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RESEARCH METHODOLOGY. (Business Research Methods). Week 4. Business Research Problems. When analyzing business problems, three things must be considered: Managers and decision-makers have total certainty about the underlying problem situation (rare in practice)

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research methodology

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

(Business Research Methods)

Week 4

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

business research problems
Business Research Problems

When analyzing business problems, three things must be

considered:

  • Managers and decision-makers have total certainty about the underlying problem situation (rare in practice)
  • Managers and decision-makers have little or no information about the problem situation on which to proceed on and the objectives and alternatives are either not, or are very vaguely defined (extreme cases)
  • Managers and decision-makers grasp the general nature of the objectives they desire to realize, but lack sufficient information on the nature of the underlying business problem situation

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition
The Problem Definition

Before descriptive, quantitative research is undertaken, it is essential that there is an insight into the underlying business problem situation, otherwise, invalid conclusions can result which be worthless at best and potentially damaging to the organization in the worst case

After a problem has been “discovered”, it must be “defined” so that the objectives of the research are clear and realizable

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process
The Problem Definition Process

The problem definition process involves the following

interrelated steps:

  • Ascertaining the decision-maker’s objectives
  • Understanding the problem background
  • Isolating and identifying the problem (not the symptoms)
  • Determining the unit of analysis
  • Determining the relevant variables
  • Stating the research questions (hypotheses) and research objectives

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process ascertaining the decision maker s objectives
The Problem Definition Process:Ascertaining the Decision-Maker’s Objectives
  • The objectives should be stated to the researcher in clear and measurable terms
  • In practice many managers are not able to clearly articulate research objectives
  • Problem of lack of sufficient and important information on the underlying business problem and consequently on the formulation of research objectives

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process understanding the problem background
The Problem Definition Process:Understanding the Problem Background
  • In cases where adequate information on a problem situation is available, managers can play an important role by helping researchers gain insight
  • In cases where adequate information on a problem situation is not available, a situation analysis should first be undertaken with a view to familiarizing both managers and decision-makers with the decision area and related organizational, environmental and other aspects. This is usually done using exploratory research

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process isolating and identifying the problem
The Problem Definition Process:Isolating and Identifying the Problem
  • Sometimes the “problem” identified is only the symptom!
  • Differentiating symptoms from problems is not an easy undertaking and often requires extensive exploratory research and the gathering of background information
  • Expert judgment and creativity must be excercized

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process isolating and identifying the problem example
The Problem Definition Process:Isolating and Identifying the Problem (Example)

Organization – Neighbourhood swimming association in a medium-

sized city

Symptoms – Declining membership observed for years and a new

recreational park with swimming facilities opened in the city some years

back

Problem Definition (Symptom-based) – Residents prefer the

recreational park’s swimming facilities

True Problem – Demographic changes have resulted in fewer younger

people interested in using the neighbourhood swimming association

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process determining the unit of analysis
The Problem Definition Process:Determining the Unit of Analysis

Who are the desired research subjects?

  • Whole Organization
  • Departments
  • Work Groups
  • Individual Employees

Research problems can sometimes be analyzed using

more than one unit of analysis

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process determining the relevant variables
The Problem Definition Process:Determining the Relevant Variables

All key variables should be identified in the problem definition

Stage. Variables can be classified as being:

  • Continuous – They have an infinite number of possible values (e.g. sales volume)
  • Categorical – They can have a limited number of distinct values (e.g. gender)
  • Dependent – They are to be predicted or explained (e.g. hourly wage rate)
  • Independent – They influence dependant variables (e.g. years of work experience)

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process research questions hypotheses and objectives 1
The Problem Definition Process:Research Questions (Hypotheses) and Objectives (1)

Problem definition efforts result in statements of research

questions and research objectives. These add clarity to the

research undertaking and gives managers, researchers and

all others concerned an understanding of the approach being

used

Research questions should be as specific as possible and be

answered with the aid of hypotheses which, by definition, are

empirically testable

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the problem definition process research questions hypotheses and objectives 2
The Problem Definition Process:Research Questions (Hypotheses) and Objectives (2)

Research objectives explain the purpose of the research in

measurable terms and define standards of what the research

should accomplish

Research objectives indicate the information needed by a

manager to make a decision

See Exhibit 6.4 in Zikmund’s book Business Research

Methods on p. 100

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the research proposal
The Research Proposal

The research proposal is:

  • A written statement of the research design
  • Includes an explanation of the research study’s purpose and the problem definition
  • Outlines the research methodology and procedures that will be utilized throughout the research study
  • Includes information on cost and deadlines

Research proposals must be as specific and clear as possible about

what is to be achieved and how it is to be achieved. Questionnaires

and other supporting documents should be attached for reference

For an example of a research proposal, see Zikmund’s

book on Business Research Methods, p. 105

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

a note on exploratory research
A Note on Exploratory Research
  • Exploratory research is a means for acquiring a deeper and hence more useful understanding of a business or management problem
  • Exploratory research does not intend to answer research questions conclusively, rather, it is a preliminary step towards undertaking more substantive research
  • Exploratory research usually provides qualitative data, not quantitative data
  • Exploratory research has serious limitations which cannot be overlooked or ignored by any serious researcher. It is subjective and harbours two dangers: (1) A promising idea may be rejected because exploratory data shows it to be ‘undesirable’ and (2) ideas which appear promising in the exploratory stage may be accepted without undertaking further research to establish their desirability

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

the purposes of exploratory research
The Purposes of Exploratory Research
  • Situation Diagnosis – Analyze the dimensions of the research problem and set the stage for subsequent research and priorities

Example: What are current important issues of employee concern or what are the possible explanations for decreasing employee motivation?

  • Screening – Exploratory research is used to select the best possible alternatives given the existence of constraints such as budget limitations
  • Discovering New Ideas – Through its techniques, exploratory research can help generate new, previously unthought of ideas which may interest managers
  • Example: Employees suggest convenient ways of increasing factory production or propose new products and services

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 1
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (1)

Concept Testing – This is about testing something that is being used as a proxy for a new (or modified) product, service or program

  • Test persons are usually presented with a stimulus or description of an idea and are asked if they like it, would use it etc.
  • Concept testing can help an organization conserve resources by not wasting them on schemes shown to be unpopular through concept testing

Example: The Del Monte corporation used concept testing to determine whether consumers would be interested in purchasing unrefrigerated, shelf-stable yoghurt

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 2
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (2)

Experience Surveys – Conversation or interviews with knowledgeable persons and experts, inside or outside the organization, who have some previous experience with the problem area in question

Secondary Data Analysis – Analysis of already existing data and literature on a similar problem field can yield clues and interesting background information on the problem field under study

Example: Evaluation of an organization’s training programs - Are comparative studies available for the industry in question?

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 3
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (3)

Case Studies – Using information and experiences gained from a similar problem situation

  • Advantages - An entire organization can be investigated in detail and considerable information can be obtained from interviewees
  • Disadvantages - Potential difficulty in acquiring the cooperation of, and information from, the person or organization under study, and also because generalizing can be counterproductive. Moreover, to gain the maximum benefit from case studies requires very alert, creative, flexible, intelligent and motivated interviewers

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 4
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (4)

Pilot Studies – A small-scale research project which uses sampling – without the normally rigorous scientific standards – to generate primary data

The primary data generated from pilot studies are collected from specific groups (e.g. employees, consumers, students, voters) and not from experts or from a case situation

Major components of pilot studies are focus group interviews, projective techniques and depth studies

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 5
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (5)

Focus Group Interviews – This is an unstructured, free-flowing interview with a small group of usually six to ten persons, and presided over by a moderator or interviewer

Focus group interviews are not a question-and-answer session, rather the group members discuss a topic in some detail in an open and candid manner

Focus Group Interviews allow group members to express their true feelings, anxieties, and frustrations, and to express the depth of their convictions in their own words

Focus group interviews help in screening and refining concepts

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 6
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (6)

Focus Group Interview Advantages – Flexible, brief, easy to execute, quickly analyzed, inexpensive, useful insights can be gained, responses which normally wouldn’t come out in a survey come out in a focus group interview

Focus Group Interview Disadvantages – small discussion group is not “representative”, one or a few individuals may dominate the discussion to the exclusion of others, confusion may arise and arguments may erupt if group too heterogenous, moderator may not be sufficiently trained

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 7
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (7)

Projective Techniques – The purpose of this is to discover an individual’s attitudes, motivations and ways of responding

Projective techniques function on the assumption that an individual will give accurate answer if they ‘project’ their answers onto a third party, inanimate object or task situation. Projecting onto someone or something else often overcomes feelings of shyness or embarrassment which come into play if an individual is asked a question directly in relation to him or herself

Common projective techniques include the word association test, sentence completion, the third person technique and thematic apperception test

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 8
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (8)

Word Association Test – A research subject is presented with a least of words, one at a time, and asked to respond to each word with the first word that comes to mind. Both the verbal response and subject’s hesitation in responding are recorded. Subject has little time to think for alternatives when presented with a word and this creates spontaneous answers

Sentence Completion – This technique requires that research subjects complete partial sentences with the first word or phrase that comes to their minds

The Third-Person Technique – Research subjects are asked about the opinions of third persons in regard to other persons, events and concepts (see also role-playing)

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan

tools and techniques of exploratory research 9
Tools and Techniques of Exploratory Research (9)

Thematic Apperception Test – Uses a pictorial representation in which the research topic is featured. Research subjects are asked to tell what is happening in the picture and what the people in it may do next

Depth Interview – Intensive and probing questioning of a research subject in an open and candid atmosphere on a specific topic. Requires highly skilled interviewer and subjective interpretation of the data

MBA III (Research Methodology) Course Instructor: Dr. Aurangzeb Z. Khan