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Bryman & Bell, Business Research Methods , 2 nd edition, Chapter 3. Planning a research project and formulating research questions.

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Bryman & Bell, Business Research Methods , 2 nd edition, Chapter 3


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    1. Bryman & Bell, Business Research Methods, 2nd edition, Chapter 3 Planning a research project and formulating research questions ‘We have in mind here the kind of situation that is increasingly common among business and management degree programmes - the requirement to write a dissertation of around 10,000 to 15,000 words’. Authored by David McHugh

    2. Get to know what is expected of you by your institution Start thinking about your research early on Identify your research questions Use your supervisor Manage your time and resources Search the existing literature Prepare for your research Analyse your results Write up your research Advice on Conducting a Small-scale Research Project Authored by David McHugh

    3. Get To Know What Is Expected of You by Your Institution • Your institution or department will have specific requirements concerning your dissertation such as: • the form of binding • how it is to be presented • whether an abstract is required • how big the page margins should be • the format for referencing • number of words • the structure of the dissertation • how much advice you can get from your supervisor • warnings/ advice on plagiarism • deadlines • how much (if any) financial assistance you can expect • The advice here is simple: • follow the requirements, instructions, and information you are given. If anything in this advice conflicts with your institution’s guidelines and requirements, ignore this advice! Authored by David McHugh

    4. Start Thinking About Your Research Area Early on • The chances are that you will be asked to start thinking about what you want to do research on well before you are due to start work on your dissertation. • It is worth giving yourself a good deal of time: • as you are doing your various modules, begin to think about whether there are any topics that might interest you and that might provide you with a researchable area • this may at times feel like a rather unproductive process in which a number of false starts or changes of direction are made • however, taking the time to explore different avenues at the point of problem identification can prevent difficulties at a much later stage Authored by David McHugh

    5. What? Why? What puzzles /intrigues me! What do I want to know more about/understand better? What are my key research questions? Why will this be of enough interest to others to be published as a thesis, book, paper, guide to practitioners or policy makers? Can the research be justified as a 'contribution to knowledge'? How – conceptually? How – practically? What models, concepts and theories can I draw on/develop to answer my research questions! How can these be brought together into a basic conceptual framework to guide my investigation? What investigative styles and techniques shall I use to apply my conceptual framework (both to gather material and analyse it)? How shall I gain and maintain access to information sources? A ‘What, Why, and How’ Framework for Crafting Research Watson (1994b: S80), see Figure 3.3 Authored by David McHugh

    6. Intellectual puzzles and contradictions The existing literature Replication Structures and functions Opposition A social problem The counter-intuitive Deviant cases and atypical events New methods and theories Social and technical developments and trends Personal experience Sponsors and teachers Marx’s Sources of Research Questions see Thinking deeper 3.1 for more  Authored by David McHugh

    7. Using Your Supervisor • Use your supervisor to the fullest extent that you are allowed and follow the pointers you are given by them • If your supervisor is critical of your research questions, your interview schedule, drafts of your dissertation, or whatever, try to respond positively: • follow the suggestions that they provide, since criticisms will invariably be accompanied by reasons for them and suggestions for revision, it is not a personal attack • supervisors regularly go through the same process themselves when they submit an article to a journal, apply for a research grant or give a conference paper • Students who get stuck in their dissertations or who get behind with their work sometimes respond by avoiding their supervisors: • they then get caught up in a vicious circle that results in their work being neglected and perhaps rushed at the end • try to avoid this situation by confronting the fact that you are experiencing difficulties in getting going or are getting behind and seek out your supervisor for advice Authored by David McHugh

    8. Managing Time and Resources All research is constrained by time and resources: • Work out a timetable, preferably in conjunction with your supervisor • Detail the stages of your research • E.g. the literature review, piloting instruments and writing-up • Some stages are ongoing, e.g. searching the literature for new references • Find out what, if any, resources your institution can put at your disposal for carrying out your research, e.g. : • travel costs, photocopying, secretarial assistance, postage, stationery • hardware such as tape recorders and transcription machines • software, such as SPSS or NVivo Authored by David McHugh

    9. Looking for Business Information in Online Databases You will need to find out whether your institution can give you a user name and password to gain access to databases such as: • ABI/INFORMGlobal (proquest.umi.com/pqdweb)provides business information from a wide range of international periodicals and reports, can be searched by keyword or by using BROWSE LISTS or TOPIC FINDER to search for relevant articles by subject • Business Source Premier (http://search.epnet.com)provides comprehensive full text access to certain key business and management journals including Harvard Business Review and Academy of Management Review, as well as indexing and abstracts for over 3,000 business journals • Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI at isiknowledge.com) which fully indexes over 1,700 major social science journals covering all social science disciplines dating back to 1981 (SSCI does not provide full text access to journals but does provide references, abstracts book reviews and editorial material) Authored by David McHugh

    10. Introductory Guidelines for Searching SSCI • Click on the WoS (Web of Science) button in the centre of the screen • After logging in you will be asked to choose between Advanced Search and General Search • unless you are very unfamiliar with using the Internet, the former is likely to be preferable • Once you have done this, Social Sciences Citation Index • at this point, you can also narrow down your search to specific years, If not your search will cover all years from 1981 • To activate your search, GENERAL SEARCH. • the General Search window will then open • If you are searching for references on a particular topic, insert the key word(s) in TOPIC and then SEARCH Authored by David McHugh

    11. Other Online Sources • Books: • www.amazon.com • www.amazon.co.uk • www.bookshop.co.uk • COPACcontains the holdings of twenty-two of the largest university research libraries plus the British Library at www.copac.ac.uk/copac • General Market Information Database (GMID)contains marketing profiles, consumer market sizing for fifty-two countries, consumer lifestyle reports, data for over 200 countries, market forecasts to 2012, and information about 100,000 brands and 12,000 companies • Mintelprovides comprehensive market research reports on the UK retail and leisure sectors and conducts its own market research • Reuters Business Insight provides access to hundreds of market research reports focused on: energy, consumer goods, finance, health care, and technology Authored by David McHugh

    12. Developing Keywords • To identify suitable references in online databases, you need to work out keywords to enter into the search engine • Business dictionaries can help you to define your area of research and identify changes in the language used to describe the subject: • Collins Dictionary of Business, 2nd edition (1995) • TheIEBM Dictionary of Business and Management(1999) • e.g., the term ‘personnel management’ has now been largely superseded by ‘HRM’ and ‘payment systems’ are now more widely referred to as ‘reward management’ • You will also need to think of synonyms and try to match your language to that of the source you are searching • e.g., performance management may be referred to in practitioner publications as ‘employee evaluation’ or ‘appraisal’ Authored by David McHugh

    13. Practical Tip - Reasons for Writing a Literature Review • You need to know what is already known in connection with your research area because you do not want to be accused of reinventing the wheel. • You can learn from other researchers’ mistakes and avoid making the same ones. • You can learn about different theoretical and methodological approaches to your research area. • It may help you to develop an analytic framework. • It may lead you to consider the inclusion of variables in your research that you might not otherwise have thought about. • It may suggest further research questions for you. • It will help with the interpretation of your findings. • It gives you some pegs on which to hang your findings. • It is expected! Authored by David McHugh

    14. Issuesto Identify in the Existing Literature • What is already known about this area? • What concepts and theories are relevant to this area? • What research methods and research strategies have been employed in studying this area? • Are there any significant controversies? • Are there any inconsistencies in findings relating to this area? • Are there any unanswered research questions in this area? Authored by David McHugh

    15. Reading the Existing Literature • Start with references in bibliographies from books and journal articles • In some areas of research, there are very many references • try to identify the major ones and work outwards from there • Take good notes, including the details of the material you read • it is infuriating to find that you forgot to record the volume number of an article you need to include in your Bibliography • You will be able to revise and refine your research questions in the process of reviewing the literature • A competent review of the literature can affirm your credibility as someone who is knowledgeable in your chosen area Authored by David McHugh

    16. Developing Critical Reading Skills • Your literature review should be critical rather than merely descriptive, so it is worth recording relevant critical points as you take notes • Developing a critical approach is not necessarily one of simply criticizing the work of others • It entails moving beyond mere description and asking questions about the significance of the work: • How does the item relate to others you have read? • Are there any apparent strengths and deficiencies - perhaps in terms of methodology or in terms of the credibility of the conclusions drawn? • What theoretical ideas have influenced the item? Authored by David McHugh

    17. Preparing for Your Research • Do not begin your data collection until you have identified your research questions reasonably clearly • Develop your data collection instruments with these research questions at the forefront of your thinking • If you do not do this, there is the risk that your results will not allow you to illuminate the research questions • If at all possible, conduct a pilot study to determine how well your research instruments work Authored by David McHugh

    18. Access and Sampling Issues • Who do you need to study in order to investigate your research questions? • How easily can you gain access to a sampling frame? • you need to confirm at the earliest opportunity that you have the necessary permission to conduct your work • What kind of sampling strategy will you employ? • e.g. probability sampling, quota sampling, theoretical sampling, convenience sampling • Can you justify your choice of sampling method? Authored by David McHugh

    19. Using a Case-study Design • You will almost certainly need to find out more about the organization that you intend to investigate: • what is its financial position? • has it been in the news recently? • where are its premises? • what market conditions does it face? • Web sources for background information : • Newspapers such as the Financial Times • www.companieshouse.gov.uk (company accounts) • www.newslink.org (collection of links to countries and then to newspapers) Authored by David McHugh

    20. Ethical Problems • While preparing for your data collection you should consider whether there are any possible ethical problems associated with: • your research methods • your approach to contacting people • Considering ethical problems in advance and showing how you intend to deal with them is a good way of demonstrating your understanding of the research process to your audience • The most straightforward approach here is to use a checklist of ethical issues such as that in Chapter 5 Authored by David McHugh

    21. Doing Your Research and Analysing Your Results • Keep good records of what you do, e.g. : • if doing a survey, keep good records of who has replied, so that you know who should be sent reminders • If doing participant observation, remember to keep good field notes and not to rely on your memory • Make sure that you are thoroughly familiar with any hardware you are using in collecting your data, such as tape recorders for interviewing, and make sure it is in good working order • Do not wait until all your data have been collected to begin coding • Remember that the transcription of tapes with recorded interviews takes a long time • Become familiar with any data analysis packages as soon as possible Authored by David McHugh

    22. Writing up Your Research • Start early • Be persuasive • you must convince your readers of the credibility of your conclusions • Get feedback • try to get as much feedback on your writing as possible and respond positively to the points anyone makes about what they read • provide your supervisor with drafts of your work to the fullest extent that regulations will allow • Avoid sexist, racist, and disablist language • Structure your writing Authored by David McHugh

    23. Practical Tip - Non-sexist Writing One of the biggest problems (but not the only one) of non-sexist writing is in avoiding complex his/her formulations. The easiest way to deal with this is to write in the plural, e.g. : • ‘I wanted to give each respondent the opportunity to complete the questionnaire in his or her own time and in a location that was convenient for him or her.’ This is a rather tortuous sentence and, although grammatically correct, it could be phrased more helpfully as: • ‘I wanted to give respondents the opportunity to complete their questionnaires in their own time and at a time that was convenient for them.’ The British Sociological Association provides very good general and specific advice about this issue, which can be found at: • www.britsoc.co.uk • See the section on Professional Standards Authored by David McHugh

    24. Title page Acknowledgements List of contents An abstract Introduction Literature review Research methods Results Discussion Conclusion Appendices References Possible Structure of a Dissertation Authored by David McHugh

    25. Abstracts • An abstract is a brief summary of your dissertation • Not all institutions require this component, so check on whether it is required and any guidelines on what is required • Journal articles usually have abstracts, so you can draw on these for guidance on how to approach this task • Abstracts in modern journals (especially e-journals) are often accompanied by keywords which can act as a useful guide in constructing searches for your literature review Authored by David McHugh

    26. Introduction • You should explain what you are writing about and why it is important - simply saying that it interests you because of a long-standing personal interest is not enough • You might indicate in general terms the theoretical approach or perspective you will be using and why • You should outline your research questions and/or objectives: • with qualitative research, it is likely that your research questions will be rather more open-ended than with quantitative research. Totally open-ended research is risky and can lead to the collection of too much data, and a lack of focus, when it comes to writing up • The opening sentence or sentences are often the most difficult of all: • Becker (1986) advises strongly against opening sentences that he describes as ‘vacuous’ and ‘evasive’. He gives the example of ‘This study deals with the problem of careers’, it is much better to give readers a quick and clear indication of what is going to be meted out to them and where it is going Authored by David McHugh

    27. Literature review Review the main ideas and research relating to your area of interest. However, you should do more than simply summarize the relevant literature: • you should, where appropriate, be critical in your approach • you should use your review of the literature as a means of showing why your research questions are important • bear in mind that you will want to return to the literature you examine in the discussion of your findings and conclusion • do not try to get everything you read into a literature review. Trying to force everything you have read into your review (because of all the hard work involved in uncovering and reading the material) is not going to help you • bear in mind that you not should stop reading the literature once you begin designing your research Thinking deeper 4.1 Authored by David McHugh

    28. Presenting the Literature in Articles Based on Qualitative Research on Organizations • Golden-Biddle and Locke (1993, 1997) argue that good articles in this area develop a story - that is, a clear and compelling framework around which the writing is structured • They distinguish two processes in the ways that the literature is conveyed: • Constructing intertextual coherence • Problematizing the situation {see following slides • The key point about this account of the way the literature is construed is that it is used by writers to : • demonstrate their competence by referring to prominent writings in the field (Gilbert 1977) • develop their version of the literature in such a way to show and to lead up to the contribution they will be making in the article • ensure that the gap or problem in the literature that is identified corresponds to the research questions Thinking deeper 4.1 Authored by David McHugh

    29. Constructing Intertextual Coherence • This refers to the way in which existing knowledge is represented and organized • The author shows how contributions to the literature relate to each other and the research reported. The techniques used are: • Synthesized coherence - puts together work that is generally considered unrelated; theory and research previously regarded as unconnected are pieced together. There are two prominent forms: • the organization of very incompatible references (bits and pieces) • connections forged between established theories or research programmes • Progressive coherence- portrays the building up of an area of knowledge around which there is considerable consensus • Non-coherence - recognition that there have been many contributions to a certain research programme, but there is considerable disagreement among practitioners Authored by David McHugh

    30. Problematizing the Situation The literature is subverted by locating a problem. The following techniques were identified: • Incomplete - the existing literature is not fully complete; there is a gap • Inadequate - the existing literature on the phenomenon of interest has overlooked ways of looking at it that can greatly improve our understanding of it; alternative perspectives or frameworks can then be introduced • Incommensurate - argues for an alternative perspective that is superior to the literature as it stands; differs from ‘inadequate problematization’ because it portrays the existing literature as ‘wrong, misguided, or incorrect’ (Golden-Biddle and Locke 1997: 43) Authored by David McHugh

    31. Research Methods ‘Research methods’ is used here as a catch-all for issues you need to outline, such as: • your research design and sampling approach • how access was achieved (if relevant) • the procedures you used (e.g., following up non-respondents with a postal questionnaire) • the nature of your questionnaire, interview or observation schedule, participant observation role, coding frame, etc. (these may appear in an appendix, but you should comment on why you did what you did) • problems of non-response • note taking • issues of ongoing access and cooperation • coding matters and how you proceeded with your analysis When discussing each of these issues, you should describe and defend the choices that you made, e.g. : • why you used a postal questionnaire rather than a structured interview • why you focused upon that particular population for sampling purposes Authored by David McHugh

    32. Results • Whichever approach you take, try not to present and discuss all of your results, only include findings relating to your research questions • Do not just summarize what a table shows. You should point to salient aspects of the tables, graphs, or other forms of analysis you present from the point of view of your research questions • Avoid simply presenting graphs, tables or sections of the transcript of a semi-structured interview or focus group session without any comment whatsoever, because the reader is left wondering why you think the finding is important Authored by David McHugh

    33. Results cont’d • It is good idea to vary the method of presenting quantitative findings, e.g., provide a mixture of diagrams and tables • A particular problem with qualitative research is that students find it difficult to leave out large parts of their data. 'Be selective and select only those sections that relate directly to your research questions • If writing a thesis, e.g. for an M.Phil. or Ph.D., you may have more than one chapter (possibly several) presenting your results. Cryer (1996) recommends showing the particular issues being examined at the beginning of each chapter Authored by David McHugh

    34. Discussion • Reflect on the implications of your findings for the research questions that have driven your research; in other words, how do your results illuminate your research questions? • If, like Coyle-Shapiro and Kessler (2000), you have specified hypotheses, the discussion will address whether the hypotheses have been confirmed or not - if not, you might speculate about possible reasons for, and the implications of, their refutation • In the case of Perlow’s (1999) article, section 6 acts as a discussion section, the author bringing out the main theoretical contribution of her research - the idea of the ‘vicious work–time cycle’ - and exploring its implications Authored by David McHugh

    35. Conclusion • A Conclusion is not the same as a summary: • however, it is useful to bring out your argument thus far, relating your findings and discussion to your research questions and hammering home to your readers the significance of what you have done • You :- • should clarify the implications of your findings for your research questions • might suggest ways in which your findings have implications for theories relating to your area of interest • might suggest ways in which your findings have implications for practice in the field of business and management Authored by David McHugh

    36. Conclusion cont’d • With the benefit of hindsight you might draw attention to any limitations of your research: • it is probably best not to overdo this element and provide examiners with too much ammunition that might be used against you! • It is often valuable to propose areas of further research that are suggested by your findings: • but avoid engaging in speculations that take you too far away from your data, or that cannot be substantiated by the data, and introducing issues or ideas that have not previously been brought up Authored by David McHugh

    37. Appendices, References and Obligations • Appendices • in your appendices you might include such things as your questionnaire, coding frame, or observation schedule, letters sent to sample members and letters to and from gatekeepers where the cooperation of an organization was required • References • include all references cited in the text; you should follow whichever format is prescribed by your department. Nowadays, the format is usually a variation of the Harvard method, such as the one employed for this book • Obligations • remember to fulfil any obligations you entered into, such as supplying a copy of, or report on, your dissertation if your access was predicated on providing one and maintaining the confidentiality of information supplied and the anonymity of your informants and other research participants Authored by David McHugh

    38. Checklist of Issues to Consider for Writing up a Piece of Research I • Have you clearly specified your research questions? • Have you clearly indicated how the literature you have read relates to your research questions? • Is your discussion of the literature critical and organized so that it is not just a summary of what you have read? • Have you clearly outlined your research design and your research methods, including: • why you chose a particular research design? • why you chose a particular research method? • how you selected your research participants? • whether there were any issues to do with cooperation (e.g. response rates)? Authored by David McHugh

    39. Checklist of Issues to Consider for Writing up a Piece of Research II • …including: • why you implemented your research in a particular way (e.g. how the interview questions relate to your research questions, why you observed participants in particular situations, why your focus group guide asked the questions in a particular way and order)? • if your research required access to an organization, how and on what basis agreement for access was forthcoming? • steps you took to ensure that your research was ethically responsible? • how you analysed your data? • any difficulties you encountered in the implementation of your research approach? Authored by David McHugh

    40. Checklist of Issues to Consider for Writing up a Piece of Research III • Have you presented your data in a manner that relates to your research questions? • Does your discussion of your findings show how they relate to your research questions? • Does your discussion of your findings show how they shed light on the literature that you presented? • Are the interpretations of your data that you offer fully supported with tables, figures, or segments from transcripts? • If you have presented tables and/or figures, are they properly labelled with a title and number? • If you have presented tables and/or figures, are they commented upon in your discussion? Authored by David McHugh

    41. Checklist of Issues to Consider for Writing up a Piece of Research IV • Do your conclusions clearly allow the reader to establish what your research contributes to the literature? • Have you explained the limitations of your study? • Do your conclusions consist solely of a summary of your findings? If they do, rewrite them! • Do your conclusions make clear the answers to your research questions? • Does your presentation of the findings and the discussion allow a clear argument and narrative to be presented to the reader? • Have you broken up the text in each chapter with appropriate subheadings? • Does your writing avoid sexist, racist, and disablist language? Authored by David McHugh

    42. Checklist of Issues to Consider for Writing up a Piece of Research V • Have you included all appendices that you might need to provide (e.g. interview schedule, letters requesting access, communications with research participants)? • Have you checked that your list of references includes all the items referred to in your text? • Have you checked that your list of references follows precisely the style that your institution requires? • Have you followed your supervisor’s suggestions when he or she has commented on your draft chapters? • Have you got people other than your supervisor to read your draft chapters for you? • Have you checked to ensure that there is not excessive use of jargon? • Do you provide clear signposts in the course of writing, so that readers are clear about what to expect next and why it is there? Authored by David McHugh

    43. Checklist of Issues to Consider for Writing up a Piece of Research VI • Have you ensured that your institution’s requirements for submitting projects are fully met in terms of such issues as word length (so that it is neither too long nor too short) and whether an abstract and table of contents are required? • Have you ensured that you do not quote excessively when presenting the literature? • Have you fully acknowledged the work of others so that you cannot be accused of plagiarism? • Is there a good correspondence between the title of your project and its contents? • Have you acknowledged the help of others where this is appropriate (e.g. your supervisor, people who may have helped with interviews, people who read your drafts)? Authored by David McHugh