data of the question 11 and 12 of User's questionnaire for marketing problems. We see that the answers of respondents are mix that is half of the respondents are satisfied with marketing campaigns and said that they are properly informed and less than half of the people are unsatisfied with the marketing efforts of the service providers. At the same time companies are saying that they themselves couldn't achieve the anticipated number of customers with their marketing strategy. When we asked about the current employed marketing strategy in the company, they replied that the Internet is the main marketing strategy. Interestingly, when we asked the same questions to the individual user, most of them stated that Internet marketing strategy has to be used by the companies and then comes television and newspaper as the other options. So, this shows that with marketing strategies the companies need to be more innovative for grabbing the more and more number of customers.

Regarding the analysis of question 13, 14 of users questionnaire for call types we see that most of the users use this service for international call purposes. The reason for using this service for international calls (as we also see in question 6) is the price factor, because many service providers provide cheap or free calls to many destinations.

When we analyze the question 9 of Company's survey, non technical factors of slower adoption have been asked, Majority of companies are saying that economic reasons, evolving standards and interoperability and lack of nationwide broadband infra structure are the primary causes. In chapter 2nd different authors also say these factors in one or other ways.

Coding and Explanation

After, all the above discussion now we can conclude a table with which we can provide reader a better understanding of our data analysis with respect to the research question. To do this we have compared the identified factors across the table with all the companies, individual users and the theory. In order to make this data display as clear and concise as possible, the end users and company's opinions will be presented in an abbreviated and coded manner. Miles and Huberman (1994) claim that coding and summarizing segments of data into number of smaller analytic units also helps the researcher in obtaining a more integrated schema for understanding local incidents and interactions. And finally, it lays the groundwork for cross case analysis by surfacing common themes and directional processes in multiple case studies. In order to be able to benefit from Miles and Huberman's (1994) proposed advantages the different responses derived and analyzed from the end users and case companies will be assigned a specific symbol or code. As for the research questions the data will be presented accordingly:

If the correlation is (+) it denotes that the theory is supported by the data collected from the end users and case study of the company and (-) denotes that the theory is not supported by the data collected. However (+\-) represent only a partial support to the theory with the data collected, (?) denoted if something new identified or the data collected adds something new to the theory.

We have conducted a detailed survey that consists of both open and close-ended questions among different VoIP companies and also individual end users. We took individual end user analysis as one specific case and compared with theory and also with different VoIP companies. Table 5 shows all identified factors, which are responsible for the slower adoption of VoIP. According to the above tables i.e. table 4, table 5 and cross case analysis, we ranked all the factors in the order with respect to its importance (recognized with + sign). In table 5, we conclude different factors which are more important for several reasons by not only theory but also in reality (i.e. from companies and end users perspective also).

From the price factor till dissatisfaction with service factor, we have asked from both individual users and also from service provider companies. In case of dissatisfaction of service, connecting problems and unawareness of service factors, only few respondents answered partially unsatisfied. That's why +\- signs are used. In case of call security, handset for IP phones and Application software factors, they are only asked from individual users but not from companies. Only few respondents are partially unsatisfied that's why +\- signs are used. However, from latency and all other subsequent factors are only asked from companies. The reason behind is general end users are unfamiliar with those factors because of their technicalities. So, in the end we have only chosen top 4 factors of the table which are asked from both companies and individual end users and top 4 from those factors which are asked only from companies. We think them most important according to our rank and should be given more importance. So, we conclude that most important factors according to its rank wise are

  1. Price
  2. From the empirical data that majority of users have chosen price as an important factor with which they can make international calls for the price which is much lesser than that of traditional phone. VoIP Companies and also theory gives much importance that's why the price factor stood rank number 1 in the list.

  3. Sound quality
  4. Sound quality comes in the next rank, which is given as importance as price, more than half of the sample size of users had chosen this factor. Even theory and companies are supporting this factor to a major extent. So, we ranked this factor as number 2 in the list.

  5. Marketing problem
  6. There are several interesting types of marketing challenges and advertising approaches based on the background of the companies involved, whether they are established or start-ups, first comer or latecomer, and the technological choices and business model they have adopted, whether they own the network or use another company's network, whether they are peer-to-peer, use an adapter/router, offer free unlimited calls, etc. Vonage and its face-off with AT&T, and the competition between those two and Baby Bells like SBC and Verizon exemplify the first type. The second type is represented by a Skype and third type by the cable TV companies or Multiple Service Operators (MSOs). Vonage and Skype represent the two most exciting developments in the market so far, with Skype perhaps the more radical of the two-approach. [34]

    More than half of our case studies is stating that their marketing strategies are not up to mark and even customers are also stating the same that they are not properly informed about the company's services.

  7. Reliability
  8. Based on the empirical data in the previous chapter, reliability is also an important on which adoption of VoIP relies. Majority of end users voted reliability as a key factor and companies does the same, also existing theory supports it in the same way.

  9. Latency
  10. Latency or delay is the time that a packet takes to make its way through a network end- to-end. In telephony terms, it is the measure of time it takes the talker's voice to reach the listener's ear. Large values do not necessarily degrade the sound quality of a phone call, but the result can be a lack of synchronization between the speakers resulting in hesitations in the speaker' interactions. Besides, it causes problems such as echo and talker overlap. Generally, it is accepted that the end-to-end latency should be less than 150ms for toll quality phone calls. To ensure that the latency budget remains below 150ms, the primary causes of latency need to be considered [35]. This is the main technical problem, which is supported both by companies and the theory.

  11. Packet loss
  12. The packet loss in Internet traffic occurs for many reasons, and in some cases it is unavoidable. In case of non-real-time applications, such as data communications, it is managed through the retransmission capabilities of TCP. However the real-time applications such as VoIP are based on the user datagram protocols (UDPs) and are significantly less tolerant to packet loss. The UDP does not have retransmission facilities; moreover retransmissions would almost never help in such applications [35]. This is the most prominent factor from theory and also from different case companies.

  13. Jitter
  14. Jitter is the variations in inter packet arrival time due to variable transmission delay over the network. Removing jitter requires collecting packets and holding them long enough to allow the slowest packet to arrive in time to be played in the correct sequence. This causes additional delays. The jitter buffers add delay, which is used to remove the packet delay variation that each packet is subjected to as it transits the packet network. [11] This is the major problem, which can affect the quality of sound during a VoIP call.

  15. Regulatory challenge
  16. For many the attraction of VoIP is that it is an unregulated service and governments are in danger of acting in an obstructionist manner impeding new competition and innovative services. But realistically there are several specific regulatory issues to be dealt with, the following ones are seen mostly in the context of the European and American markets but are applicable to all countries and markets [34].

    This might be one of the factors, which indirectly affect the adoption of VoIP, and is supported by existing theory, also by the companies.

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