Research Methodology Researcher
This chapter draws a picture about the manner in which this research has been conducted. The aim of the methodology in this research is to portrait the research methods chosen by the researcher in this research. The basic assumptions about the research methodology and methods are reviewed and justified here with the support of relevant literature. Research Methodology includes the elements; research design, research philosophy, research approach, research strategy, research hypothesis, sample design, sampling techniques, data collection methods as well as the validity and limitations of the study.
The research design is the blueprint for fulfilling objectives and answering questions, (Cooper and Schindler, 2008). They further states that, selection of the research design is the most complicated step; because a large variety of methods, techniques, procedures, protocols and sampling plans are available.
Bryman and Bell (2007), advocates that, research design is the element which provides the framework for the collection and analysis of data.
In the this research study, the researcher made a brief discussion about the research problem, thesis statement, research question, research objectives and research hypotheses before proceeding any further with research process.
Saunders et al (2007) provided the attributes of a good research topic as mentioned below;
- The topic should be a point of attraction.
- The researcher should need the necessary research skills to develop the project within the time frame.
- The research topic should achievable within the time.
- The project should be related to a contemporary idea.
- The research topic should be cost effective related to the available financial resources.
- Should have an easy access to the relevant data.
The researcher has selected the following topic for the research study:
The impact of the operation strategies adopted in the foreign ethnic food market in retaining the market share”.
(A study based on the Indian ethnical food grocery market in Dublin).
Saunders et al (2007) state that one of the key criteria of the research success will be whether there is a set of clear conclusions drawn from the data that has been collected. Hence the criteria put forward by Saunders et al (2007) has been taken into consideration and the following research questions are structured.
What are the key strategic policies adopted by the management of XYZ retail group?”
Do the strategic policies adopted by the management of XYZ retail group help in retaining the market share?”
Saunders et al (2007), states that research objectives are more generally acceptable to the research community as evidence of the researcher's clear sense of purpose and direction. They suggest that, the objectives should be specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Following these criteria, the researcher has formulated the following research objectives:
1. To examine the customers' opinion and perception about the XYZ retail group's strategic policies.
2. To determine the strategic policies implemented by the management of XYZ retail group to retain the market share.
3. To study the relative effect of the strategic policies in customer satisfaction.
Collins and Hussey (2003) states that, hypothesis can be a statement about the relationship between the independent variable and the dependent variable.
According to Cooper and Schindler (2008), a statement about observable phenomena or concept; that may be judged as true or false is known as proposition. And when such a proposition formulated for empirical testing, then it is known as a hypothesis.
Walliman (2005) suggests the important qualities of a hypothesis are;
1. Hypotheses are assertions, not suggestions.
2. Hypotheses are limited in scope.
3. Hypotheses are statements about the relationships between certain variables.
4. Hypotheses contain clear implications for testing the relationships.
5. Hypotheses are compatible with current knowledge.
6. Hypotheses are expressed as economically as possible using correct terminology.
The research mainly focuses on the impact of the strategic policies adopted in the XYZ Retail group; in retaining the market share. For the better progressing of the research, the hypothesis is formulated as follows:
The strategic policies adopted in XYZ retail group have a positive correlation with the market share retention.”
The Research Philosophy
Research philosophy related to the development of knowledge and the nature of that knowledge. Research philosophy contains the most important assumptions of the researcher and his views. The entire research strategy and research process are framed as per those basic assumptions. The assumptions will be changed according to the influences by the practical considerations.
According to Saunders et al (2007), Research philosophy relates to the development of knowledge and the nature of that knowledge. The research philosophy underpins the research strategy and the methods to choose as part of that strategy.
Saunders et al (2007) opines that, the research methodology starts from the outer layer of the research onion and moves layer by layer towards the main data collection and data analysis as shown in the figure (3.1) below.
Research philosophy further classified by its way of thinking; such as epistemology, ontology and axiology. Besides each of these ways contains important differences which will influence the way in which a researcher thinks about the research process. According to Saunders et al, (2007) Epistemology concerns what constitutes acceptable knowledge in a field of study. There are three research philosophies recognised in the literature - philosophies of positivism, interpretivism and realism. Each of these philosophies provides a distinctive view on the way knowledge is developed. It is important for a research process to clearly establish its research philosophy as it has a significant impact on the methodological framework applied.
Saunders et al (2007) states that the positivist researcher adopts the philosophical stance of the natural scientist; the realist researcher's position is that the knowledge of reality is a result of social conditioning; the interpretivist researcher adopts an empathetic stance by entering the social world of research subjects and understands their world from their point of view.
Alan and Emma (2007) argue that, Positivism is an epistemological position that advocates the application of the methods of the natural sciences to the study of social reality and beyond.
Saunders et al (2007) note that, the further epistemological position which related to scientific enquiry is known as realism. The essence of the theory of realism is that, ‘the reality quite independent of the mind.'
Realism shares two main features with positivism: a belief that the natural and the social sciences can and should apply the same kinds of approach to the collection of data and to explanation, and a commitment to the view that there is an external reality to which scientists direct their attention. (Alan and Emma, 2007)
Realism further divided in to two; direct realism and critical realism. According to Saunders et al (2007), ‘Direct realism says that what you see is what you get': what we experience through our senses portrays the word accurately. On the other hand, the arguments of Critical realism are, what we experience are sensations, the images of the things in the real world, not the things directly.
Saunders et al. (2007), states that interpretivism paradigm is an epistemology that advocates that it is necessary for the researcher to understand differences between humans in our role as social actors. It can be used as a term which is given to a contrasting epistemology to positivism. Interpretivism is taken to denote an alternative to the positivist orthodoxy that has held sway for decades. (Alan and Emma, 2007)
According to Saunders et al. (2007), epistemological realism is a better approach in understanding a research problem in the perspective of a social conditioning. Here the research mainly focuses on the operation strategies adopted by the management and its overall impact to the organization. Hence the study involves customer behavior, customer opinions and views from the management side; it is clear that, the research has a strong social component. Therefore the philosophy of epistemological realism is adopted to undertake this research.
The research approaches are classified in to two as deduction theory and induction theory.
A. Deduction Or Testing Theory
According to Alan Bryman and Emma Bell (2007), deductive theory represents the commonest view of the nature of the relationship between theory and research. Further Alan Bryman and Emma Bell (2007) argue that the researcher, on the basis of what is known about in a particular domain and of theoretical considerations in relation to that domain, deduces a hypothesis (or hypotheses) that must then be subjected to empirical scrutiny.
Cooper and Schindler (2008) define deduction as a form of inference that purports to be conclusive - the conclusion must necessarily follow from the reasons given and these reasons are said to imply the conclusion and represent a proof.
Robson (2002) lists five sequential stages through which deductive research will progress:
- Deducing a hypothesis from the theory.
- Expressing the hypothesis in operational terms, which propose a relationship between two specific concepts or variables.
- Testing this operational hypothesis.
- Examining the specific outcome of the inquiry.
- If necessary, modifying the theory in the light of the findings.
B. Induction Or Building Theory
John Gill et al (2002) states that the logical ordering of induction is the reverse of deduction as it involves moving from the ‘plane' of observation of the empirical world to the construction of explanations and theories about what has been observed.
Saunders et al (2007) list the features that highlight an inductive approach:
- Gaining an understanding of the meanings human attach to events.
- A close understanding of the research context.
- The collection of qualitative data.
- A more flexible structure to permit changes of research emphasis as the research progresses.
- A realisation that the researcher is part of the research process.
- Less concern with the need to generalise.
Hence, in the context of our research, the aim of our research is to find out the impact of the strategic policies in retaining the market share. The information thus collected has been examined deductive.
Alan Bryman and Emma Bell (2007) states that, deductive theory is a common view about the theory suggested and the research. They argue that one can deduct a hypothesis on the basis of the knowledge about a particular field and its theoretical consideration. Application of the theoretical consideration on the empirical findings is the next stage. However empirical findings and the data depends on the applied methodology one decides to select in his/her research (Alan Bryman and Emma Bell, 2007).
This section mainly deals with the research strategies the researcher may employ. Each strategy can be used for exploratory, descriptive and explanatory research (Yin, 2003). The strategies may belong to deductive or inductive. And in the same hand, each strategy has equal importance in the research study.
The choice of the research strategy depends on many factors. They are the nature of the research problem and the theory relevant to the scientific research related to it. Epistemological beliefs and assumptions of the researcher is also an important factor in choosing the strategy (Teresa and William, 1997).
According to Saunders et al (2007), the different research strategies are,
- Case study;
- Action research;
- Grounded theory;
- Ethnography and
- Archival research.
The survey strategy is usually associated with the deductive approach. It is a popular and common strategy in business and management research and is most frequently used to answer who, what, where, how much and how many questions. (Saunders et al, 2007).
According to Bryman and Bell (2003), survey research constitutes a cross-sectional design in relation to which data are collected predominantly by questionnaire or by structured interview on more than one case and at a single point in time in order to collect a body of quantitative or quantifiable data in connection with two or more variables, which are then examined to detect patterns of association.
In addition, Saunders et al. (2007) argues that, the survey strategy allows the researcher to collect quantitative data, so that the researcher can analyse quantitatively using descriptive and inferential statistics. The data collected using this strategy can be used to suggest possible reasons for particular relationships between variables and to produce models of these relationships.
According to Saunders et al (2007), time horizon is an important factor while planning the research. They further adds, cross-sectional as a snapshot” taken of a particular event in a particular time, while longitudinal perspective can be considered like a diary” model, in order to represent events over a given time period.
A cross-sectional design entails the collection of data on more than one case (usually quite a lot more than one) and at a single point in time in order to collect a body of quantitative data in connection with two or more variables (usually many more than two), which are then examined to detect patterns of association. (Alan Bryman and Emma Bell, 2007)
In cross-sectional design of research, the data are collected at one point in time on several variables such as gender, income, and education.
Longitudinal research requires a period of time sufficiently long for changes to have occurred and to be observed. The main strength of longitudinal research is the capacity that it has to study change and development. (Saunders et al, 2007). Saunders et al (2007) further argues that, Since the time constraint is an important element in the research, the longitudinal studies may took a long time; because there will be a massive amount of published data collected to be re-analysed.
The proposed hypothesis is provable within in the given time. So the research is cross sectional. The research used a questionnaire which was administered during a particular time interval and was given only once to the respondents considered in the sampling quota which once again proves that the time horizon of the research is cross-sectional.
Data Collection Methods
There are mainly two types of data emerging in a research project. They are secondary data, which is collected for the research project from other sources and primary data collected for the specific purpose of the project (Saunders et al, 2007).
The choice of the data collection method is a critical point in the research process. The theoretical approach, the nature of the research question and the methodological strategy all influence the researcher's choice of data collection methods (Teresa and William, 1997).
According to Robson (2002), the data that the researcher collects depend on the research questions and objectives which have given a particular focus to the researcher's observation.
In order to answer the research question and prove the hypotheses the researcher uses both primary and secondary data collection methods in this research.
I. Secondary Data Collection
Bryman and Bell (2007) defines secondary analysis as, the analysis of data by researchers who will probably not have been involved in the collection of those data, for the purposes that in all likelihood were not envisaged by those responsible for the data collection.
Secondary data include both quantitative and qualitative data, and they are used principally in both descriptive and explanatory research. (Saunders et al, 2007). Secondary data offers the researcher a number of advantages. If the required data already exists, then the researcher need not waste his/her time to carrying out the study which is a clear indication that gathering data from secondary sources is significantly quicker than designing and conducting a new investigation.
Majority of the secondary data can be collected internally from the organization itself. There are also external sources of secondary data. They are:-
Publishers of books and periodicals;
Trade association sources;
Media sources; and
Commercial sources. (William G. Zikmund, 2003).
The secondary data for the research study was primarily obtained from journal articles available mainly from the electronic databases such as www.emeraldinsight.com and www.search.ebscohost.com. Besides these journal articles, books, magazines and news paper articles were also used. Books were the main source of information to this research and journal article provided revised information related to the area of study. By studying and reviewing the secondary literature, the researcher could be ensured an overall understanding about the research area and the research problem as well. All the secondary research articles have been recognized and thoroughly referenced using Harvard referencing system.
II. Primary Data Collection
In Primary data collection method data collected from the survey for which we do not have any previous survey done. Primary data is gathered and assembled specifically for the research project at hand, (Zikmund, 2003). There are many methods of collecting primary data and the main methods include:
c) focus group interviews
g) Critical incidents
In this research the primary data is collected from customers and management through questionnaire and semi structured interviews. The questionnaire is mainly framed to check the customer response to the change in the company's strategic policies and the interview is for collecting primary data from the management.
In this study, the researcher used questionnaires as a main tool of data collection.
According to Jill and Roger (2003), questionnaire is a list of carefully structured questions, chosen after considerable testing, with a view to eliciting reliable responses from a chosen sample.
Saunders et al (2003), suggest that questionnaire is a general term to include all techniques of data collection in which each person is asked to respond to the same set of questions in a predetermined order.
Questionnaires are further divided in to two as self-administered and interviewer administered questionnaires.
Self administered questionnaires are usually completed by the respondents. Such questionnaires are administered electronically using the internet or intranet, posted to respondents or delivered by hands to each respondent and collected later (Saunders et al, 2007). Saunders et al (2007) further states, interviewer administered questionnaires are recorded by the interviewer on the basis of each respondent's answer.
Riley et al (2005) list the following suggested process while creating a questionnaire:
- Identify the topic and set some objectives.
- Pilot a questionnaire to find out what people know and what they see as the important issues.
- List the areas of information needed and refine the objectives.
- Review the responses to the pilot.
- Finalize the objectives.
- Write the questionnaire.
- Repilot the questionnaire.
- Finalize the questionnaire.
- Code the questionnaire.
The final questionnaire has been evolved after considering a lot of things since the initial draft by following these steps:
- Specify the information needed
- Specify the type of interviewing method
- Determine the content of individual questions
- Design the question to overcome the respondent's inability and unwillingness to answer
- Decide on the question structure
- Determine the question wording
- Arrange the questions in the proper order
- Identify the form and layout
- Reproduce the questionnaire
- Eliminate problems by pre testing
- Administer the questionnaire
According to Walliman (2005), a trial test of questionnaire called pilot study helps the researcher in understanding the practical difficulties in the prepared questionnaire. Hence the questionnaire was pilot tested before the actual data collection. This helped the researcher in quality improvement and effectiveness in collection of required information.
Cooper and Schindler (2008), defines interview as a primary data collection technique for gathering data in qualitative methodologies. The basic elements to be considered while conducting an interview are; the number of people involved during the interview, the level of structure, the proximity of the interviewer to the participant, and the number of interviews conducted during the research.
Interviews may be highly formalized and structured, using standardized questions for each respondent or they may be informal and unstructured conversations, (Saunders et al, 2007).
Saunders et al (2007) classified interviews in to three types as;
1. Structured interview,
2. Semi-structured interview and
3. Unstructured interview.
In structured interview, researcher may use questionnaires based on a predetermined and standardized set of questions. In the semi-structured interview, the researcher will have a list of themes and questions to be covered, although these may vary from interview to interview. At the same time, unstructured interviews are quite informal. The researcher would use these to explore in depth a general area in which, the researcher interested.
The researcher follows the semi-structured interview in this research study. To make a better understanding about the strategic policies adopted in the organization, the general manager was interviewed by the researcher. From this interview, the researcher could draw thorough assumptions about the key points. The researcher had a two hour interview with the general manager related with the research questions.
Population And Sampling
The basic idea of sampling is that by selecting some of the elements in the population, we may draw conclusions about the entire population. Population is the total collection of elements about which we wish to make some inferences (Cooper and Schindler, 2008).
According to Saunders et al (2007), the full set of cases from which a sample is taken is called the population. If the population is manageable size, it is possible to collect data from the entire population. They further add that sampling provides a valid alternative to census when:
- It would be impracticable for the researcher to survey the entire population.
- If the budget constraints prevent the researcher from surveying the entire population.
- If time constraints prevent the researcher from surveying the entire population.
- If the researcher has collected all the data but need the results quickly.
Since, the research is about the impact of strategic policies in retaining the market share; the target population of this research was the entire group of customers of the XYZ Retail group. Hence the consumers are from different localities of Dublin and from different ethnicity, the population represents a large group.
Normally in the research, two types of sampling techniques are used; probability or representative sampling and non-probability or judgmental sampling.
1) Probability or representative sampling: the chance of each of case being selected from the population is known and is equal for all cases. It is possible to answer research question and research objective from the characteristics of the population from the sample. E.g. survey. (Saunders et al, 2007)
2) Non-probability or judgmental sampling: the probability of each case being selected from the population is not known and it is impossible to answer questions and objective. (Saunders et al, 2007)
In non-probability sampling the subjective judgments of the researcher are used in selecting the sample. Dan Remenyi et al (2005). Dan et al continues that, convenience samples comprise those individuals or organizations that are most readily available to participate in the study.
In this research, the researcher followed non-probability sampling for the convenience, even though; the data were collected from the various shops of the group, located in different parts of Dublin. This would help to increase the rate of accuracy in drawing the conclusion.
According to Saunders et al (2007), in a larger sample size, the chance of error is reduced to minimal level. In this research, the researcher decided the sample size of 100 consumers. The sample has constituted the members from different ethnic groups and different region of Dublin.
Data Presentation And Analysis
In this research, the researcher used frequency tables and various types of graphs for data presentation. Microsoft Excel is used to generate the tables and charts. The same software is used for the data analysis also. Overall view of the data presented is critically evaluated and hypotheses are tested in the data analysis section.
Limitations To The Research
There are only a few limitations intrinsic with this study.
As this dissertation is a part of an academic course, the time factor is constrained to a limited period. So the cross-sectional study was undertaken rather that a longitudinal one. Hence the accuracy of the results may vary according to the change of time.