The aim of the dissertation is to examine the strategies construction professionals are adopting to survive the economic slowdown, particularly by seeking work overseas. At present construction professionals are forced to flee Ireland in order to survive this recession. This dissertation will examine the difficulties and challenges facing these construction professionals moving abroad and how they adapt to working in these foreign countries.
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The following report was undertaken in order to understand the processes involved with data collection and how to go about it in order to carry out the dissertation. The different types of data collection are explored and their advantages and disadvantages taken into account. This is attained through the critical analysis of qualitative and quantitative research, the different methods of data collection and the feasibility of each method. The positive and negative aspects of these research studies are explored to ascertain the benefits each would have in relation to the dissertation. For the benefit of this project and the chosen dissertation topic, I have chosen to research questionnaires, interviews and case studies.
Quantitative research sources hard and reliable facts on a topic area.
”Quantitative research is an injury into a social or human problem, based on testing a hypothesis or a theory composed of variables, measured with numbers, and analysed with statistical procedures, in order to determine whether the hypothesis or the theory hold true .” (Naoum, 1998 p38)
Qualitative research sources opinions and perceptions on a topic area.
”Qualitative research…..it emphasis’s meanings, experiences (often verbally described), description and so on.” (Naoum, 1998, p40)
Quantitative versus Qualitative Research
Quantitative research is used when finding out the facts of a concept, for example a question or an attribute. This research method is also used when collecting factual evidence. A study can then be made on the relationship of these facts in order to test a particular theory or hypothesis.
Qualitative research is subjective in nature. In other words it has an emphasis on meanings, experiences and descriptions. Information collected in qualitative research can be either i) exploratory or ii) attitudinal.
i) Exploratory Research
This is used when the researcher has a limited knowledge of the topic. An example of exploratory research is the interview technique. The purpose of this type of research is the need for a clear and precise statement of the recognised problem. Exploratory research may be conducted for three interrelated reasons; diagnosing a situation, screening alternatives or to discover new ideas. Data provided is the words of those interviewed and what they have exactly said or a description of what has been observed. Examples of questions used in an exploratory search may be;
‘Questions with the words ‘What’ or ‘How’.
Non-directional worded questions.
Open ended questions.
Questions that may evolve during the study.
ii) Attitudinal Research
Attitudinal research is used to subjectively evaluate the opinion, view or perception of a person towards a particular object. Opinion and views can be evaluated for the benefit of this study by using subjective questions like;
Do you think moving abroad to seek employment is the key to survival?
Please indicate which of the following is most important to ensure maximum motivation in workers….
Questions ending in ‘please express your level of agreement’.
There is no correct or incorrect answer to these questions as they all require an individual opinion.
In a quantitative study, the hypothesis is best understood when applied in a theoretical framework. A theory is used deductively and is placed at the beginning of a study. The objective is to then collect data and test it. The result of this data will then reflect on whether the theory was confirmed or unconfirmed.
In qualitative research the use of theory is less clear because there is no standard rule of placement. The placement of theory will not be placed at the beginning of the study but closer to the end. A theory may emerge during the data collection or be used late in the research process as a basis for comparison with another theory.
Quantitative and qualitative research can be compared using the analogy that quantitative research is taking into account the shape or design of an object where as qualitative research is living and feeling this object.
Provides depth and detail, looking deeper than analysing ranks and counts by recording attitudes, feelings and behaviours.
Creates openness as it encourages people to expand on their responses and can open up new topic areas not initially considered.
Usually fewer people are studied as the collection of qualitative data is generally more time consuming than quantitative data collection.
Because fewer people are generally studied it is not possible to generalise results to that of the population. Usually exact numbers are reported rather than percentages.
It is difficult to make systematic comparisons for example, if people give widely differing responses that are highly subjective.
Allows for a broader study, involving a greater number of subjects, and enhancing the generalisation of the results.
Can allow for greater objectivity and accuracy of results.
Using standards means that the research can be replicated, and then analysed and compared with similar studies.
Personal bias can be avoided by researchers keeping a ‘distance’ from participating subjects and employing subjects unknown to them
Collect a much narrower and sometimes superficial dataset
Results are limited as they provide numerical descriptions rather than detailed narrative and generally provide less elaborate accounts of human perception
The research is often carried out in an unnatural, artificial environment so that a level of control can be applied to the exercise. This level of control might not normally be in place in the real world yielding laboratory results as opposed to real world results
In addition preset answers will not necessarily reflect how people really feel about a subject and in some cases might just be the closest match.
The development of standard questions by researchers can lead to ‘structural’ bias and false representation, where the data actually reflects the view of them instead of the participating subject.
Both qualitative and quantitative research will be relevant to the author’s dissertation.
This will be displayed through the use of both factual evidence obtained from publications and further literature and also through interviewing those who have fled Ireland to seek work overseas.
Analysis of Different Methods of Data Collection
The approach one should adopt when conducting data collection should depend on the nature of the case study and the type of data and information that is required and available at that time. There are many approaches available to study however many require long periods of time and emphasise detailed evidence. There are two main sources of information: i) Primary Data
ii) Secondary Data
”Primary literature is the most accurate source of information as it publishes original research.” (Naoum, 1998, p19)
The primary data can be collected from past case studies, questionnaires, formal interviews and reports.
”Secondary literature sources are these that cite from primary sources such as textbooks, and newspaper articles.” (Naoum, 1998, p22)
The secondary data can be collected from textbooks, construction magazines and newspaper articles.
Fieldwork research refers to the methods of primary data collection used by the researcher. Three practical approaches to Fieldwork are;
i) The survey approach.
ii) The case study approach.
iii) The problem solving approach.
For the benefit of the Author’s dissertation we will now explore The Case Study, Interview and Questionnaire Approach as this holds the most relevance to the dissertation topic. Both the positive and negative aspects of each data collection method will be studied to ascertain the feasibility and benefits of the approach in relation to the final year dissertation.
The Case Study Approach
Case studies are used when the researcher intends to support the argument by an in depth analysis of a person, a group of persons, an organisation or a particular project. As the nature of a case study focuses on one aspect of a problem, the conclusion drawn will not be generalised but actually related to on particular event. Although the case study will only focus on one aspect of a theory, it will provide an in depth analysis on it.
There are three types of case study designs;
The descriptive case study. This is the concept of counting applied to a detailed case.
The analytical case study. This is the concept of association and relationship applied to a detailed case. Analytical research means that an element that causes, affects or has an influence on another element has been identified. The element that does the causing is called an independent variable. The element whish is acted upon therefore, is called the dependant variable.
The explanatory case study. This entails a theoretical approach to the problem. Linkages among the objects are shown. It also suggests that a single cause can have a specific effect. For example, the researcher collects facts and studies the relationship of one set of facts to another with the hope of finding a relationship between them.
Case studies can be complimented by surveys carried out on situations where, how or why questions can be answered by a survey and/or a case study. Using these two approaches in correlation with each other will ensure maximum data is collected and examined more thoroughly.
A case study would be particularly relevant to the chosen dissertation. In order to carry out a case study for the dissertation, the author hopes to approach an Irish Company who has been forced to move abroad to analyse their current situation. Using a case study as the primary data collection method would be effective due to its examination of factual information.
The ‘questionnaire’ is one of the most widely used data collection techniques used for conducting surveys. It is most suited to a survey whose purpose is clear enough without elaborate explanation. The questionnaire is used for analytical and descriptive surveys in order to find out facts, opinions and views on the current affair in question.
There are many advantages and disadvantages, aspects of both are listed below;
Economy; a questionnaire is an economical way to assembling as much information as possible in terms of finance, human and other resources as you are relaying the questions free of charge to someone in the know.
Speed; questionnaires are a fast method of conducting surveys. However, time must be allowed for late returns.
Consultation; when questionnaires are posted in advance of the interview, the person being interviewed has the opportunity to avail of information needed which they may not have been aware of previously without checking, in order to give an accurate response.
Must contain simple question; simple questions that are straight forward are
necessary to follow easy instructions and definitions. Faults such as ambiguity and vagueness are common.
Inflexible technique; mailing questionnaires to companies does not allow the opportunity for probing. All answers must be accepted as final and the opportunity to clarify ambiguity is lost.
Accuracy; companies are likely to answer questions according to their public profile rather than the underlying corporate reality.
No control over respondents; when posting a questionnaire there is no guarantee that the intended person completes the questionnaire.
Although there are many draw backs when using this method of data collection, there are also many positive aspects that it can contribute to the author’s dissertation. For example, each questionnaire completed will be unique in both questions and answers. As a result of this, each questionnaire will be tailored made with an individuality in answers, which will help obtain maximum data with minimum effort.
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The Interview Approach
The interview technique is a major method used to collect factual information as well as opinions of those with experience in the area of the chosen topic. It is down to the interviewer to evoke answers that are pertinent to the research hypothesis. The questions and their sequence wording define the structure of the interview. Interviews are suitable when;
You know enough about your interviewee so the appropriate questions are asked in a suitable manner.
Interpersonal contact is essential to explain and describe the questions.
When the research requires an explanation as why the respondents are answering or feeling the way they do, i.e. the answer requires more than a yes/no/agree/disagree answer.
There are many types of interviews, for example; formal/informal, inflexible/flexible, standardised and un-standardised, controlled and uncontrolled however the three interviews the author will focus on are;
This form of interview uses ‘open ended’ questions. The questions are often pitched at a very general level so that the researcher can see in what direction the interviewee takes things in their response. This type of interview is generally conducted at the start of a case study as it is an exploratory exercise. It is usually conducted with qualitative research methods. There is no set order or wording of questions, there is no schedule and the researcher is not looking for the same information from each person interviewed. On completion of this type of interview, the researcher may have a list of many factors which should be examined through structure interviews and questionnaires.
This is a more formal interview than the structured interview in that there are a number of specific topics around which the interview can be built. Questions will have open and closed ends, but the questions will not be asked in a specific order or to a schedule. 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. This is achieved by beginning the interview using indirect questions in order to build up a rapport with the respondent, then exploring the specific issues the interviewer has in mind. The task is to discover as much as possible about the specific issues related the subject area.
Here are some common characteristics of the semi-structured interview;
It takes place with a respondent known to have been involved in a particular experience.
It refers to situations that have been analysed prior to the interview.
It is focused on the respondents’ experiences regarding the situations under study.
It proceeds on the basis of an interview guide specifying topics related to the research hypothesis.
In the structured interview, questions are presented in the same order and with the same wording to all interviewees. The interviewer will have full control on the questionnaire throughout the entire process of the interview. In this technique the questioning may start with open ended questions but will soon move towards a closed question format. There are three assumptions of the structured interview;
The respondents have a sufficiently common vocabulary so that it is possible to formulate questions which have the same meaning for each of them.
That it is possible to phrase all questions in a form that is equally meaningful to each respondent.
Each question and sequence of questions must be identical for each respondent.
Therefore the advantages of the structured interview are that i) the answers can be more accurate, ii) The response rate is relatively high and iii) the answers can be explored with finding out why the particular answers are given.
The clear advantages that the interview technique has in relation to the dissertation is that the interviewer has a chance to listen to construction professional individual opinions, how the economy has affected them and their business and how it has changed their lifestyle by moving to a foreign country. This in depth analysis of answers from a broad range of respondents allows the researcher to gain a large volume of knowledge from many different perspectives. As the dissertation focuses on construction professional oversees, the author will carry out tele-conference interviews to gain an insight on how these professionals are adapting to working in foreign countries.
Desk Study Research
Desk study research refers to the methods of primary data collection used by the researcher. It involves gathering data that already exists either from publications of governmental and non-governmental institutions, free access data on the internet, in professional newspapers and magazines, in annual reports of companies and commercial databases. In many projects, carrying out an initial desk research stage is strongly recommended for the dissertation to gain background knowledge to the topic.
Proposed Research Sample
The author intends to review previous case studies in relation to Irish construction companies relocating abroad. This is vital for the purpose of the dissertation in order to analyse how the companies are now doing, to determine the problems they have faced and to determine the differences from working in Ireland to working abroad. Below is an article which outlines the issues an Irish construction company may encounter when moving oversees.
The author has explained the differences between qualitative and quantitative research and these methods will be used for carrying out the dissertation. The author also outlined the various types of data research methods and came to the conclusion that fieldwork research (case studies, tele-conference interviews, questionnaires and surveys) and desk study research (textbooks and construction magazines) are the methods that will be adopted for the dissertation. This will be the most effective way in producing a well structured and detailed dissertation.
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