MSc Research Methods Week 3

Note: this post is aimed as a memory mnemonic for me not you (I’m studying an MSc in Digital Marketing )

This week is all about Methodology and how you plan to gather your data:

  • Research Design
  • Data Collection Methods Sampling
  • Questionnaire Design

The research methodology chapter is a balance between the awareness of the various methods available and the justification for using certain methods

Generally there are 9 sections to a Methodology chapter:

1/ Research Philosophy e.g. positivist/interpretive

2/ Research Design – outlines whether your research will be exploratory or conclusive in nature

3/ Research Strategy – Outlies whether qualitative, quantitative or multi-methods will be used in the research. Explains issues relating to secondary research.

4/ Data collection Methods – outlines the use of Research Instrument. Ethical Considerations.

5/ Measurement and scaling procedures – outlines the use of measurement and scaling used within the questionnaire.

6/ The pilot survey – outlines issues relating to the testing of the research instrument

7/ The Sampling Process – Outlines the sampling process, sampling population; sample size; whether probability or non-probability sampling methods have been employed

8/ Methods of Analysis – Outlines the methods of analysis employed within the study

9/ Research Limitations – The various limitations of your research; size, time, sampling, etc

Research Philosophy

Research philosophy is an over-arching term relating to the development of knowledge and the nature of that knowledge

Ontology – Ontology describes our view (whether claims or assumptions) on the nature of reality, and especially, is this an objective reality that really exists, or only a subjective reality, created in our minds. Hatch and Cunliffe

This leads us to questions of Epistemology.

Epistemology considers views about the most appropriate ways of enquiring into the nature of the world (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson, 2008)

There are 2 main Research Philosophies used in Business Research = Positivism and Interpretive

1/ Positivism

…lies in the main assumption that behaviour is predictable, rational and understandable and that people are much alike

Postulates a “real” and apprehendable reality, driven by laws.

“If you can measure it you can understand it”

Scientists look for general patterns to turn into theories or laws.

They want to identify general principles of behaviour.

Often about testing theory and about analysing data and often uses a deductive design.

2/ Interpretivism

Based on understanding and interpretation.

Proponents of this perspective argue that there is too much emphasis on science and technology in our society, and that this ordered, rational view of behaviour denies the complex social and cultural world that we live in.

The assumption is that reality is not objective, single but rather socially constructed, multiple and holistic (Ozanne and Hudson, 1989).

Very often the data is focused on less than the quality.

Normally uses an inductive research design.

3/ There is somewhere in the middle that is called Realism though

Born from a frustration that positivism was over-deterministic (in that there is little room for choice due to the casual nature of universal laws) and that Interpretivism was so totally relativist (and hence highly contextual). So sometimes you can mix both together or use at different times.

Induction Vs Deduction

Deductive Reasoning = Theory – Hypotheses – Test – Confirmation. Basically where you start with a theory of A = B and then test that from a positivist philosophy.

Inductive Reasoning = Observation – Patterns – Tentative Hypothesis – Theory

Research Design

You need to state which research design your research will use (Exploratory, Descriptive, Causal).

Then you need to show awareness of the different research approaches (secondary/primary).

The finally primary research strategies (Qualitative/Quantitative) need to be discussed, showing an awareness of each paradigm and your choice and justification.

research designs

Exploratory Research

Basically helps you generate the hypotheses. E.g. Why?

Exploratory research is a type of research conducted because a problem has not been clearly defined

Exploratory research helps determine the best research design, data collection methods and selection of subjects

Exploratory research often relies on secondary data such as reviewing available literature and/or data, or qualitative approaches such as informal discussions and more formal approaches through in-depth interviews, focus groups and projective methods.

Descriptive Research

Basically helps you test the hypotheses. E.g How Large?

Descriptive research, also known as statistical research, describes data and characteristics about the population being studied

Descriptive research answers the questions who, what, where, when and how

Although the data description is factual, accurate and systematic, the research cannot describe what caused a situation

Causal Research

Basically helps you test the hypotheses and establish statistical relationships between variables. E.g Degree of impact?

The basic point of an experiment is to change the levels of one or more X variables and examine the resulting impact on Y variables

Normally conducted after exploratory and descriptive research studies

Causation is often tested through experimentation

Difficult to use in business research

Best to stay with exploratory or descriptive or both

Choice of Research Strategy

Basically divides down into Secondary (published data) and primary (Quant and Qual) research

Quantitative Research

About how many / quantifying and often about numeric analysis and gathering data

About facts and causes and not so much about being subjective

Main methods: surveys and experiments

Qualitative Research

Very exploratory and about providing insight and understanding (exploring beneath the surface)

Often with a small sample size

Why do people think in certain ways?

Main Methods: Group discussions and depth interviews

Research Choices

Using Qualitative research only:

Qualitative research

Using Quantitative research only:

Quantitative research

Using a Mixed Method Approach:

mixed methods

Remember that the research design should directly relate to your research objectives.

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