In this chapter will discuss the research methods, the brief discussing the quantitative and qualitative research. The difference research approaches will be compared that to identify an appropriate approach for this research project. In addition, two data collection techniques will be discussed that to select a suitable techniques for the research. Finally, the design of research will be described.
There are several of research methods are current being used for doing research project. The selection of research methods is depends on the research aim and objectives. There are two typical research methods which are quantitative research and qualitative research.
Naoum (2007) defined quantitative research as an investigation with the factual quantities data such as numbers that to test or study the authenticity of hypotheses and theories for solving a problem. Fellow and Liu (2008) also stated that quantitative research is a scientific method for conjecturing and refuting proposition and hypotheses which have been established by studying of theory and literature. Quantitative approach provides measurable quantified data to study, the relationship between facts and theories through analysis collected data (Fellows and Liu, 2008). Quantitative research is not only used to finding the relationship between facts and theory but also can be applied to finding the facts of concept, question and attribute (Naoum, 2007).
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In quantitative research, the factors or variables which will influence the research results should be identified and addressed. Researchers should explain the relationship between these factors and the research outcome that to improve the understanding of a problem. The variables refer to the respondents' characteristic or attribute which can be measured or observed by using quantitative research.
Naoum (2007) stated that qualitative research is based on gathering people's subjective information such as meanings, experiences, description in subject that to develop theories. Qualitative research is an approach for exploring a formulation of a subject which does not have existing theory (Fellows and Liu, 2008). In addition, theory in qualitative research is not very clearly in beginning but will be generated after data collection and analysis.
Qualitative research refers to respondents' perception in their professional discipline. The respondents could be individuals or groups. Their perception involves their understanding, options, views, believing in the specify research subject. Naoum (2007) classified qualitative research into two type of research based on gathering information ways. The first one is called exploratory research that is proposed for researchers who have not enough knowledge into their topic. Typically, it adopts interview technique for the data collection. The researchers can through collect information or data for solving problem, screening solutions, and discovering new ideas for a subject (Naoum, 2007). The second one is attitudinal research which is using to evaluate the terms of options, views and personal perceptions for a specified object (Naoum, 2007). Normally, it adopts questionnaire for the data collection. The data and information from this type of research refer to the respondents' perception which based on their professional background and knowledge.
Triangulation is a mixed research method that combined quantitative and qualitative research or more research techniques in a research project (Fellows and Liu, 2008). The using of triangulation studies not only obtains the benefits of each signal method but also avoids each individual approach's limitations, hence, optimises the data collection and analysis in the research. Moreover, triangulation cooperative with multiple methods can gain a multi-dimensional result for the study (Fellows and Liu, 2008).
Comparison of research methods
Based on the project aims and objectives which is described in chapter 1, the objective for investigate current practices in Chinese construction project management and explore the potential for using PIM tools and technology in the Chinese construction industry. An appropriate research method should be carefully selected for this research project.
Figure 3.1 Some differences between quantitative and qualitative research
(Source: Naoum, 2007)
Naoum (2007) has compared the differences between quantitative and qualitative research methods. As the figure 3.1 shows, the qualitative approach is based on measuring the options, view and perceptions for a subject. For this research, it is tried to find out what and how respondents using PIM tools in project management which refer to their perceptions. In addition, the scope of findings in this research project should be absorbed in construction industry that idiographic scope is appropriately. Moreover, the objectives are related to provide effective strategies for Chinese construction industry that developing concept approach is suit for this project, which is required development a concept for them. Therefore, this research project selects the qualitative research method.
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After selected the appropriate research method for the research project, research approach is the one of important factor for determine the project outcome. The selection of appropriate approaches depends on the type of research operation and the controlling level on the research project. Fellows and Liu (2008) stated five difference research approaches that linking the project outcome and data collection which are action research, ethnographic research, surveys, case studies and experiments. According to the project aim and objectives, there are only discuss three basic approaches.
Action research is involves a group of participants take part into the process of research with a view to improving a situation or practice (Robson, 2007). It is designed to suggest and test solution to particular problem (Fellows and Liu, 2008). The process cycle of action research is problem definition, design hypotheses, implementation research, interpretation and diagnostic problem (Fellows and Liu, 2008).
Robson (2007) stated the action research usually using in an organisation that planning a change, what happen after the change, the change reflection, and planning further action. However, action research could be complicated because of the participants and researchers are involved for cooperation and evaluation the subject change (Fellows and Liu, 2008). It difficult to control and analysis the outcome of the research because of the researcher cannot objectively analysis the data.
Naoum (2007) pointed out that surveys are proposed to gathering a large number of respondents in a selected sample or population. Typically, a survey is design with structured questions for respondents to answer. That can be completed by sending questionnaire or interview (Robson, 2007). There are two types of surveys are being used. The first one is descriptive survey which investigates current opinions or attitudes for a research target. Another one is analytical survey which investigates the relationship between respondents' attitudes and research object (Naoum, 2007). Therefore, implement survey is not only research the respondents' opinions and attitudes but also can find out their potential relationship between attitudes and a research object. Survey approach provides well communication with different respondents, produces easily quantitative and qualitative data for analysis, and, less time and lower cost for large sample size investigation (Robson, 2007).
However, Fellows and Liu (2008) commented on that a successful survey depend on a carefully selected sample and a good response rate. Sampling can be classified into random sampling and non-random sampling (Naoum, 2007). The random sampling is used to when the sample's characteristics are not essential for the research. Another, the selected sampling is usually applied in when particular target respondents is known (Naoum, 2007). Fellows and Liu (2008) also classified the selected sampling into three categories. Systematic sampling which involves a constant sample and other random samples. The second type of selected sampling is stratified sampling which samples are random selected by their characteristics such as location, discipline, type of firm, etc. The last one is cluster sampling which random selected a small population of inter-group and a large population of intra-group from wide range of people.
Case studies can be used for in-depth analysis of specific examples in a particular phenomenon (Fellows and Liu, 2008). The case could be a person, a group of persons, an organisation or a particular project (Naoum, 2007).
A case study has ability for deep analysis of a problem but its result is narrow that constrain the scope of study (Fellows and Liu, 2008). The type of case study just focuses on one aspect of a problem that requires researcher contrast to several cases for establishing an overall perspective for a problem (Naoum, 2007). Moreover, case studies require researcher using multiple sources of evidence to measuring the problem or phenomenon (Yin, 2002). It is required implement variety data collection approaches to undertaken a research.
Selection of research approach
According to the review of above research approaches, the action research is useful for when the organisation change their process and planning future action. Case studies are focuses on analysis single or multiple cases for generating an overall perspective of a problem or phenomenon. Surveys provide ability for investigating a large number of population's opinions and attributes which provides a breath view of problems. This project proposed to investigate current situation of Chinese construction industry which should select an appropriate population to gain overview of Chinese practices. Furthermore, respondents' perceptions are influences the strategies establishing which requires gathering data and exploring each topic relationship from research. Therefore, surveys is selected as the research approaches for this project.
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Data collection techniques
As selected the survey approach for the research project then need to select appropriate techniques for data collection. The techniques of data collection can be simple classified into questionnaire and interview.
Questionnaire is one of widely adoptable data collection approach. Questionnaire always used for find out facts, opinions and views of a particular problem on the grouping respondents (Naoum, 2007). A questionnaire could involve quantitative question and qualitative question that can be used for descriptive and analytical surveys (Naoum, 2007). On the other hand, there are two forms of questions can be design for questionnaire. The first one is open question which enable respondents answer this kind of question more freedom. The data from open question may be more detail and deeper than closed question. Respondents' answers depend on their view and experience but will cause lower response rate if question description is not clearly (Fellows and Li, 2008). Another, closed question, the answer's options and question types are determined by researcher that learning from literature review or other sources. This kind of question will be easily to answer but restricts the respondents' thread on the specific question (Fellows and Liu, 2008).
There are some advantages of questionnaire approach. Firstly, questionnaire is the economy method when deal with large population survey and wider geographic coverage (Naoum, 2007). It could be sent out by post, e-mail or establish into web-based questionnaire. In addition, questionnaire enable respondents have flexible time to answer some special questions which the answer is not immediately available for them (Naoum, 2007).
However, the low response rate is the main barrier of implementing questionnaire (Fellows, and Liu, 2008). Lower response rate impacts research results which the collected data could not strongly support for testing or developing theory. Moreover, questionnaire approach is impossible to investigate a topic in depth due to a long and complex questionnaire will reduce its response rate (Robson, 2007). Naoum (2007) also criticised that the accuracy of collected data is difficult to detect which researcher could not control over the respondents. It is difficult to ensure the respondents have sufficient background knowledge to answer all questions which are influenced some individual perception thus the collected data are not extremely objectively.
Interview is another data collection approach for survey research. The implementation of interview enables researcher gathering factual information and respondents' perception of a specific subject (Naoum, 2007). Data from this approach will be more detail and depth than using questionnaire approach due to the researcher can ask more depth questions in interview process (Fellows and Liu, 2008).
Interview can be classified into three forms interview methods based on their design structure. There are unstructured, semi-structured and structured interview. Unstructured interview is used for when a researcher has limited knowledge about the subject (Naoum, 2007). On the interview process, researcher usually uses open questions with a clear outline of research to gathering answer from respondents. The data from unstructured interview is a precursor for developing other two kinds of interview approaches. Semi-structured interview is used for when researcher have general knowledge but want to explore more specific issues for the subject area (Naoum, 2007). Open and closed questions can be applied in this type of approach, but more relies on open question that to find out more detail and more widely areas of a subject. The last one is called structured interview. It is structured all questions with clear logical relation in the interview process (Naoum, 2007). The scope of topic and question has been specified by researcher. During the process, researcher asks less open question and large proportion closed question to respondents, also, asks additional question to gain more detail and new aspects of the subject (Fellows and Liu, 2008).
Interview approach provides higher response rate than questionnaire approach because of interview is direct communicating with respondents. In addition, the data accuracy and more deep than questionnaire due to researcher have ability to ask more probing question in the process (Naoum, 2007).
However, interview approach is time-consuming method. Researcher need to allocate much time to finding interviewee and arranging time for taking the interview practice (Robson, 2007). In addition, the breadth of study is restricted in a small population which are not suitable for research general phenomena but concentrate on a specific problem.
Comparison of questionnaire and Interview
Due to the project objectives trend to investigate the general perspective of Chinese current practices that a breadth scope of population is required. In addition, in order to identify the main limitations in existing practices that requires a depth study for investigate the project stakeholder perception on information management. Therefore, both of questionnaire and interview techniques are selected as the data collection approaches.
As mention on the chapter 1, the projective objectives will be achieved from literature review and research. Based on the above discussion, the research method is selected qualitative research conducts by questionnaire and interview approaches.
The survey of this project will combine questionnaire and interview techniques as the data collection approaches. The questionnaire will investigate the general perspective on using tools and techniques for information management. The interview is enables to identify the main problems of current process of information management.
The questionnaire design is relied on the literature review that gathering information about the project information and its tools and techniques. It is consisted 21 questions which have been classified into five parts. As shown in Appendix 1, the questionnaire is a web-based questionnaire which is allocated in Loughborough University website (http://www-student.lboro.ac.uk/~cvsk5/). Due to the survey is taken in China, the questionnaire have two language visions, Chinese and English which are provided different links from the welcome page.
As the figure 3.3 show, the questionnaire is generated into to 5 parts. The first part (Q01-Q03) relate to the organisation general information. The information involves company's size, specialise in what type of project and their organisational type in order to find out the relationship between companies and their attribution of PIM.
Figure 3.3 Questionnaire and interview context
Part two (Q04-07) is refers to the project information management involves which kinds of information they need to process and what kind of tools they are using in PIM. The aim of this part for determines the use rate of PIM tools in China. In addition, examining how effective of PIM tools and whether or not the using of PIM tools causing any loss in practices. It is aims to detect the satisfaction level of PIM tools in project management process.
Part three (Q08-10) is design to examining the using of CAD in Chinese practices. This part provides a view of CAD application in China. It is relates to what kinds of system and model the respondents processes to. That will refer to the using of BIM in the fourth four. BIM provides ability for linking the 3D models with other project information that 3D model is the priority element of BIM. If respondent did not use BIM in their practices but producing 3D or 4D models in the current practices that provide a techniques foundation for implementing BIM. In addition, Q10 reflect the effect of traditional CAD system in project collaboration.
Part four (Q11-17) is researching the BIM adaptation in China. As reviewed the literature, BIM could consists all project information in a BIM model in order to improve project management. This part will focus on the using of BIM in Chinese practices in order to investigate the implementing situation of BIM.
Finally, the part five (Q18-21) is based on the identified benefits and barriers of BIM in literature review intended to explore the influence factors of using BIM in China. This part proposed to test which are the main factors that influence project participant whether using or not of BIM. As described in literature, BIM implementation rate is still lower. Based on this part, the researcher can identify the main factors for improving BIM implementation in Chinese practices.
However, the main problems of project information management are not easy to identify by a questionnaire. Therefore, employ a semi-structured interview in the surveys which is based on the questionnaire questions to explore more detail about the situation and limitation of information management in Chinese practices. It will be strongly linked to the questionnaire part two and three (figure 3.3).The interview aims to find out how the current practices managing information, how to implement PIM mechanism in Chinese organisation, and what limitations are exists in using the traditional PIM tools.
In order to gaining comprehensive responses from the industry, the sampling design should be carefully considered. Due to information management is relates to the whole project life cycle, the project stakeholder can be simply classified into clients, consultants and contractors. Therefore, the survey uses stratified sampling. The sample selection is complies with these three project participants to do the survey. However, according to China Exploration and Design Association (2009), there are about 30,000 real estate development companies, 14,667 consultant companies and 110,000 contractor companies in China. The population of the target sample is about 150,000 companies.
Due to the time limited and geographic problem, the defined of population for questionnaire survey is 150. It random selected 76 consultant companies from Shenzhen Exploration and Design Association (www.szjs.com), 43 contractor companies from China Construction Industry Association (www.zgjzy.org) and 31project developer from searching on Google.
For interview survey, the research will select two interviewees from consultant and contractor companies. The literature review showed the main processes of project information management are in the design and the construction stages. Architect is the main core of the design stage and project manager in the main core in construction stage, thus, inviting them in the interview to investigate the main problem of information management in projects.
Based on reviewed different research methods and discuss the adopted research methods in the context of project objectives. The four objectives are achieved by literature review and survey. The survey is selected qualitative research method, conducts with survey approach, and used questionnaire and interview techniques for data collection.
In addition, the research strategy has been discussed and presented. The aim of questionnaire is gathers general perspective of project information management and its potential tool - BIM in Chinese practices. The proposed of interview is design for gaining more depth data about the project information management in current Chinese practices.