This chapter will review the literature which has been used for this dissertation. A number of important aspects will be covered, including an overview of Construction Planning as well as determining what challenges are faced on a daily basis by construction planners. This chapter will also review research relating to Planning techniques used and software packages available within the Construction industry.
2.2 Construction Project Planning
Project Management can be seen as the application of tools and techniques utilised to guide the use of resources towards achieving an intricate task within the constraints of time, cost and quality. From conception to completion, a mixture of these tools & techniques is necessary to fit the task environment and project life cycle.
The British Standard for project management (BS6079 1996) defined project management as, "The planning, monitoring and control of all aspects of a project and the motivation of all those involved in it to achieve the project objectives on time and to the specified cost, quality and performance." The UK association of Project Management (APM) have produced a UK body of knowledge UK (BoK) which also provides a definition for project management as "The planning, organisation, monitoring and control of all aspects of a project and the motivation of all involved to achieve the project objectives safely and within agreed time, cost and performance criteria. The project manager is the single point of responsibility for achieving this."
Get your grade
or your money back
using our Essay Writing Service!
Project Management as we know today has evolved in order to plan, coordinate and control the complex and diverse activities of modern industrial, commercial and management change projects. (Lock 2007)
To allow for effective planning and control of projects, a requirement for systematic and logical methods should be applied along with proven techniques, thus ensuring a successful project outcome for all concerned parties, particularly the client. Without planning it is difficult to envisage the successful conclusion of any project or the effective control of time, money or resources. Planning is also essential in order to deal with construction risks and devise safe working methods. (Cooke 2008)
Project Planning is defined as the establishment of a set of directions in sufficient detail to tell the project team exactly what must be done, when it must be done and what resources to use in order to produce the deliverables of the project successfully. (Zwikael 2008). Construction planning is an essential and challenging activity in the management and implementation of construction projects. It occupies the choice of technology, the description of work tasks, the estimation of the necessary resources and durations for individual tasks, and the identification of any interactions among the different work tasks. Hendrickson (1998) believes a good construction plan is the basis for developing the budget and the schedule for work. It is therefore
common to adopt a conspicuous importance on either cost control or on schedule control as illustrated in Figure 2.1.
Fig 2.1 - (Hendrickson. 1998)
Walker (2007) considers that by having a project schedule to work to and sticking to it, you will well be on your way to delivering successful projects. This would be dependant on effective communication and efficiency at all stages of the project and with an aim to reducing risk, time and cost.
2.3 The Construction Planner
Construction project planning is receiving growing attention as the limitations of formal deterministic planning are becoming more widely recognised. (Winch, Kelsey 2004). There is growing concern over the failure of construction planning to achieve its goals in spite of the considerable resources allocated to it. Deficient planning techniques are commonly blamed for this state. (Laufer, Tucker, 1987)
There has been considerable debate over the last decade or so on the effectiveness of construction project planning. However, there is remarkably little research into what construction project planners actually do.
Laufer and Tucker provide a critique of construction planning.
They protest that:-
the planning and evaluation of planning processes are non-existent
there is over-emphasis on critical path methods
planners lack construction experience
planners have poor information gathering methods
planning is control-oriented instead of action-oriented
Plans are been poorly presented with overly-complex information.
In a subsequent paper (1994) Laufer and his colleagues look at the definition and allocation of planning work. They found that there was no clear system at work and planning was done in a multiplicity of ways. They call for the process to be properly co-ordinated by a single individual who will 'own' the planning process and improve communication. Winch and Kelsey (2005) believe the specialist planner has the time to do the work but incomplete practical knowledge. The line manager has the practical knowledge but does not have the quality time to carry out the task. The specialist planner has better strategic decision-making skills than the short-term decision-making focus of the line manager. They then go on to say "Line managers see the delegation of key decision-making to another as a threat to their position".
Always on Time
Marked to Standard
These problems are confirmed in Laufer (1992) wider project management study and can result in:
The planner preparing a plan which has incomplete information and in-adequate decision making authority.
The line manager treating such plans as merely an irrelevant forecast prepared by another.
Allen & Smallwood (2008) believe Construction planners and the role they perform are little understood both within the construction industry and the wider environment where construction has a daily impact.
Planning occupies a central position in the functions of the manager. His responsibilities may vary with organisational philosophy and contingency but planning invariably remains an essential ingredient of his duties. (Steiner, 1979). Much Research and Development effort has been made during the last three decades but progress with techniques has not removed the dissatisfaction with the application and results of construction planning (Choudhury 1981, Mason 1984, Morton 1983).
Effective construction planning demands that it is carried out by competent and experienced personnel. While the estimator must remain in charge or pricing the work, most contracts, today, are too complex for the estimator to handle the technical content of pre-tender appraisal. It is here that the construction planner has a major function.
2.4 Planning Techniques
Most planning techniques aim to express the work to be done, to a time-scale; some also include resources, and perhaps cost and value. In simple terms, they intend to help control time and cost. The other major factor in project control, quality, is controlled by its own family of control techniques; and quality is related to time and cost through the skill and judgement of the project management team.
Neale (1989) believes the major components of planning techniques are:
Activities: literally, being busy, expending energy, consuming resources, taking time; in construction planning, this means a job to be done; for example preparing a drawing, an order to be places, a hole to be dug, bricks to be laid in a wall, a flow of water to be diverted.
Activity durations: the time required for the completion of each activity
Project time-scale: the time structure of the project; it is usual to give each week in the project a number (this makes calculation easier), and these then have to be related to calendar dates, holidays, etc.
Event: an occurrence at a specific point in time; for example, the granting of planning consent, of the start or end of a traffic diversion.
Work method: the plan must be expressed in some logical way, indicating the sequence of operations, and which activities and events are interrelated; this may be implicit (as with bar charts) or exlicit (in network analysis, where work method is usually called logic.)
Resources: often called the four Ms (men, machines, materials and money) but can include overheads (for example, site accommodation), and even such essentials as managerial skill.
Costs: what the work has or will cost, often derived directly from the unit costs of the individual resources.
Value: what has or can be earned by payment for work done derived from the bill of quantities, the estimate or an internal budget. The calculation of value-to-date can be used as an overall measure of project progress.
The following four techniques are often used in construction planning;
2.4.1 The bar chart/ Gantt Chart
Drafting of a bar chart is popular because it produces results which are easy to understand and not too searching of the planner. Its use is limited to planning straightforward work with simple relationships between the activities. This graphical technique still forms the foundation for most resource scheduling. Its major drawback is that even minor deviations from it require extensive redrafting as a result making it more difficult to having to hand a contemporaneous bar chart that is a reliable indicator of future events.
The main features of the bar chart are as follows:
The activities are listed on the vertical axis
Time is shown on the horizontal axis. This may be an appropriate time unit, such as months or days.
Each bar is divided horizontally into two, with the top half representing when the activity is planned to take place, and the bottom shared in, as proportions of the activity are completed.
This Essay is
a Student's Work
A vertical movable marker line indicates the current time, thus enabling the observer to note if any activities are behind programme, and to what extent.
Refer to Figure 2.2 for additional information.
Figure 2.2 - Typical bar chart
The format of the bar chart presumes that the end user (client) can involve the same judgment that was in the mind of the planner when he was compiling it. In highly repetitive or simple work it can be implied that the users will better understand the thought process of the planner. However as project complexity increases the user's ability to monitor the project in relation to the programme is reduced unless it is understood:
What work is important to progress?
Of the activities currently behind programme what, if any, effect do they have on overall progress?
On the contrary, if most of the actual work is ahead of programme, does this mean that the current prediction is that the project will be complete in advance of the targeted completion date? The answer is definitely not an automatic yes.
To provide an informed response, an understanding of the relationships between programme activities is crucial. Neale (1989) consider these deceivingly simple questions contradict issues which are at the heart of many construction disputes, namely considerations for extension of time.
2.4.2 Network Analysis
Unlike a bar chart, activities are not shown on an axis of time. What the network portrays is the logical relationship between activities. Network analysis is a powerful, logical and analytical technique. It is most effective when used for complicated projects, especially those with external constraints and complex interrelationships.
The technique is based on drawing the logical relationships between construction operations, and from an analysis of the relative durations, establishing which operations have the most crucial effect on the project duration. It can be drawn in a number of ways, the most well-known in the UK being the arrow diagram.
Figure 2.3 - Network diagram
The technique is sometimes known as the critical path method (CPM), and critical path analysis (CPA). A version which incorporates a statistical method for calculating the probability that a project will be completed on a specific date is called the programme evaluation and review technique. (PERT)
The identification of a "critical path" focuses the attention of the individuals managing the project and highlights to clients and their advisors the tasks that require to be particularly well managed with regard to time. The duration of critical path represents the shortest duration in which the project can be completed.
Delays to activities on the critical path transmit directly through to extend the project completion date. This provides advanced warning of the pending delay to completion and enables the contractor (or employer) to invoke recovery action at a useful point in time rather than waiting until it is manifestly obvious that the completion date is threatened. If the employer or his Architect/Engineer (A/E) instructs additional work which affects the activities on the critical path then the contractor has grounds for a claim for an extension of time. The term critical path is widely used in the construction industry; what is not fully appreciated is how easily the critical path can change.
Figure 2.4 - Network diagram showing critical path
Network analysis has a good and inclusive logical basis, lends itself easily to computer processing, and can be used as an effective control tool. These exceptional characteristics are also known to be its principal weakness as it is easier for the planner to be drawn into a level of planning and analysis that is much to detailed and advanced for most construction projects.
2.4.3 Line of Balance
Line of balance is a specialised technique used for repetitive work. It derived from the manufacturing industry and has been found to be effective in planning work truly repetitive. Examples of success applications include planning the construction of identical floors in high rise construction, and large housing developments.
Line of balance has been found to be difficult to use on projects which have a high demand for trades or operations to construct each identical unit. The problems arise not from the technique itself, but from the difficult of showing all the information on one chart, particularly when using the technique to monitor progress. When used to plan, it can be an excellent means of relating resources, activity durations and the general pace of work on site. Neale (1989).
Illingworth (1993) considers the line of balance approach has largely fallen out of use in today's industry due to the fact it was designed primarily for housing and did not readily provide clear visual appreciation of the situation at a glance.
Figure 2.5 -Typical line of balance diagram
2.4.4 Linear Programme (or time-chainage chart)
Linear programming is a specialised technique for linear work. This is a basic tool of UK road contractors. Other successful applications include the construction of a large canal in a developing country, and it is especially useful in tunnelling. Illingworth (1993).
Similar to line of balance, this is a simple two- dimensional graphical technique and can show clearly only a limited amount of information and limited degree of complexity.
Figure 2.6 - Linear Programme (Neale 1989)
2.5 Which technique?
The experienced planner in construction needs to be aware of the techniques available, together with the value of each, both in the planning analysis role and how then can be applied to give effective control and communication to management on site. Illingworth (1993).
Like any other professional, the planner has to select the right tool for the job. To make the correct decision, it is therefore a requirement to examine what is wanted in a particular situation programme. Illingworth (1993) believes the main points of this choice are as follows:
Does the method aid initial analysis of the situation and especially in establishing the best sequence of events?
Are deficiencies in progress shown up as the work proceeds?
Can visiting management obtain and immediate view of the contract situation on arrival on site?
With the preponderance of subcontractors on site today, does the programme method give assistance in cash flow control?
According to Illingworth, from these questions it is unlikely to be the answer to all desires. Therefore it is said to be better to consider the situation in two stages - tender planning on the one hand and the operational planning after the contract has been won, on the other.
2.6 Planning Practice
In order to explore further the reality of construction project planning semi-structured interviews were conducted between July and December 2000 with 18 experienced planners from five leading UK construction firms. Most of the planners interviewed were currently involved in planning at the tender stage including assembly and presentation of the tender documentation. About half of those were also involved at the tender/ pre-construction stage. Only a few were further involved during the site works. (Refer to figure 2.7). Generally, although a number of the interviewed planners had on-site experience the typical pattern is that a planner works either at the pre-tender, pre-execution stages or on site but not simultaneously. The exceptions tend to be where planners work for some time on a single large project. In such cases it may make sense (from the employer's point of view) for their work to carry on to the execution stage.
Figure 2.7 - Planning Practice, G.M Winch and J.Kelsey
2.7 Programming Considerations at the Tender Stage
Upon receipt of tender documentation, the contractor will appoint human resources tasked with compiling a tender submission based upon the tender enquiry. One of the main individual in this team is the person accountable for producing the tender programme, the construction planner. Whether or not the contractual terms require a programme to be produced or not should be irrelevant at this stage. The tender programme is an important document produced by the contractor which is used for measuring many risk and cost related issues. In particular, the assessment of cost of the contractor's time related preliminary items as drawn off the content of the tender programme. For example, the anticipated on site durations for different members of staff, periods of scaffold hire and duration for site accommodation are items that cannot be priced by the estimator without reference to the tender programme.
When compiling the tender programme, the construction planner must incorporate the information supplied with the enquiry noting any specified constraints contained in either the contract bills, specification or drawings. Conflict between documents often exists and a view had to be taken on how to proceed. Clarification may be sought from the employer or his agents, assumptions made and stated along with the submission or the conflict may be ignored and the information that best suits the contractor is assumed without qualification or statement.
It is accepted in the industry that many bids are won or lost on the programme duration alone. This happens frequently where a bill of quantities is being priced and the experienced contractors tend towards similar prime cost for similar items.
On completion of reviewing tender documents, drawings, specification and bills, which may be typically done over a period of one or two weeks, the construction planner will establish the work scope which will be addressed in the creation of a tender programme. The main objective is to be aware of the specified period for construction. Additional to the completed programme should be a schedule of resources which corresponds with the programme and a series of method statements signifying construction techniques and equipment to be employed in carrying out the work.
2.8 Programming on Site
When the contract is won, the site planning is equally important. It is usually at this point that the site manager will have his first chance to examine the methods on which the job was priced. What is important to recognise, at this point, is that planning must be seen as an addition to management. Thus the site manager must have the right to question the planning methods on which the contract was priced. To do so, site manager's require the technical expertise to assess what has been put forward. In so doing, the manager concerned must, for his part, accept that if he wants to change the method from that in the priced tender, he must demonstrate that his alternative is obviously cheaper, or at least as cheap, as that priced in the tender submission.
When final agreement has been reached, the planning function can be established on site and develop the final method to be adopted. This, in turn, will lead to the contract master programme and such subsidiary programmes as may be necessary.
On completion of all methods being confirmed the construction planner continues to have a significant role on site. First, in developing control and short-term programmes for all organisations contributing to the contract under the main or managing contractor. Second, the construction planner's cherished knowledge of how the work was originally planned makes him uniquely placed to examine the potential consequences of alterations to what has to be built. In this area he is a valuable source of information to the site quantity surveyor when assessing where possible contractural claims may arise.
Today, with the ever increasing use of trade sub-contractors as well as specialist service contractors, the experienced construction planner has the option of either seeing the role as satisfying its own right, or as an essential ingredient of experience for becoming a successful site manager. Illingworth (1993).
2.9 Purpose of a Programme
The values applicable to the mechanics of construction planning are similar whether you are a main contractor submitting a quotation to an employer, a sub-contractor quoting to the main contractor, or even a construction manager providing programme assist to an employer. Common principles apply when compiling a construction programme, that of methodical analysis.
The contractor's construction programme is an important common reference. It shows how the planner they have interpreted the contract documents and other information from which the statement of intent for construction is issued. As the key programme for the construction work, its content is of the utmost significance to all parties charged with handing over to the employer a building fit for purpose within the contract time stated.
"A well prepared programme is vital to every construction project. Many activities have to be cautiously defined and given a time scale, and it necessary not only to assemble and list the information but also to display it visually in terms of the contract's objectives and the calendar. The working sequences and the relationships between individual activities must be clearly conveyed in this visual presentation." The Chartered Institute of Building (2001).
They consider the construction programme to be a statement of intended actions, which when properly used provides management with its plan of campaign. It should communicate with ease, providing the common reference for the timing of all activities related to the project.
2.10 Construction Planning Software
An expert planner faced with the task of producing and analysing a network for a project containing only few activities will undoubtedly produce the fastest results by drawing a freehand arrow diagram and analysing it mentally. Lock (2007). He believes it is likely to take longer when using a computer because of the formalities needed to set up the new project files in the system and enter the data.
David Arditi and Ann Rackas compiled a short report in May of 1986 with an aim in ascertaining the need for computer software to assist is construction planning and scheduling. This report concluded, the individual needs of a given construction company are the primary reasons for choosing a particular software package. For example, one of the participating general contractor's basic requirements was to have a 40-character activity description field: "a particularly individual need".
They continued to suggest if a program is to survive the inevitable shakeout that occurs after the initial development and interest have peaked; it must offer the features and capacities that are required by the user. In addition, every effort should be made to make computers less mysterious and confusing as they will be dealing with the construction market.
Today there are many planning software packages available to the construction industry. Asta Powerproject, Microsoft Project, Primavera, PERT Master to name a few. Each package is commonly suited to the individual needs of the planner. Some programs present a blank Gantt chart on the screen as soon as they are booted up, and it is apparent to the user that task data can be typed in immediately.
Most programs allow the user/ planner to establish project durations, critical path network, allocate resources, assign costs to tasks and monitor progress throughout the project. As a result, most construction planning professionals use such packages daily.
2.11 Construction Planning Challenges
Lock (2007) considers anyone planning a project of significant size will soon find out that there are a number of factors, both inside and outside the project organisation that can have an effect on the planner's intentions. These are as follows:
2.11.1 External Factors
Figure 2.8 - External Factors (Lock, 2007)
All projects are subject to risk, many of which can have an enormous impact on plans. Lock (2007) deems the following are just four from the long catalogue of happenings that can be categorised as Acts of God:
An earthquake devastates a project organisations headquarters.
A hurricane and flood put a project site under a metre of water and delay the start or ruin the work in progress.
An influenza epidemic puts half the project workforce out of action. (Swine flu outbreak 2008 recorded thousands of people off work for over 5 days.)
The project manager (a keen golfer) is struck by lightning.
The national government can play an important part on the smooth running of a project. E.g. the project could be government-funded and is cancelled or abandoned through a political decision. Lock (2007) also considers less immediate concerns which are the wider and longer-term economic consequences of government policy leading to downscaling of projects, delays and cancellations in all sectors of industry.
Decisions made outside the project team can also have an affect on many characteristics of planning. E.g. a decision is made at directorate level to carry out a project in a different company within the group from that initially anticipated or a strategic decision is made to cut short all new staff recruitment resulting in a lower number of available resources formerly expected to be available for projects.
2.11.2 Working Factors
Figure 2.9 - Working Factors
These are items which are likely to affect the project team on a daily basis. Examples include availability of resources, materials etc.
People are believed to be a construction organisations greatest resource. "Construction operations depend on the knowledge and skills of people planning and executing the work". Muir (2005.) Research has been carried out to reveal that the construction industry is typically viewed as being one of the least attractive industries in which to work.
Safety plays an important part in the running of a project. Construction by nature is unsurprisingly dangerous with a high degree of hazard and risk. The Health & Safety Executive believe each year:
Over 1 million injuries and 2.3 million cases of ill-health are experienced by workers;
Around 40 million working days are to lost; and
Over 25000 individuals are forced to give up work because of injury or ill health.
These cost British employers on average £3.3 to £6.5 billion each year. Most organisations are oblivious of these figures and are often astonished to find out what the actual costs are.
Recent HSE Examples (2009)
An injury to a worker using an unguarded drill cost a small engineering company £45,000. And that was not all. The managing director was prosecuted from which two employees had to be made redundant to
keep the company afloat.
At the other end of the scale the Piper Alpha explosion killed 167
people and incurred estimated costs of over £2 billion.
Accidents in construction can account for 3 - 6 % of total project costs.
2.11.3 Contribution of effective Planning
Figure 2.10 - Contributors of effective Planning (Lock, 2007).
Effective Planning and scheduling influences the results of a project as is promotes well-organised working. Personnel who are not trying continually to overcome crises caused by bad planning can dedicate more time to achieving high quality standards. A well-planned project stands more chance of being completed on time and on budget.
Based on the findings in Chapter Two, a questionnaire was compiled aimed towards Construction Planners, Project Manager's and other Construction Professionals. The questionnaire was developed in order to reach a significant conclusion on what is happening in the industry today, confirming what challenges are faced on a day to day basis and what can be done for improvement. The author contacted various professionals in the industry whom were contacted via Chartered Institute of Building website in order to get a mixed response. A letter was sent to each individual asking if they could spare time to answer 20 questions which were related to the research. The letter can be found in appendix. In addition, an online link to the questionnaire was sent to over 40 professionals in the industry, from which over 23 people took the time to fill it in. All results can be found in Chapter 4.
The aim of this study is to analyse current planning techniques used within the construction industry and determine what influence the construction programme has in terms of project success. In order to achieve this aim, sufficient research has to be carried out. Research design is an action plan for getting from 'here' to 'there', where 'here' may be defined as the initial set of questions to be answered, and 'there' is some set of conclusion (answers) about these questions. (Naoum 2007.) Between 'here' and 'there' may be a found number of major steps, including the collection of analysis of relevant data. (Yin 1994.) Developing a successful strategy was an important step towards the collection of key research information.
3.2 Research Strategy
Research is the systematic and rigorous process of enquiry which aims to describe phenomena and to develop and test explanatory concepts and theories. Ultimately it aims to contribute to a scientific body of knowledge. (Bowling 2009.) There are two types of research strategies, namely, 'quantitative research' and 'qualitative research'.
Deciding on which type of research to follow, depends on the purpose of the dissertation and the type and availability of information which is required. (Naoum 2007.)
In summary, quantitative research methods include the collection of data through questionnaires while qualitative techniques involve carrying out interviews to receive feedback on a specific subject area. (E.g. Construction Planning.). It is vital that in order carry out accurate research a precise and suitable methodology must be understood prior to reporting results. The following sub-sections will discuss and appraise both qualitative and quantitative research methods.
3.2 Quantitative Research
Quantitative research, by definition, deals with quantities and relationships between attributes; it involves the collection and analysis of highly structured data in the positivist tradition. Gerrish and Lacey (2006) describe quantitative research as a broad umbrella term for research that uses techniques to gather evidence. Quantitative research is appropriate in situations in which there is pre-existing knowledge, which will permit the use of standardised date collection methods (e.g. the survey questionnaire.), and in which it is aimed to document prevalence or test hypotheses. (Bowling 2009).
Quantitative research is often conceptualised by its practitioners as having a logical structure in which theories determine the problems to which researchers address themselves in the form of hypotheses derived from general theories. These hypotheses are in variably assumed to take the form of expectations about likely causal connections between the concepts which are the constituent elements of the hypotheses. (Bryman, 1996).
Quantitative data is, therefore, not abstract, they are hard and reliable; they are measurements of tangible, countable, sensate features of the world (Bouma and Atkinson, 1995.)
Fig 3.1 - The logical Structure of the quantitative research process
Naoum (2007) believes Quantitative research is selected under the following circumstances:
When you want to find facts about a concept, a question or an attribute.
When you want to collect factual evidence and study the relationship between these facts in order to test a particular theory or hypothesis.
In quantitative studies one uses a theory deductively and places it towards the beginning of the plan for a study: the objective is to test or verify a theory, rather than develop it.
One consequently begins the study advancing a theory, collects data to test it, and reflects on whether the theory was confirmed or unconfirmed by the results in the study. (Naoum, 2007.) The theory becomes a framework for the entire study, an organising model for the research questions or hypotheses and for the date collection procedure (Creswell, 1994.)
3.3 Qualitative Research
Qualitative Research is a method of naturalistic enquiry which is usually less obtrusive that quantitative investigations and does not manipulate a research setting. It aims to study people in their natural social settings and to collect naturally occurring data. (Bowling, 2007.) Qualitative research is 'subjective' in nature. It can refer to research about persons' lives, lived experiences, behaviours, emotions, and feelings as well as about organisational functioning, social movements, cultural phenomena, and interactions between nations. Some of the data may be quantified as with census or background information about the persons or objects studied, but the bulk of the analysis is interpretative.
Strauss and Creswell (1998) describes qualitative research as:
"An enquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explore a social or human problem. The researcher builds a complex, holistic picture, analyses words, reports detailed views of informants and conducts the study in a natural setting"
In speaking about qualitative analysis, we are referring not to the quantifying qualitative data but rather to a non mathematical process of interpretation, carried out for the purpose of discovering concepts and relationships in raw data and organising these into theoretical explanatory scheme.(Strauss, 1998).
There are many valid reasons for doing qualitative research. One reason is preferences and/ or experience of the researchers. Some persons are more orientated and temperamentally suited to doing this type of work. Some researches come from some disciplines that traditionally make use of qualitative methods. Another reason for chosing qualitative research methods is the nature of the research problem. (Strauss, 1998.) Qualitative techniques have a wide range of applications in health care research. Qualitative research methods have been commonly used in research documenting the experience of chronic illness. (Bowling, 2007.)
Qualitative methods can be used to explore substantive areas which little is known or about which much is know to gain novel understandings. (Stern, 1980.) In addition, qualitative methods can be used to obtain the intricate details about phenomena such as feelings, thought processes, and emotions that a difficult to learn about through more conventional research methods. Strauss (1998) considers, there are three major components of qualitative research.
First, there are the data, which can come from various sources such as interviews, observations, documents, records, and films. Second, there are the procedures that researchers can use to interpret and organise the data. Other procedures are part of the analytic process. These include non-statistical sampling, the writing of memos, and diagramming. Written and verbal reports make up the third component. These may be presented in scientific journals, in talks (e.g. conferences), or in books.
While the value of qualitative research is that it studies people in their natural settings and is arguably less reactive than quantitative methods, there is still a great deal of scope for reactive effects. Bowling (2007), believes the researcher should be honest about his or her theoretical perspective and/ or values at the outset, the research should be conducted in an explicit and systematic way in relation to the design, data collection, analysis and interpretation and the investigator must reduce sources of errors or bias.
3.4 Quantitative and Qualitative Comparison
The difference between quantitative and qualitative research is rather like the difference between counting the shape and types of the design of a sample of green houses as against living in them and feeling the environment. The difference between each one may be somehow quantifiable but such measurements will not convey the importance and the special impact of some over others. (Naoum, 2007.)
Quantitative and qualitative research can frequently be found together in particular substantive areas in the social sciences, be it delinquency, classroom studies, or whatever. By and large, the two research traditions can be viewed as contributing to the understanding of different aspects of the phenomenon in question. (Bryman, 1996)
3.5 Approaches to Research Data Collection
When carrying out research, the approach to be adopted depends on the nature of the investigation and the type of data and information that are required and available. These can be classified as fieldwork (primary data collection) and desk study (secondary data collection).
Primary data collection is collected first hand by the person carrying out the research and can be associated with three practical approaches. (Naoum, 2007.)
The survey approach (descriptive or logical study.)
The case study approach (in depth analysis of subject)
The problem solving approach (review situation, problem identification and evaluation.)
Secondary data is collected from other sources that include books and academic journals. This information can be stored in statistical or descriptive format. Secondary information has some distinct advantages over primary date collection effort. (Stewart, 1993).
Less expensive to use secondary data
More cost effective
Provide a useful comparison tool
3.6 Methods of Research Data Collection
In order to achieve the aim of this dissertation both primary and secondary data were used. The Literature review contains secondary data taken from various journals and books. Primary data was collected during the questionnaire processes and semi-structured interview process of the dissertation. Naoum (2007), considers semi-structured interviews to be more formal that the unstructured interview in that there is a number of specific topics around which to build the interview.
Various journals accessed online through the International Journal of Project Management have proved to be valuable when researching past and current planning techniques. The journals have been historic and up to date as a result providing a meaningful comparison between past and present techniques.
A number of books have used to provide me with a background to Construction Planning and where it started, pointing out various techniques and practices used by professionals on a daily basis.
The research will be conducted using a mixture of questionnaires and semi-structured interviews. The questionnaire is one of the most frequently used methods of data collection in evaluation research. It can be used to provide the main source of data in a study, as in the case of consumer satisfaction surveys of service users, or it can be a useful source of supplementary data. (Clarke, 1999). An electronic questionnaire was the selected technique used to gather key information in order to achieve the main aim and objective of the dissertation.
Construction professionals, mainly Construction Planners and Project Managers were invited to complete questionnaires. Possible respondents were approached in a professional manner via email in which I requested their participation in completing an attached questionnaire. The email highlighted the dissertation topic pointing out the main aim and objective of the research. Recipients were ensured that all information provided will be treated with strict confidence and would remain anonymous. The covering letter can be seen in APPENDIXâ€¦
The questionnaire was kept short and took the respondent no longer than a few minutes to complete. This was deliberately done to make sure the respondent would not be discouraged from completing the questionnaire.
Naoum (2007) considers questionnaires hold the following advantages:
Economy - Relatively high validity of results because of their wide geographic coverage.
Speed - If administered properly, the majority of returns will be received within two weeks.
Consultation - The respondent is allowed to answer the questions in their own time and comfort.
Interviews were held where possible, at the convenience of the interviewee. Neither candidate had access to information that the other party had given. The transcript for the interview was based on the electronic questionnaire and can be found in APPENDIXâ€¦.
The interview was semi structured; the basis for a semi-structured interview was to provide a high proportion of answers that are comparable and to provide the opportunity to probe further for information (Dane, 1990).
Naoum (2007) considers in the semi-structured interview, the interviewer has a great deal of freedom to probe various areas and to raise specific queries during the course of the interview.
Recipients where carefully chosen, the majority of which where contacts gained through the authors work experience as a Construction Planner along with various networking events attended by the author, such as; Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) seminars/ presentations on a variety of Construction topics. Although in the appendix they are presented together, it is important to stress that the interviews were held separately. The results of the interview and the subsequent analysis can be found in Chapter 4.
3.7 Ethical Issues
Ethics is a believed to be a major concern in all research projects. It is possible that the research can cause emotional distress to the data subjects. The importance of ethics cannot be undervalued and must not be ignored. (Bryman, 1996). Ethics identify the consequences early on allowing the author to take required measures to alleviate these implications.
People who agree to take part in research studies need protection in relation to their privacy and protection from manipulation by the researcher. (Bowling, 2007). Also required in the protection of the aura of trust on which society and the research community depend; and the good reputation of research requires preservation (Webb, 1966.)
All recipients related with the completion of the questionnaires were contacted prior to completion. During initial contact the respondent was informed of; why the information was required, why they were selected to participate and what the information would be used for.
The author ensured at all times, the participant was aware that all information received was strictly for the purpose of the research and the findings will be reported in an accurate, responsible manner.
3.8 Summary of Methodology
The decision to use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative research allows the author to take full advantage of the accuracy of results in order to complete the aim and objectives of this dissertation.
Having identified the above as being the most efficient and successful means of data collection, the author will explain the finding's and results along with suitable conclusions in Chapter 5.
The research study consisted of a total of 50 Questionnaires being sent via email to potential candidates from which 23 were filled in online. A total of 10 semi-structured interviews were carried out. As the data collected from the questionnaire was of a quantitative nature, it was decided it would be best to represent results in a chart format. This presents the reader with clear-cut results that can be understood with ease resulting in a realistic set of conclusions to be made.