Research methods for strategic managers


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Research methods for strategic managers

  1. 1. Table of contents:Task Contents 1 Select a research question Explain the factors that contribute to the process of successful research question selection. Justify their choice of research question 2 Conduct research to find literature relevant to the research question Undertake a critical review of the key literature for inclusion in a research proposal 3 Evaluate techniques for use with quantitative data in a research proposal Evaluate techniques for use with qualitative data in a research proposal 4 Evaluate appropriate research methodologies in terms of the research question. Choose an appropriate methodology in terms of the research question Justify the methodology selected in terms of the research question 5 Record findings on a research question, literature review and methodology in an agreed format Summarise the findings using suitable methods Present the findings using suitable methods Critically analyse the findings
  2. 2. IntroductionA research question is the methodological point of departure of scholarly research in boththe natural sciences and humanities. The research will answer any question posed. Atan undergraduate level, the answer to the research question is the thesis statement.Importance:The research question is one of the first methodological steps the investigator has to take whenundertaking research. The research question must be accurately and clearly defined.Choosing a research question is the central element of both quantitative and qualitativeresearch and in some cases it may precede construction of the conceptual framework of study. Inall cases, it makes the theoretical assumptions in the framework more explicit, most of all itindicates what the researcher wants to know most and first.Uses:The student or researcher then carries out the research necessary to answer the research question,whether this involves reading secondary over a few days for an undergraduate term paper orcarrying out primary research over years for a major project.Once the research is complete and the researcher knows the (probable) answer to the researchquestion, writing can begin. In term papers, the answer to the question is normally given insummary in the introduction in the form of a thesis statement.
  3. 3. Task 1 - Select and justify the choice of research questionTask 1.1 Select a research question“Factors that contribute to the process of successful research question selection”1.2 Explain the factors that contribute to the process of successful researchquestion selectionThe research problem is often argued as the heart of the research process, without which noresearch process can take place. In formulating the problem the variables must be eminent andeasily identifiable while a hypothesis should accompany each research problem. Once a researchproblem is clearly defined, it should be translated into a research hypothesis that states; arelationship between two or more variables into one or more populations.Thus the assignment will reflect on the linkage of the research problem, research hypothesis andthe existing variables. Firstly, the research problem will be explored, its importance, sources ofthe research problem, considerations as well as steps to be followed when formulating a researchproblem. Secondly, identification of variables will be discussed using the three common types ofvariables and the four prominent scales of measurement.The research problem is the heart of the research process hence cannot be selected in a vacuumthus some considerations and factors have to be considered. Sourcesof research problems revolve around the four P‟s, People, Problems, Programs, and Phenomena.Formulation of a research problem is a process thus involves following steps. Variables aremeasurable factors that can assume more than one valueandthree types of important variables can distinguished; independent, dependant andextraneousvariables. Nominal scale, ordinal scale, interval scale and ratio scale are the different types ofmeasurement scale which we use to classify variables. A hypothesis isa tentative statement of the results of an investigation indicating the relationshipbetween two ormore variables that awaits verification. Hypotheses enable theresearcher to add the formulation of theory if proved to be true. The researchhypothesis and the alternate hypothesis are the mostimportant when carrying out or analyzing research.
  4. 4. 1.3 Justify their choice of research questionThe objective of this report is to gain a better understanding of the factors that support andenable a collaborative effort in South African companies. The benefits from collaborate aresignificant and the findings could enable companies to attain these benefits. The predominantarea of focus was four research questions dealing with relationships and selection factors, thesefocused on complexity, trust, culture and impact of selection area.
  5. 5. Task 2: Literature Review2.1 Conduct research to find literature relevant to the research questionThe literature review includes a number of areas that have bearing on the topic of bothcollaboration and the factors that lead to collaboration. The studies are primarily focused on theapplication of collaboration in the business environment. The literature reviews was instrumentalin formulating the question that were then covered in the questionnaire.There are multiple aspects to the requirement to the successful collaboration. The literaturereview is divided into four areas. First area covers the relationship factors that are supportive ofthe collaborative effort. The intent is to provide an insight into both how relationships areperceived and measured, and impact of these relationships on long term efforts.The second area covers the selection factors that are necessary at the time of entering into acollaborative agreement. The importance of ensuring the correct partner for a value effort ishighlighted in the literature and what the organizations should be aware of when deciding onpartners.The third area is the cultural environment and its effect on collaborative efforts. The purpose wasto understand if some of the organizational and country culture aspects have affected the abilityto successfully collaborate.Finally, the area of collaboration itself is covered in the literature, under various names, and theimportant aspects of collaboration are investigated to understand the environmental factorssurrounding and the drivers behind entering into a collaborative effort.2.2 Undertake a critical review of the key literature for inclusion in a researchproposalA literature review is an objective, thorough summary and critical analysis of the relevantavailable research and non-Patricia Cronin, Frances Ryan, Michael Coughlan research literatureon the topic being studied (Hart, 1998). Its goal is to bring the reader up-to-date with currentliterature on a topic and form the basis for another goal, such as the justification for futureresearch in the area. A good literature review gathers information about a particular subject frommany sources. It is well written and contains few if any personal biases. It should contain a clearsearch and selection strategy (Carnwell and Daly, 2001). Good structuring is essential to enhancethe flow and readability of the review. Accurate use of terminology is important and jargonshould be kept to a minimum. Referencing should be accurate throughout (Colling, 2003).
  6. 6. Selecting a review topic can be a daunting task for students and novice reviewers (Timmins andMcCabe, 2005). A common error for novices is to select a review title that is all encompassing,such as „pressure ulcers‟ or „pain‟. Although this may be a useful initial strategy for determininghow much literature is available, subjects such as these generate a considerable amount of datamaking a review infeasible. Therefore, it is advisable to refine this further so that the finalamount of information generated is manageable. For example, to focus the topic of interest,consider what aspects of pressure ulcers or pain are of particular significance. Is there a specificelement of this topic that is of interest, such as prevention or management? Identifying whatexactly is of interest and why can help refine the topic (Hendry and Farley, 1998). Talking toothers, such as clinical specialists, or reading around a topic can also help to identify what areasof the subject the reviewer is interested in and may help indicate how much information exists onthe topic (Timmins and McCabe, 2005). Having sufficient literature is also important,particularly when the review is an academic assignment. These academic exercises usually haveshort deadlines, so having enough literature is key from the perspective of being able to do thereview and submit it on time. Attempting to change the topic close to the deadline for submissionis usually a recipe for disaster so select an area that will hold your interest and ensure that thereis enough data to meet your needs. Literature reviews that are part of academic course workusually have strictly enforced word limits and it is important to adhere to that limit. Topics thatare too broad will result in reviews that are either too long or too superficial. As a rule of thumb,it is better to start with a narrow and focused topic, and if necessary broaden the scope of thereview as you progress. It is much more difficult to cut content successfully, especially if time isshort.
  7. 7. Task 3 - Analyzing Data for a Research Proposal3.1 Evaluate techniques for use with quantitative data in a research proposalAt this point of the process, what has been determined as appropriate literature will have beengathered. While the focus of the literature may vary depending on the overall purpose, there areseveral useful strategies for the analysis and synthesis stages that will help the construction andwriting of the review. Initially, it is advisable to undertake a first read of the articles that havebeen collected to get a sense of what they are about. Most published articles contain a summaryor abstract at the beginning of the paper, which will assist with this process and enable thedecision as to whether it is worthy of further reading or inclusion. At this point, it may also be ofbenefit to undertake an initial classification and grouping of the articles by type of source. Oncethe initial overview has been completed it is necessary to return to the articles to undertake amore systematic and critical review of the content. It is recommended that some type of structureis adopted during this process such as that proposed by Cohen (1990). This simple method isreferred to as the preview, question, read, summarize (PQRS) system and it not only keeps youfocussed and consistent but ultimately facilitates easy identification and retrieval of materialparticularly if a large number of publications are being reviewed.Following the preview stage, a reviewer may end up with four stacks of articles that are deemedrelevant to the purpose of the review. Although some papers may have been discarded at thispoint, it is probably wise to store them should you need to retrieve them at a later stage.In the question stage, questions are asked of each publication. Here several writers havesuggested using an indexing or summary system (or a combination of both) to assist the process(Patrick and Munro, 2004; Polit and Beck, 2004; Timmins and McCabe, 2005; Burns and Grove,2007). Although there are slight variations in the criteria proposed in the indexing and summarysystems, generally they are concerned with the title of the article, the author, the purpose andmethodology used in a research study, and findings and outcomes. It is also useful to incorporatecomments or key thoughts on your response to the article after it has been reviewed. For thepurpose of good record keeping, it is suggested that the source and full reference are alsoincluded. It can be very frustrating trying to locate a reference or a key point among a plethora ofarticles at a later stage.As it is likely that not all of the articles will be primary sources, you may wish to adapt yoursummary system to accommodate other sources, such as systematic reviews or non-researchliterature. Although it may be laborious at times, each article should be read while trying toanswer the questions in the grid. It is worth noting, however, that if any aspect of the appraisal isnot clear, it may be beneficial to access more detailed tools or checklists that facilitate furtheranalysis or critique. While most research textbooks contain tools for critique, novice reviewerscan find them difficult to negotiate given their complexity. In recognition of the different typesof questions needed to appraise research studies, the critical appraisal skills programme (CASP)
  8. 8. within the public health resource unit ( has several checklists that enable usersto make sense of qualitative research, reviews, randomized controlled trials, cohort studies andcase control studies, among others.Like primary sources, not all reviews classed as secondary sources are the same. For example,systematic reviews follow strict criteria and are appraised on those (Parahoo, 2006). However,there are reviews that simply present a perspective on a topic or explore the relevance of aconcept for practice. Some theoretical papers, such as concept, analysis may fall into thisbracket. If appraised against the criteria for evaluating systematic reviews, these publicationswould be found lacking in this area. Therefore, an important first step in the appraisal of a reviewis to determine its original purpose and perspective. In this way it will be possible to determineappropriate evaluation questions.3.2 Evaluate techniques for use with qualitative data in a research proposalMost students and beginning researchers do not fully understand what a research proposalmeans, nor do they understand its importance. To put it bluntly, ones research is only as a goodas ones proposal. An ill-conceived proposal dooms the project even if it somehow gets throughthe Thesis Supervisory Committee. A high quality proposal, on the other hand, not only promisessuccess for the project, but also impresses your Thesis Committee about your potential as aresearcher.A research proposal is intended to convince others that you have a worthwhile research projectand that you have the competence and the work-plan to complete it. Generally, a researchproposal should contain all the key elements involved in the research process and includesufficient information for the readers to evaluate the proposed study.Regardless of your research area and the methodology you choose, all research proposals mustaddress the following questions: What you plan to accomplish, why you want to do it and howyou are going to do it.The proposal should have sufficient information to convince your readers that you have animportant research idea, that you have a good grasp of the relevant literature and the majorissues, and that your methodology is sound.The quality of your research proposal depends not only on the quality of your proposed project,but also on the quality of your proposal writing. A good research project may run the risk ofrejection simply because the proposal is poorly written. Therefore, it pays if your writing iscoherent, clear and compelling.This paper focuses on proposal writing rather than on the development of research ideas.
  9. 9. Title:It should be concise and descriptive. For example, the phrase, "An investigation of . . ." could beomitted. Often titles are stated in terms of a functional relationship, because such titles clearlyindicate the independent and dependent variables. However, if possible, think of an informativebut catchy title. An effective title not only pricks the readers interest, but also predisposeshim/her favourably towards the proposal.Abstract:It is a brief summary of approximately 300 words. It should include the research question, therationale for the study, the hypothesis (if any), the method and the main findings. Descriptions ofthe method may include the design, procedures, the sample and any instruments that will beused.Introduction:The main purpose of the introduction is to provide the necessary background or context for yourresearch problem. How to frame the research problem is perhaps the biggest problem in proposalwriting.The introduction typically begins with a general statement of the problem area, with a focus on aspecific research problem, to be followed by the rational or justification for the proposed study.Literature Review:Sometimes the literature review is incorporated into the introduction section. However, mostprofessors prefer a separate section, which allows a more thorough review of the literature.Methods:The Method section is very important because it tells your Research Committee how you plan totackle your research problem. It will provide your work plan and describe the activities necessaryfor the completion of your project.The guiding principle for writing the Method section is that it should contain sufficientinformation for the reader to determine whether methodology is sound. Some even argue that agood proposal should contain sufficient details for another qualified researcher to implement thestudy.You need to demonstrate your knowledge of alternative methods and make the case that yourapproach is the most appropriate and most valid way to address your research question.
  10. 10. Results:Obviously you do not have results at the proposal stage. However, you need to have some ideaabout what kind of data you will be collecting, and what statistical procedures will be used inorder to answer your research question or test you hypothesis.Discussion:It is important to convince your reader of the potential impact of your proposed research. Youneed to communicate a sense of enthusiasm and confidence without exaggerating the merits ofyour proposal. That is why you also need to mention the limitations and weaknesses of theproposed research, which may be justified by time and financial constraints as well as by theearly developmental stage of your research area.
  11. 11. Task 4 - Presenting a Research Proposal and its Evaluation4.1 Evaluate appropriate research methodologies in terms of the researchquestionQuantitative MethodsIn quantitative research the data collected takes the form of measurements or counts which canbe statistically analysed. The process of quantitative research follows standard procedures,methods, forms of analysis and reporting the results of the research undertaken. Thisstandardisation maximises objectivity.Quantitative methods can be used for comparison of subgroups and analysis is generallyconducted through statistics. The method is based on meanings derived from numbers and resultsare numerical and standardised data.Quantitative methods use numbers and statistics. General sequence:1. Observe/present questionnaire/ask questions with fixed answers2. Tabulate3. Summarise data4. Analyse data5. Draw conclusionsQualitative MethodsQualitative research offers insights and understandings of participants, which is unobtainable byquantitative research, but is more than just non-numerical research. It aims to study the subject intheir natural surroundings and to collect naturally occurring, non-biased data. It describes inwords, rather than numbers, the qualities of the subject through observation. Methods ofqualitative research include structured and unstructured interviews, group interviews and focusgroups.Qualitative methods can highlight key themes or patterns emerging in the project, are used tocomprehend and manage data and used to develop and test hypothesises.
  12. 12. There are, naturally, weaknesses with qualitative research. The result is less easily generalisedthan with quantitative methods.Qualitative methods use descriptions and categories. General sequence:1. Observe/ask questions with open-ended answers2. Record what is said and/or done3. Interpret4. Return to observe/ask more questions5. (recurring cycles of 2-4 iteration)6. Theorising7. Draw conclusionsComparison: Qualitative Research Quantitative Research phenomenological positivistic inductive deductive holistic particularistic subjective centered objective centered process oriented outcome oriented anthropological worldview natural science worldview relative lack of control attempted control of variables dynamic reality assumed static reality assumed discovery orientated verification orientated explanatory confirmatory adapted from Cook and Reichardt (1979)
  13. 13. 4.2 Choose an appropriate methodology in terms of the research questionIn terms of research question, the appropriate methodology would be Qualitative Research, thereasons being discussed above.
  14. 14. Task 5.1 Record findings on a research question, literature review andmethodology in an agreed format
  15. 15. References 1. Andersen, E.S., Grude, K.V., and Hang, T. 1995. Goal Directed Project Management: Effective techniques and strategies (trans. From Norwegian by Roberta Wiig), 2nd edn. London: Kogan Page. 2. Appelo, J. 2009. What is the Mission of Your Project? Retrieved May 12, 2009, from 3. 4. 5. Heneman, R., Waldeck, N. & Cushnie, M. (1996). Diversity considerations in staffing decisionmaking. In E. Kossek & S. Lobel (eds) Managing Diversity: Human Resource Strategies for Transforming the Workplace. Oxford: Blackwell. 6. Johnson, L. & Johnstone, S. (2000). The legislative framework. In G. Kirton & A. Greene (eds) The Dynamics of Managing Diversity. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann. 7. Rees, T. (1998). Mainstreaming Equality in the European Union. London: Routledge. Richards, W. (2000). Evaluating equal opportunities initiatives: the case for a „transformative‟ agenda. In M. Noon&E. Ogbonna (eds) Equality, Diversity and Disadvantage in Employment. Basingstoke: Palgrave. 8. Matsuno, K., & Mentzer, J. T. (2000), “The effects of strategy type on the market orientation– performance relationship”, Journal of Marketing, Vol.64, pp.1 –16. 9. Gonzalez- Benito Oscar & Gonzalez- Benito Javier (2005), “Cultural vs. operational market orientation and objective vs. subjective performance: perspective of production and operation”, Journal of Industrial Marketing Management, Vol. 34, No. 8, pp.797-829. 10. www.corporate.marks& 11. 12.