Magoosh GRE

Sample Research Methodology Chapter: Quantitative Research

| October 28, 2015

Introduction

The purpose of this chapter is to explain in detail the research methods and the methodology implemented for this study. The chapter will explain first of all the choice of research approach, then the research design, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of the research tools chosen. This will be followed by a discussion on their ability to produce valid results, meeting the aims and objectives set by this dissertation. The chapter then goes on to discuss the sample size and the sampling strategy applied by the author, and the data analysis methods which have been used. It concludes with a brief discussion on the ethical considerations and limitations posed by the research methodology, as well as problems encountered during the research.

Research Approach

This dissertation makes use of qualitative research strategy, where the research approach implemented has been that of interpretivism. Willis (2007) defines interpretivism as an approach which is implemented by the researcher in order to synthesize facts which are derived mainly from secondary sources, and which are qualitative in nature. He also observes that one characteristics of interpretivism is that these facts are abstract in nature, and governed by a variety of factors which are non-tangible and difficult to measure. These can be economic, social, or cultural factors. Therefore for the purposes of this research, the author chose the interpretivist approach, rather than the positivist and the pragmatist approaches, because abstract, non-quantifiable variables such as “”, “finding the arts in business and working with them to create a memorable experience”, comparing “traditional management” with “performing art management” and analysing whether performing techniques and their application into business can have positive influence on business practice were part of the objectives of the dissertation. These are all elements, which are not easily quantifiable (measureable), and between which different and complex connections were found to exist, therefore interpretivism was found to be most applicable.

Research Design

This research makes use of a qualitative research strategy in the sense that there will be no numeric data or quantitative data was produced (Bell, 2005; Sarantakos, 2013; Silverman, 2004). A qualitative research strategy is particularly applicable for the purposes of this research, where the connection between several different variables had to be established through interpretation. Also, the research makes use of triangulation because triangulation gives the opportunity to approach the research objectives from different viewpoints (Cohen and Manion, 2002; Altrichter et. al, 2008), obtaining a more nuanced view of the connections between the different variables. For this study, triangulation was very useful because the researcher aimed to find the intersection between two very different variables belonging to very distinct industries – the arts (performing arts in particular) and business. This necessitated questionnaires and interviews with the employees who have been recipients of the management with performing art model and with their managers as well.

The validity and the advantages and disadvantages of the tools used to implement the research strategy will be discussed next.

Research Methods

For the purposes of this research, the writer has decided to use a combination of two of the classic social sciences research tools – questionnaires and interviews (Winchester, 1999; Sarantakos, 2013; Silverman, 2004; Greenfield, 2002). The questionnaires will be distributed among managers from several companies which have used art elements as part of their management techniques, as well as among carefully selected employees of the same companies, who form part of the team of the same managers. As a complementary method, the writer conducted interviews with an equal number of representatives of each group. The advantages and disadvantages of each method are discussed below.

Questionnaires

Questionnaires were chosen for this research because they are a reliable and quick method to collect information from multiple respondents in an efficient and timely manner. This is especially important when it comes to large projects, with several complex objectives, where time is one of the major constraints (Greenfield, 2002; Silverman, 2004; Bell, 2005). This study was no exception and questionnaires were a quick and effective way for the researcher to reach multiple respondents within several weeks. A general disadvantage of the questionnaires however is their fixed and strict format, which eliminates the possibility for more in-depth or abstract observation (Bell, 2005; Sarantakos, 2013). Again, this study was not an exception from this rule, as the questionnaires provided linear and clear results, but many elements from the research were left uncovered.

Interviews

In order to cover more abstract aspects of the research, the author chose as a complementary method structured interviews consisting of several questions, which were distributed among representatives of each participant group. Interviews are often used as complementary research method in the social sciences, because they give the opportunity for a more in-depth, open discussion, and more informal, free interaction between the interviewer and the interviewee (Potter, 2002; Winchester, 1999; Sarantakos, 2013). Despite being considered a disadvantage because it produces subjective results, the flexible format of the interviews was a major advantage for this study, as some nuances of the research such as exploring “emotions”, and “creating memorable experience” could not be properly captured with the questionnaire design. Of course the results from the interviews are not generalizable, because of the subjectivity of data obtained. On the other hand, their flexible format contributed for a deeper explanation and understanding of the connection between performing art and business performance, and if the researcher could have done the dissertation again, this would probably be chosen as the primary, not the secondary research method.

Other methods

Upon embarking on this research, the author initially considered focus groups and participant observation as possible research methods, due to the behavioural elements contained in this research.. However, because of time constraints and cost, these research methods were not opted for.

Initially the researcher also considered researching two groups of employees by comparison – one coming from an organisation where the performance management model is used, and another one, where this model is not used. They would be both given the same questionnaire. This approach was overruled however, because it does not reflect the interactive nature of the model being studied in which managers and business leaders play crucial role.

Sampling Strategy

For the purposes of this study, the writer had to examine two separate groups of participants. A method of stratified sampling has been used, as the relationships between different sub-groups had to be observed (Kirby et. al, 2000: 339). Furthermore, a particular group of the total population was invited to the interviews, forming a sub-group of the original population. Also, the participants were selected on the basis of specific criteria, such as company (organisation), where a particular type of model has been implemented.

The first group of participants consisted of managers from companies where the performance arts approached has been used. A total of 10 managers were involved in the study, and over 50 different managers from five different companies across the UK were contacted in order to reach the target group. The author tried to create as diverse a sample as possible, making sure there was an equal number of men and women represented, and more importantly thatthere were representatives of various industries: advertisingretail, finance, fashion and digital marketing. The other group of participants consisted of 30 employees, who were part of the teams of each one of the 10 managers. Not every team had the exact same number of people, as some teams were smaller and others larger. . However, the size of the teams was irrelevant to the purposes of this study as the participants had to complete individual questionnaires. All of the participants were approached via email, and the questionnaires were distributed via email, then completed by the participant and returned via email again. This took place in the course of four weeks. Five of the managers and five of the employees were invited for an interview, they were randomly selected from the questionnaire sample and the interviews took place took place over the phone/Skype and recorded then transcribed by the researcher. The interviews took place in the course of one month. The full transcripts of the interviews as well as the questionnaires are attached in the appendices.

Instrument Design

Questionnaires

For the purposes of this research the writer designed two separate questionnaire scripts and two brief interview scripts.

The questionnaire for the managers from the companies consisted of twenty open questions, related to the business performance of their employees. The first part of the questionnaire consisted of demographic questions, related to age, gender, and questions related to the professional role of the participants, such as length of their experience in the company, exact position and responsibilities. The core questions were divided into groups for clarity, addressing the main objectives of the research, through the perspective of the managers. More importantly, these questions were designed to address the core competencies, established in the previous chapter to assess business performance by art performance – leadership, communication, team-building, emotion management, and creativity.

The questionnaire for the employees consists of the same number of questions, and again combines open and closed questions. Apart from the demographic questions, the rest of the questions are organised into groups, addressing the objectives through the prism of the employees, and addressing individual narratives on important concepts such as creativity, improvisation, and team-building within the organisation.

Interviews

The interview scripts for both groups consist of six brief, but open questions.

The questions for the managers were designed to discuss in detail leadership as performance, and “business as show business”.

The questions for the employees were designed to reflect their experience as recipients of the performance bound management, and address specific components such as playing, rehearsing, performing in the workplace, with the purpose of team building and more effective task delivery/distribution.

The full scripts of the questionnaires and the interviews are available in the Appendices.

Data Collection

Most of the communication with the participants took place via email. Before that however, the author created a large database of companies, which met the research criteria using a simple google search. The author purposefully targeted smaller organisations, because the probability of being granted access to employees was higher, and the process – less time-consuming, which turned out to be the case. At first the writer contacted via the phone relevant people from each company, to make them acquainted with the purposes of the research and to ask for permission to conduct the research with representatives from their companies. For confidentiality, the job titles of the initial contacts are not disclosed, especially having in mind their job titles are not relevant to the research, as they are not direct participants in it. In some cases, the managers distributed the questionnaires to their employees, and in other cases the writer approached the employees directly via email. The questionnaires were distributed and completed in the course of four weeks. The interviews were conducted over the phone/Skype depending on the preferences of the participant. They were then recorded and transcribed by the researcher. The interviews were completed within four weeks.

Methods of Data Analysis

The analysis of the questionnaire results took place via thematic analysis. . Because of the small number of respondents and the diverse design and answer sets of the questions, and because of the qualitative research approach of the study, the author did not use any of the statistical software available such as SPSS or STRATA.

The results of the interviews were also analysed manually, where the author aimed to detect common words, phrases, and group or “cloud” them together, in order to be able to determine trends and tendencies in the answers of the respondents.

The results from the questionnaires were presented in the format of tables and charts. The major findings of this dissertation will be discussed in details in the next chapter.

Ethical Considerations

There were several types of ethical issues, which the researcher had to take into consideration for this project. The most important one was related with the informed consent of the participants. All of the participants (both managers and employees) were informed in advance about the purposes of this project, and gave their informed consent to participate in writing. Their identity as well as the names of the organisations they belong to has been kept in strict confidentiality, thus meeting the requirements of the code of ethics of the University.

In addition, the privacy and confidentiality policy of all of the companies had to be taken into consideration as well, as the companies have a very strict policy for access to their employees for research purposes. Therefore the researcher had to sign consent forms for confidentiality and privacy with the companies whose employees and managers agreed to participate in the study.

Consent forms are attached in the Appendices.

Finally, all the information collected in the course of this dissertation has been used only for the purposes of the study, and will be kept confidential.

Problems and Limitations

There were several problems and challenges which the researcher encountered while conducting the research for this dissertation.

The first challenge was recruiting a sufficient number of participants. The creation of the initial database of prospective companies took long time, and many times the requests of the researcher were turned down, because most of the companies rarely allow the opportunity for external research. Thus access to the participants and obtaining permission for the research was a major challenge.

Secondly the researcher was restricted by time and cost, which determined the choice of more efficient method, such as the questionnaire, instead of the more time consuming focus groups or participant observation.

In terms of the methodology chosen, there are several limitations which need to be mentioned. The first one is the fact that because of the small sample, the data collected and the findings made cannot be extrapolated on a broader scale. In other words, the generalizability of the results is questionable.

Another weakness of the methodology was related to the fact that the researcher used interpetivist approach, which was determined by the nature and the objectives of the research. In this sense the results and the achievements of this project can be deemed as biased, because the connections between the different variables have been determined not on the basis of empirical evidence, but on the basis of the analytical and judgemental skills of the researcher, in the context of a particular academic field.

Conclusion

This chapter has outlined and justified the research methodology implemented in this dissertation and its validity. Because of the nature of the research, the author opted for the qualitative strategy, bound by interpretivist approach. The key research tools were questionnaire, supplemented by interviews with two groups of participants – employees and managers. The participants were carefully targeted and recruited through stratified sampling technique. The results were analysed manually, due to the small sample of participants. The major results and findings of this dissertation are discussed in the following chapter.

 

References:

Altrichter, H., Feldman, A., Posch, P. & Somekh, B. (2008). Teachers investigate their work; An introduction to action research across the professions. London: Routledge. p. 147. (2nd edition).

Bell, J. (2005) Doing Your Research Project, Berkshire: Open University Press/McGraw-Hill Education

Cohen, L.,& Manion, L. (2000). Research methods in education. London: Routledge. p. 254. (5th edition).

Greenfield, T. (2002) Research Methods for Postgraduates, London: Arnold

Kirby, M., Konbel., F., Barter, J., Hope, T., Kirton, D., Madry, N., Manning, P., Trigges, K. (2000) Sociology in Perspective, Oxford: Heinnemann

Potter, S. (2002) Doing Postgraduate Research, London: Sage

Sarantakos, S. (2013) Social Research, Basingstoke: Macmillan

Silverman, D., (2004). Qualitative Research: Theory, Method and Practice. 2nd ed. London: Sage Publication.

Willis, J. W., (2007). Foundations of Qualitative Research: Interpretive and Critical Approaches. London: Sage

Winchester, H. P. M. (1999) ‘Interviews and Questionnaires as Mixed Methods in Population Geography: The Case of Lone Fathers in Newcastle, Australia’, The Professional Geographer, 51: 1, 60 — 67 DOI: 10.1111/0033-0124.00145 URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/0033-0124.00145

 

Category: Dissertation Writing Guide