Research Methodology for Housing Research
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Published: Tue, 19 Dec 2017
This chapter will discuss the research methodology available for the study and consider the methods applicable for use and will present how the research will be implemented and how to arrive at pertinent findings.
The intention of the author is to find the most feasible method to look at the links between previous research and theories on the housing industry and its market segments through the use of Michael Porter’s Five Forces and Generic Strategies Models and the aim would be to find facts and figures to support the literary findings.
In order to achieve this task successfully, the author conducted interviews with key persons in the public and private sectors involved in the industry, carried out questionnaire and telephone surveys to observe and study the industry through various sources and individuals and conducted a case study with the intention of carrying out a descriptive observation to analyse and find the answers to the relevant research questions.
The rational behind such a multi-method approach, also known as ‘Triangulation’ is to increase the accuracy levels of the findings. It has been stated that the results of the research and of the qualitative findings, if cross-checked with other quantitative findings, improves the confidence of the overall results (Bryman, 2007:412).
The qualitative findings will be collected from interviews, while quantitative data will be from questionnaire and telephone surveys, annual reports, statistical data, etc. The rationale for the selection of primary research is contained in the main part of this chapter and the sampling methods will be explained according to responses and the approach to the in-depth interviews (Ibid: 402).
In this paper an attempt has been made to answer the research questions in relation to the current housing industry in Sri Lanka’s GCM, by researching already published data, conducting in-depth interviews with major decision makers in the public and private sectors and to obtain valuable information through a pre-planned questionnaire that will draw useful conclusions.
3.2 Design of Research Study
There are three kinds of research design methods, namely correlation, experimental and descriptive. However, the author used the descriptive method to conduct the study, to gather information about the existing conditions. The purpose of employing this method was to describe the nature of a situation, as it exists at the time of the study and to explore the cause/s of particular phenomena. This methodology was chosen to obtain first hand data from the respondents to formulate rational and sound conclusions and recommendations.
3.3 Qualitative Research Methods
This study employs qualitative research method, since the intention is to find and build theories that would explain the relationship of one variable with another through qualitative data. These qualitative elements don’t have standard measures; rather they are behaviour, attitudes, opinions and beliefs.
Bryman and Bell (2007: 405) have explained that qualitative research is multi-method in focus, involving an interpretative, naturalistic approach to its subject matter. This means that qualitative researchers study subjects in their natural settings, attempting to make sense of, or interpret phenomena in terms of the meanings people bring to them. Accordingly, qualitative researchers deploy a wide range of interconnected methods, hoping always to get a better understand the subject matter at hand.
A number of key public and private sector policy and decision makers involved in the housing industry were interviewed and their feedback, observations, recommendations and viability of various aspects of the housing market segments were collected and examined. These interviews used the analytical techniques of both the Porter’s Models as the conceptual framework.
Additionally, service organisations with contact with the industry, such as trade associations and industry observers including financial community, regulators, etc, need inclusion. These sources have rather differing characteristics, which are useful for explicit identification (Porter, 1980: 377).
Qualitative approach was used based on the author’s own conclusions. This information is based on people’s opinions and perceptions. Since, the project itself is new, it was thought necessary to engage in-depth interviews with key personalities (Bryman and Bell 2007). Their views, concepts and visions, will constitute valuable raw material for this research project.
3.3.1 Sample Selection
The sample selection was limited to Chief Executive Officers, Senior Managers, prospective suppliers, buyers, town planners and a number of civilians who were keen to purchase or build houses. The sample included Executives from large housing consortiums, employees of governmental institutions, eminent professionals involved in the housing industry. The names of some high profile interviewees are attached in Appendix A.
As expected, there were a few obstacles during this process such as time constraints, especially during work hours as most of the interviewees were extremely busy with their own busy office schedules. However, it is the author’s opinion and belief that the results of the interviews are sufficient and the content informative and supports the research objectives.
It was heartening to note that practically all the interviewees articulated much interest in the research topic and were extremely supportive and helpful in providing the necessary information on the subject. The interviews generated a lot of enthusiasm and many thought-provoking material and information.
The interviews took shape as informal and open discussions about pervious experiences or the current housing industry and its market position. The reasons for such discussions were to explore fresh ideas and give the interviewees the freedom to express their thoughts and encourage them to share relevant information that could assist in developing the research paper (Bryman and Bell, 2007:217).
The aim was to obtain facts and figures in relation to the housing industry and the interviewees’ understanding of the market and the pros and cons of the industry, competitor rivalry, etc.
For the above reasons a series of structured and focused interviews were conducted for the primary research, where the respondents were given a context of questions and open-ended questions ‘about a specific situation or event that is relevant to them and of interest to the researcher’ (Bryman & Bell, 2007, p. 213), Kinean and Taylor (196:321), so that the interviewer could develop ‘a high level of rapport with respondent’, which results freer responses.
The interviews were limited to 30 minutes and were carried out on a one on one basis between the respondent and the researcher. In order to ensure coverage of the research questions through efficient format and composition of questions, pervious work such as that of Bryman and Bell (2007:240) was used as a tool to structure the questionnaires.
3.3.3 Data Collection and Analysis
Bryman (2004) suggests the use of ‘Analytical Induction’ and the ‘Grounded Theory’ as strategies to analyse the collected qualitative data.
Analytical Induction involves gathering data and their analysis as required by the researcher. The Grounded Theory refers to systematically gathered data, which has been analysed through the research process and revolves around the development of a hypothesis that is backed by the correct data analysis. This means that the collection and analysis of such data is frequently repeated and refers itself to other relevant data (Bryman, 2004).
The approach the author used in this research paper was based on the ‘Grounded Theory’, as the data collected from the interviews was broken down into various parts and at various times compared to the collected data.
3.4 Quantitative Research Methods
The research described in this document is partly based on quantitative research methods. This permits a flexible and iterative approach. During data gathering the choice and design of methods are constantly modified, based on ongoing analysis (Bryman and bell 2007). This allows investigation of important new issues and questions as they arise and allows the investigators to drop unproductive areas of research from the research plan.
It is understood that quantitative data analyses require the use of statistics descriptive and inferential to summarize data collected, to make comparisons of data sets and to generalize results obtained from a sample back to the population from which the sample was drawn (Ibid).
Hence, in order to obtain the required statistics, a survey was conducted targeting prospective suppliers, buyers and sample to identify the housing requirement of the GCM based on fundamental demographic factors and to translate it to the total housing requirement of various income groups.
3.4.1 Sample Selection
The selection of respondents for the research was done through a combination of sampling methods. Firstly, the researcher clearly defined the target population. As there were no strict rules to follow, the researcher relied on logic and judgment and defined the target population in keeping with the objectives of the study.
As stated by Bryman and Bell (2007:194), sampling methods are classified as either probability or non-probability. In probability samples, each member of the population has a known non-zero probability of being selected. Probability methods include random, systematic and stratified sampling. In non-probability sampling, members are selected from the population in some nonrandom manner. These include convenience, judgment and quota and snowball sampling.
Bryman and Bell (2007) argue that the advantage of probability sampling is that sampling error can be calculated. Sampling error is the degree to which a sample might differ from the population and when inferring to the population results are reported plus or minus the sampling error. In non-probability sampling, the degree to which the sample differs from the population remains unknown. Hence, the author used the systematic sampling method for the purpose of this research study.
3.5 Respondents of the Study
In order to have first hand information, respondents were public and private sector employees and other individuals in the housing industry in Sri Lanka.
The first option was to have as many respondents as the research would permit, however because of the time constraints, the researcher decided to consider 150 respondents who have responded to the questionnaire distributed through e-mail and the post.
In addition, the researcher obtained important qualitative data through face-to-face interviews with the key players in the housing industry. Hence, both interviews and the questionnaire-survey were used to collect data on the respondents’ demographic profile, firstly to check that the sample was appropriately stratified and representative and secondly to provide further information about the sample for analytical purposes.
3.6 Self-Administered Questionnaire
To examine the feasibility of how Sri Lanka could endeavour to find a winning market strategy in the housing industry, the researcher prepared a questionnaire and a set of guide questions to be distributed among the intended respondents.
The survey was conducted through a self completion questionnaire sent to prospective suppliers and buyers by post and e-mail. The survey was extremely successful due to the result of the e-mail responses and a high percentage of the respondents completed the questionnaires on-line. On completion of the survey, the author tabulated the data (Bryman and Bell 2007:240).
The data collection instrument was self-made questionnaires, which was designed and based on Likert Scale. A Likert Scale is a rating scale that requires the subject to indicate his or her degree of agreement or disagreement with a statement (Barnett, 1991).
Ideally, the respondents will grade each statement in the survey-questionnaire using a Likert Scale, with a five-response scale where respondents had been given five response choices.
The equivalent weights for the answers are as mentioned under for convenience:
4.50 – 5.00 Strongly Agree
3.50 – 4.00 Agree
2.50 – 3.49 Uncertain
1.50 – 2.49 Disagree
0.00 – 1.49 Strongly Disagree
The researcher opted to use the questionnaire as a tool since the rules and principles of construction are easy to follow. Moreover, copies of the questionnaire were circulated through e-mail on-line, postal mail and hand delivered to reach a considerable number of respondents. Generally, responses to a questionnaire are objectified and standardized and these made the tabulation easy. But more importantly, the respondents’ replies were of their own free will because there was no interviewer to influence them. This method excluded the interviewer’s biases and was totally transparent.
3.7 Validity of the Data
The researcher used closed questions to conduct the survey. A closed question is one that has pre-coded answers. The simplest is the dichotomous question to which the respondent must answer yes or no.
There are three classified types of questions: behavioural, attitudinal and classification. Behavioural questions seek factual information on what the respondents do or own; attitudinal questions intend to discover what respondents think of something and classificatory questions seek information that can be used to group respondents to see how they differ one from another.
For this study, the above mentioned three types of closed questions were used to analyze the behaviours and attitudes of the respondents.
Closed questions were used because the answers were easy to analyze and were straightforward as target respondents were mostly busy and lacked adequate time to attend to open questions and having to think of possible replies. . They also make the process easier for the interviewer who simply has to tick a box or circle a number. Moreover, they spare the coding staff difficult judgments which, if wrong, could upset the findings.
For validation purposes, the researcher initially submitted a sample survey questionnaire and after obtaining necessary approval the survey was conducted on five respondents. After the questions were answered, the researcher then asked the respondents for suggestions for correction, improvement and validity of the questionnaire.
On completion the researcher again examined the content of the interview questions to find out the reliability of the instrument and excluded irrelevant questions and changed words to much simpler terms to simplify the process.
3.8 Administration of the Instrument
The researcher excluded the five respondents who were initially used for the validation of the instrument. The researcher also tallied, scored and tabulated all the responses in the provided interview questions.
Moreover, a structured interview process was employed in this research and a question and answer process was promoted.
The interviews composed of detailed explicit questions and the researcher did not subtract or add any comment while the interview was being conducted. In addition, the researcher was able to let the interviewee clarify any unclear statements. The interviewer ensured that the process remained objective rather than subjective and at no stage was there any attempt made to influence the answers or comments of the interviewee.
3.9 Primary Data Collection
The important task of collecting primary data was done through Interviews, questionnaires and discussion methods with major decision makers in the public and private sectors, suppliers and customers involved in the housing industry. The author based all the interviews and the questionnaires on the theoretical concepts of Porter’s Industry Analysis Models to collect field data. As the number of persons the author had to meet were considerable and given the time constraints, the interviewees were shortlisted.
In addition, a carefully prepared questionnaire was circulated before the interview, to prepare the interviewee before hand, which helped to extract and capture the required information in a limited time frame. The same method was very successfully used to collect primary information from buyers/consumers, investors and developers in the public and private sectors, which was more informal owing to the author’s personal and business links with most of the important players in this trade. Table 10 illustrates the data collection process the author used to collect valuable data from the respondents.
Table10: Data Collection Methods
No Research Questions Data Collection Method Information Required
1 Scale of the bargaining power of suppliers Interviewing/Questionnaire
Examine 30 Suppliers Supply and demand of construction material
2 Degree of bargaining power of buyers/customers Interviewing/Questionnaire/Discussion
Examine 30 Buyers/customers Buyer/customer needs and requirements
3 Level of threat of new entrants Descriptive Observation Industry attractiveness
4 Measure of threat of substitutes Descriptive Observation Substitute products
5 Extent of threats posed by the competitors Observe and study Scope of competitiveness rivalry & number of rivals
6 Best market positioning Observation and study of Generic Strategies Socio-economic details of consumers
3.10 Secondary Data Collection
The author sourced secondary data through desk research and used his own library and other libraries, books, journals, magazines and newspapers to accomplish this task.
In addition secondary data was obtained from governmental and nongovernmental organisations, BOI, UDA, NHDA and REEL.
Further, since most of the established governmental departments, international bodies routinely publish in their reports and publications, macro information pertaining to demographics and housing development, time was spent to collect material that was important and relevant to the research.
The Internet was also a valuable source of data on the subject. However, since the available information was vast, the researcher spent only a limited amount of time to access material relevant to the project to enable the researcher to refer to other studies connected to the research.
Potential obstacles to access secondary data was the lack of literature specifically related to the project and the lack of research on this subject. However, the author utilized other sources to obtain data and the main resource was the libraries and the archives of governmental institutions that were involved in the housing industry.
3.11 Ethical Issues and Respect for Respondents
The prime duty of a researcher is to explain his mission and to obtain answers to the questions in a transparent manner. What is important is to get the data needed without violating ethical standards. Equally important for a researcher is to report the findings objectively and correctly based on the information received.
The aim and purpose of the study was made clear to the respondents. The author reassured respondents of their feedback anonymity and confidentiality. Furthermore, it was important to stress that the results of the study would only be used for this dissertation.
It was also explained to the respondents that their participation and answers to questions were voluntary without any compulsion giving them the freedom to bypass questions with which they felt uncomfortable, although the subject area was such that this explanation was only a formality.
Settings were flexible: some preferred the more neutral setting of a quiet restaurant, , while others preferred their offices. Initially it was explained that the interviews would take approximately 30 minutes, however in some cases there was the desire to talk longer.
It was important not to disrupt the respondent’s work, so interviews were interrupted in a few cases where the respondents were high profile public servants, businessmen and private sector employees, who had to attend to urgent telephone calls. Nevertheless the interviews were continued to a completion.
3.12 Limitations of the Research
Every research has certain limitations caused by the nature of the research methods employed and the way they are applied. To begin with, the researcher was inexperienced and mistakes during interviews were made. Given the fact the role of the moderator in these procedures is delicate and critical; the lack of experience might have affected the information gathered.
Furthermore, the size of the sample used in the research was substantial, but this limits the generalization of the findings. The researcher tried to gain an in-depth view of the studied population and to avoid generalization, having in mind that it was not within the scope of the current micro research to produce a general theory.
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