Applying the Principles
Routledge – 2014 – 384 pages
For many post-graduate students undertaking a research project for the first time is a daunting prospect. Gaining the knowledge and skills needed to do research typically has to be done alongside carrying out the project itself. Students often have to conduct their research independently, perhaps with limited tutor contact. What is needed in such situations is a resource that supports the new researcher on every step of the research journey, from defining the project to communicating its findings.
Management Research: Applying the Principles provides just such a resource. Structured around the key stages of a research project, it is designed to provide answers to the questions faced by new researchers but without neglecting the underlying principles of good research. Each chapter includes ‘next steps’ activities to help readers apply the content to their own live research project. The companion website provides extensive resources, including video tutorials, to support the development of practical research skills.
The text reflects the richness and variety of current business and management research both in its presentation of methods and techniques and its choice of examples drawn from different subject disciplines, industries and organizations. Management Research: Applying the Principles combines diversity of coverage with a singularity of purpose: to help students complete their research project to a rigorous standard.
1. Researching in Management and Organisations 2. Formulating Your Research Problem 3. Reviewing the Literature 4. Designing Research 5. Linking Research Questions to Research Design 6. Applying Quantitative and Qualitative Research Designs 7. Conducting Research Ethically 8. Planning and Managing Your Research Project 9. Sampling 10. Collecting Data Using questionnaires 11. Collecting data using In-Depth Interviews 12. Collecting Data Through Observation, Documents and Artefacts 13. Analysing Quantitative Data 14. Analysing Qualitative Data 15. Reporting Your Research
Chapter 1: Researching in management and organisations
Research is a purposeful, systematic process of investigation that is used to find solutions to practical or theoretical problems. This chapter introduces the five key stages of a research project and analyses the relationship between management practice and research and between theory and research, emphasising that they are interdependent. These topics prepare the ground for an overview of different philosophical orientations that characterise current management research. The chapter concludes with a discussion of the role of reflexivity in research, stressing the need for awareness of the impact of the researcher on the research process.
Chapter 2: Formulating your research problem
The research problem is the specific issue or opportunity that forms the focus of the research. It provides the rationale for undertaking the project and the basis on which to develop suitable research questions that will in turn inform the overall research design. This chapter offers a step-by-step guide to taking a problem-centred approach to research. It begins with how to identify a suitable research problem before introducing different types of research question and explaining how they relate to the overall purpose of the research. It concludes with guidance on what makes a good research question.
Chapter 3: Reviewing the literature
A critical review of literature is a key component of many research projects. It is the opportunity to examine relevant theory and to review prior research that can offer a deeper understanding of what is already known about the research topic. This chapter looks at the nature and purpose of a literature review and identifies four key stages in carrying one out. Each stage is discussed in turn and the chapter includes advice on how to search, capture, synthesise and present a review of a body of academic and practitioner literature.
Chapter 4: Designing research
A research design lays down the overall structure for the research and the specific methods and techniques that will be used to answer the research question. This chapter introduces key dimensions of the research design, beginning with ways in which theory can be integrated into a research project. It then discusses the choice of time horizon and the role of primary and secondary data. The distinction between qualitative and quantitative research methods is reviewed and critiqued, along with the use of mixed-method approaches. The chapter concludes by looking at quality criteria in research from both a qualitative and a quantitative perspective.
Chapter 5: Linking research questions to research design
The choice of research design is shaped by the nature of the research question being answered. This chapter develops this idea by looking at ways of investigating three generic categories of research question: ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’. Each type of research question is considered in turn, beginning with a discussion of different ways in which they can be answered and the implications for research design. This chapter provides the background against which to understand specific research designs and choosing a design for a particular project.
Chapter 6: Applying quantitative and qualitative research designs
There are many different research designs available to the researcher. This chapter introduces some of those commonly encountered within business and management research. It begins by discussing quantitative research designs, distinguishing between experimental and non-experimental designs, including surveys, content analysis and simulation. Next a range of qualitative designs are introduced, including ethnography, grounded theory, case study, action research, interview studies and different types of language analysis. Each design is discussed in terms of its main characteristics and potential applications. The chapter provides the basis for choosing an appropriate research design, with more details on each being presented on the companion website.
Chapter 7: Conducting research ethically
Researchers today need to be fully aware of the ethical dimensions of their research, specifically how it may impact both on those directly involved in the research and on the wider community. This chapter introduces the topic of research ethics and highlights the importance of ethical behaviour in management research. It presents a set of guidelines in relation to ethical aspects of the research process to help the researcher develop their awareness of ethical issues. The chapter also considers the role of codes of practice and ethics committees and the need to gain ethical approval prior to starting a project.
Chapter 8: Planning and managing your research project
Carrying out a research project requires the application of practical management skills, effective engagement with multiple stakeholders and the commitment of time and other resources. This chapter looks at the planning and management of a research project, beginning with the choice of research design. It then looks at the decisions to be taken at the planning stage in terms of what needs to be done and the resources required before reviewing activities involved in managing the project as it progresses. The chapter concludes with a look at how to prepare a successful research proposal.
A key step in data collection is deciding where to collect your data and how much will be needed. This is the process of sampling, the subject of this chapter which examines what is meant by sampling before looking at different sampling methods. It then reviews sampling procedures in both qualitative and quantitative research before looking at the important topic of sample size. Following a review of the implications of the Internet for sampling methods, the chapter concludes with a look at the challenges of gaining access and avoiding bias through sampling procedures.
Chapter 10: Collecting data using questionnaires
Questionnaires are an important and very widely used data collection technique. This chapter begins by looking at situations in which it might be appropriate to use a questionnaire, and their strengths and weaknesses as a data collection tool. It next introduces a simple process to follow when designing and using a questionnaire before examining each step in turn, with particular emphasis on how to formulate appropriate questions and lay out the questionnaire itself. The chapter concludes with a discussion of pre-testing and piloting and a review of the options for distributing questionnaires.
Chapter 11: Collecting data using in-depth interviews
In-depth interviews are an important and widely-used data collection technique in qualitative research. After considering potential uses of in-depth interviews, the chapter looks at how to carry them out, including how to formulate suitable questions. Both individual and group interviews, such as focus groups, are included. As well as traditional face-to-face interviews, the chapter considers how to conduct them remotely by telephone or via the Internet. In addition to the planning and conduct of the interview, the chapter also discusses options for capturing and storing interview data.
Chapter 12: Collecting data through observation, documents and artefacts
Questionnaires and interviews are not the only method of data collection available to the researcher and this chapter introduces other important data sources. The first is observation of behaviour. Both structured and unstructured observation techniques are covered, along with a discussion of how to observe online behaviour. The second data source comprises documents or other archival records that contain relevant data, whether in hard copy or electronic format. The third source is diaries and other researcher-instigated textual data. The fourth source is artefacts, such as technology or items that people use in their everyday or organisational lives.
Chapter 13: Analysing quantitative data
Analysing quantitative data can be daunting for those unfamiliar with statistics so this chapter begins by setting out a simple process to follow when carrying out quantitative data analysis. It then takes a step-by-step approach, starting with preparing data for analysis. It then looks at techniques for exploring and describing data using tables, simple summary statistics and graphs. The chapter builds on these to introduce more advanced analysis techniques, including the use of inferential statistics to test hypotheses and estimate population parameters and how to present the findings. The chapter is supported by the companion website which shows how to carry out specific techniques using popular software programs.
Chapter 14: Analysing qualitative data
Qualitative data collection often generates large amounts of data, often with little structure and in different formats. This chapter looks at how to analyse such data, beginning with how to prepare data for analysis. It then explains how to use coding techniques to carry out thematic analysis. This approach is complemented by a discussion of visual display techniques, including matrices and network diagrams along with ways of verifying findings so that they can be shown to present a trustworthy account of the problem under analysis. The chapter concludes with guidance on how to present qualitative data analysis. The chapter is supported by the companion website which shows the use of qualitative data analysis software.
Chapter 15: Reporting your research
Effective communication of research findings is a vital ingredient in any successful research project. This chapter therefore looks at different ways of reporting research for different audiences. It begins with written reports, starting with writing for an academic qualification such as a dissertation or thesis, before looking at writing reports for a practitioner audience. It then discusses the writing process itself, including tips on planning and style. The chapter concludes with a review of alternative ways of communicating research results.
Susan Rose is an Associate Professor in Marketing Management at Henley Business School, the University of Reading, UK
Nigel Spinks is a Lecturer at Henley Business School, the University of Reading, UK
Ana Isabel Canhoto is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at Oxford Brookes University, UK