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Research Methodology Chapter | Qualitative Research

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Education
Wordcount: 5452 words Published: 8th Jun 2017

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The aim of this chapter is to undertake a critical review of the research method used, including an awareness of alternatives approach and the basic research question is discussed. This chapter describes the approach that the researcher undertake in order to carry out the research needs of this paper. The research objectives are to examine the marketing strategies, how a company creates the good relationships between customer and the service provider in telecom sector. This chapter plays an important role as a part of dissertation because it discusses the methods available to the researcher and justifies the method chosen. Its implication lies on the fact that it supports the findings of the researcher by validating the selected technique as appropriate for the situation. In the first stage of this chapter researcher defined the methods and techniques in detail and in the later part of this chapter the reason has been provided which research method was suitable for this study of relationship marketing.

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A research methodology is a method for how research study is to be carried. It helps the researcher to answer questions authentically, completely and precisely. Research methodology refers to the procedural framework within which the research is conducted (Remenyi et al., 1998). There are many factors to be considered when choosing an appropriate research methodology, with the topic to be researched and the specific research question being primary drivers (Remenyi et al., 1998). (Kumar, 1999, Blaxter, Hughes & Tight, 1996) argue that the basic characteristics of study are intend to be, a designed, careful, methodical and dependable means of finding out or deepening understanding. McGrath (1982) posit that the choices make it apparent that there are no perfect solutions, only a sequence of compromises. Patton (1990) expresses the same view: “research, like diplomacy, is the art of the possible”. Noteworthy, however, a methodology must not, regardless of all other conditions, dominate the research procedure.

A preliminary framework for this study was developed from the literatures about the relationship marketing, the role of CRM, Customer loyalty and information technology to create relationships (Hagel and Singer, 1999; Peppers et al., 1999). This framework has the three usual parts of a system: inputs, processes and outputs. That is, inputs of Internet information about customers are processed and converged with a firm’s customer databases, to produce a series of strategic outputs such as improved customer relationship management.

As a result of the diverse ways of understanding relationship marketing, no set of best practice has been promoted although several approaches nevertheless have been proposed (e.g. DeSouza, 1992; Rosenberg and Czepiel, 1984; Stone and Woodcock, 1995). It has even been suggested that no guidelines exist that guarantee an effective design, implementation, monitoring and measurement of a relationship marketing programme (Grande, 1996; Pinto, 1997). For example, when the term relationship marketing is used in so many different ways that “confusion sets in” (Palmer, 1998, p. 106) is it then not possible to identify activities that, if practised, can be presented as substantive evidence of the practice of relationship marketing itself? Also, how are programmes of relationship marketing implemented and subsequently monitored (Cravens, 1998; Gummesson, 1998)? Finally, Gummesson (1997) notes that the measuring of returns on relationship marketing is still in its infancy so in what way(s), if at all, are returns on relationship marketing measured?

3.2 Research Paradigm

Research can be conducted in a number of ways. It is important to determine which paradigm is most suitable for this research. Paradigm offers “a framework comprising an accepted set of theories, methods and ways of defining data” (Hussey & Hussey, 1997). There are two research paradigms exist: Positivist and phenomenological. The principles of these two paradigms will be discussed in terms of their relevant strength and weaknesses in order to justify the researcher’s choice.

3.2.1 Positivism Paradigm

Positivism is that the social world exists externally and its properties should be measured through objective methods rather than subjective methods through sensation or intuition (Smith, 2002). Positivists emphasize on highly structured methodology and to develop quantitative data for an appropriate set of preconceived hypotheses is to be tested. They consider objective criteria rather than human beliefs and interests to determine the study area. (Smith, Thorpe & lowe, 2002; Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2003).

According to Hussey (1997) research undertaken in this way will be precise, objective and the process of researching will have no affect on what is being researched. This type of research is performed in order to invent, confirm or reject an accepted theory.

A key criticism of this approach is it is difficult to “treat people as being separate from their social contexts and they cannot be understood without examining the perceptions they have” (Hussey & Hussey, 1997). However, consistency is high with generalisations being possible from data collected from a sample or population. In testing a theory, research will either attempt to prove or disprove a theory.

Positivists emphasize on highly structured methodology and to develop quantitative data for an appropriate set of preconceived hypotheses is to be tested. They consider objective criteria rather than human beliefs and interests to determine the study area. (Smith, Thorpe & lowe, 2002; Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2003).

3.2.2 Phenomenological Paradigm

Phenomenological (interpretive science) investigation uses qualitative and naturalistic ways to inductively identify individual experience in context-specific situation. This approach attempts to recognize and describe a phenomenon, rather than exploring for exterior reason or primary laws (Easterby-Smith, 1991; Remenyi et al., 1998). Because of criticism on the positivist paradigm, the phenomenological paradigm was developed. According to Bryman(1999) “understanding human behaviour from the participant’s own frame of reference”. The main advantage of using the phenomenological paradigm is its ability to enable the researcher to elaborate and embrace several different themes simultaneously to achieve a greater understanding of what is occurring in the phenomena. The major disadvantage of this paradigm is that the reliability is very low. Thus the generalizations to a wider population cannot be made to any degree of accuracy.

3.3 Research Methods

In the perspective of data collection, Jackowicz (1995) defines method as a “systematic and orderly approach taken towards the collection of data so that the information can be obtained from those data”.

One of the most difficult tasks of a researcher is to turn the data into information. To explain the difference between data and information, the main characteristics of data is that it is raw, specific, undigested and therefore largely meaningless; information in contrast of data is what comes out when data have been arranged in such a way that uncertainty is lessened, queries resolved, and questions answered.

To get data to generate literature review, two paths are followed one is the theoretical concepts, and the other is investigation of secondary sources of data within telecom industry. The literature review is designed to give critique of the area of relationship marketing. Its aim is to create a background for the primary and secondary research.

Within the methodological field in marketing research the two wide ways of quantitative and qualitative work have fascinated both appreciation and disapproval (Birn et al., 1990; Goodyear, 2000). Research can be classified into two dissimilar types

Quantitative Method.

Qualitative Method.

In quantitative method data is gathered and analysed using statistical tools. The data is often gathered through surveys, interview, questionnaires, etc. Edem (1994) argues that quantitative methodology validate research findings and gives the researcher a security of completion or reassurance in contributing to the development of knowledge. Bryman (1993) condemns quantitative research methods for their obvious method and linearity, and their lack of concern over the influence of resource limitations. Gable (1994) considers quantitative research to be relatively weak when used with the objective of discovery and during data collection.

3.4 Qualitative Research Method

The principal consideration is to identify research methods that increase ones understanding of an issue rather then build upon existing theories and test relevant hypothesis. This position is supported by Bell (1993), according to Bell

“Researchers who adopt a qualitative perspective are more concerned to understand individuals’ perceptions of the world. They seek insight rather than statistical analysis.” (Bell, 1993)

The selection of qualitative methodology dictates the character of data gathering approaches done in relationship marketing context which is largely inductive (Creswell, 1994; Cuba and Lincoln, 1994; Quinn-Patton, 1987). The inductive logic means research should evolve in an undefined pattern rather than a determined specific result oriented pattern. Research therefore emerges from the field research with the interactions between the participants and the interviewees, as well as through the observations. In essence, this means while researching on relationship marketing services the framework in the beginning will be limited and predetermined on few objectives, after that the research will be let to evolve itself. In most of the cases it is hard to dissociate all deductive aspects but the plan is to keep this to a minimum. It is for this reason that the use of qualitative rather than quantitative research methods shall be employed. With the decision to use qualitative method decided, it becomes necessary to consider the specific applications that shall be used. Basically, it is necessary to consider the resources available to the research process. Many of the constraints placed upon qualitative methods involved issues regarding the amount of time available to the process. According to Bell

“The extent of your data collecting will be influenced by the amount of time you have. this may seem a rather negative approach, but there is no point in producing a grandiose scheme that requires a year and a team of researchers if you are your own, have no funds and in any case have to hand in the project report in three months “. (Bell, 1993)

This position makes several valid points, reminding us that one must ensure that the resources that are available to the research process are utilised fully.

A qualitative, rather than quantitative approach is chosen because it is considered that many of the key factors in relationship marketing are socially constructed. (Hirschman, 1986). Phenomenological method has been used to provide informative and interesting interpretations of behaviour by a growing number of consumer researchers. However, at the onset it is important to note that phenomenology is not just a set of techniques for gathering, analysing and interpreting data; it is as much a philosophy whose intellectual foundations need to be understood if the method is to be implemented in its “true” form (Christina Goulding, 1999). It is decided to take a phenomenological approach, rather than positivist one, the reason to choose phenomenological, it was considered the subject matter of the study was unlikely to be objectively determined, this being the criteria for the positivist approach (Easter by-Smith et al, 1999), and the approach was suited to the socially constructed phenomena that is the chosen area of research.

A qualitative is used to aim to draw first hand experiences, in-depth motivations and personal feelings of interviewees towards relationship marketing and its role in telecom industry. One fundamental importance to this study is the fact that qualitative research will disclose problems, answers and insights that may go unnoticed in a quantitative study using closed or list questions. This may have limited the usefulness of the study and would probably not do justice to the fascinating and dynamic nature of marketing strategy.

3.4.1 Benefits of chosen approach:

The benefit of qualitative research starts firstly with the fact it is not very time consuming. As Gilmore and Carson (1996) advocates “qualitative techniques are highly appropriate for marketing research in the services industry, given the dynamic nature of the service delivery and they mostly occur through human interaction. They felt that the examination of complex and dynamic service situations could be more effectively achieved since the qualitative research process offers an open, flexible and experiential approach”. It provides with the subjective information which may help to analyze the complex questions that cannot be answered. Respondents are encouraged to answer in their own words providing ‘rich, fertile, but disorganized data’ Jankowicz (1993). It also provides the opportunity and opens the doors for the new research areas because of richer source of ideas. The qualitative research literature ( Kirk and Miller, 1986; Cresswell, 1994; Carson et al., 2001) proposes that qualitative research in common is reliable, valid and trustworthy, the authors were mostly watchful of the reliability, validity and general matters that are connected with drawing conclusions and making implications from non-probabilistic, small samples (Patton, 1990; Bock and Sargeant, 2002). Because of time restraints and availability of resources, the qualitative approach was the best option for the researcher conducting a single study. The value of qualitative approaches has become more apparent in consumer research over the past ten years with a number of researchers gaining insight into the phenomena not easily understood through quantitative measures (Woodruff and Schumann, 1993; Masberg and Silverman, 1996).

3.5 Data Collection Methodology

Basically the data was collected in two stages, shown below.

First Stage: Theory Study

The first part of the research was completed by examining and reviewing previous literature, which facilitated to develop the themes which were discussed in more depth by the later stage of the research study.

Second Stage: Focus Groups – exploration

In the second stage the researcher is trying to demonstrate the need for the appropriate approach from all the available methods in qualitative research methods because of the exploratory nature of the study. Convenient sampling method was used fort he chosen method: focus groups. Convenience sampling is the method used for selecting the sample for the chosen research methods: focus groups and semi-structured interviews. Although these methods of non-probability sampling are less scientific than the more robust methods of probability sampling (Zikmund, 2000), it is appropriate for the purpose of this study as it is best utilized for exploratory research (Zikmund, 2000). The groups enabled the researcher to explore themes, and expressed feelings much better than the questionnaire, which would not have enabled the expansion of topics in the same way. According to (Morgan and Krueger, 1998)

“The goal in focus groups is to gain an understanding by hearing from people in depth and this requires selecting a purposive sample that will generate the most productive discussion in the focus groups. A purposive sampling strategy chooses the focus group participants according to the projects goals”.

Focus groups are a qualitative technique allowing for “the explicit use of group interaction to produce data and insights that would be less accessible without the interaction found in a group” (Morgan, 1990). Focus groups are an admirable technique at establishing the why behind the informant perspectives (Morgan, 1990). Focus group is an addition to an individual interview as focus groups are thought to produce more critical explanation than personal interviews (Watts and Ebbutt, 1987). The focus allows the interaction between the people of different races and careers to express them their feeling and share their thoughts or experiences. Different people are gathered and brought into conversation for a focuses discussion related to a specific subject or question the results are used to increase understanding of that particular topic. In market research focus groups have been exercised to learn about consumers’ approaches and feelings as well as developing marketing strategies (Crabtree and Miller, 1992; Hedges, 1985; Keown, 1983). This method is open-ended. That is, they use a form of questioning in which the respondents are encouraged to answer in their own words while the researcher may have an idea about the kind of answers that should be expected, it is not possible to specify assumptions in advance. In focus groups the moderator asks a question to each member in turn. Inside these restrictions, though, the meaning has reasonably broader limitations and several ways of collecting data are viable (Mitchell and Branigan, 2000). The focus group is relatively unstructured and unrestricted; they provide bulky amounts of productive but disorganized data.

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Some new forms of focus groups are also emerging these days as online focus groups they have facilitated qualitative research to be the beneficiary for the electronic development. Conducting online qualitative research is getting more famous and significant as a method of gathering information and data to know the methodologies and its key benefits (Sweet, 2001). Focus are not always easy to plan and execute as Atiken (1996) argues the benefits of focus groups, but also point out that they are not easy to arrange, run and report on. Focus groups are also helpful if the respondents are friendly towards the researcher as qualitative interviews this also depends on the association between interviewer and interviewees in raising an open dialogue which can allow a joint construction of understanding in the interview (Kvale, 1996). Overall the chosen methodology which has suited the study better than that of a more quantitative nature, as the properties involved are not physical or easily measurable

In the paradigm of qualitative research focus groups have many advantages and disadvantages that can be taken into consideration while exploring the research better synopsis could not be found on the limitations and strengths of the focus group method as qualitative consumer research than one written by Morgan and Spanish (1984, p. 260):

“In essence, the strengths of focus groups come from a compromise between the strengths found in other qualitative methods. Like participant observation, they allow access to a process that qualitative researchers are often centrally interested in: interaction. Like in-depth interviewing, they allow access to the content that readers are often interested in: the attitudes and experiences of our respondents. As a compromise, focus groups are neither as strong as participant observation on the naturalistic observation of interaction, nor as strong as interviewing on the direct probing of informant knowledge, but they do a better job of combining these two goals than either of the other two techniques. The researcher believes this is a useful combination and one which, for some types of research questions, may represent the best of both worlds”.

The focus group enables the researcher to explore themes, and expresses feeling much better than questionnaire. As Lovelock (1996) posits, focus group have been used very effectively to illicit useful information about likes, dislikes, wants and desires of the participants. Focus groups have these disadvantages which comprises of standing, information and cultural differences among respondents, group domination by intellectual persons, forceful agreement and are deficient in inconsistency in viewpoints (McDonald, 1993; Ulmenstein, 1995). The outcomes of the focus groups are unstructured. This deficiency of structure possibly will leave participants lacking a sense of completion and may provide respondent disappointment (Van de Ven and Delbecq, 1974).

3.6 Focus Group – interviews

The qualitative part of this study was designed to include both focus-group and semi structured interviews. It included two different kinds of tools for interviewing and collecting the qualitative data in order to achieve appropriate richness in terms of understanding the variables behind the relationship marketing and customers’ evaluations in the telecom sector.

The researcher himself acted as a moderator because he knows that moderator can have a deep impact on the usefulness of focus groups, in view of the fact that he can control equally the content of what is said by respondents, (Myers, 1998) and manage of participation (Morgan, 1996). The researcher before deciding the participants of focus group always kept the goals in his mind about the different styles, status and experience participant remain involve. The first part of qualitative study involved two focus groups moderated by a research professional. Two sessions were conducted, including a two hour discussion per group. The two focus groups consisted of three people each. Some of them were students; users and the rest of them were from different call centres. This criterion was set partly because researcher want to compare the results under investigation to other groups. Prior to interviews, formal introductory letters stating the research objectives were sent to interviewees in order to remind and trust along with establishing relationship. These will be followed up by telephone calls and re-inforcement of research objectives which will enable interviewees to address any queries they have prior to the interviews. Semi-structured interviews of approximately forty minutes to one hour are used from the people who are working in call centres for managing customer relations and providing customer service. Focus group are also a consideration for this research, because interaction among respondents might have stimulated new ideas and thoughts that may not have arisen during one to one interviews, group pressures are immediate, ” the greatest potential for distorting the focus group research is during the group interview itself” (McDaniel and Gates,1996)

For example, focus group may be subject to unstructured discussions which drift far from research objectives. Furthermore focus group may also contain introverted and non-respondents. But for the research of relationship marketing in telecom industry focus group is a good option. From the 1970s, focus group used mainly in the sphere of market research (Morgan, 1997). They are now widely used in anthropology, communication, education, marketing, political science, psychology, nursing and public health.

It is not easy to define an interview questions because of the variety of the types of interview. According to Patton (1980), it is a useful starting point: “the purpose of interviewing is to find out what is in and on someone else’s mind. Researcher interview people to find out from them those things we cannot directly observe”.

A variety of open-ended questions are considered for inclusion in focus group discussion and in interviews. A key consideration during the discussion is the accuracy of the information collected. Interviews and group discussion will not be capable of being repeated due to time constraints and professionalism. Throughout the session, questioning was purposeful to acquire the reason what participants feel about relationship marketing in current business. The best the researcher could do was to encourage the respondent to express their thoughts and experiences. Researcher tried let the discussion remain focused as he has to play the key role throughout. Analysis of the outcome of the groups was undertaken by collating the comments made and categorizing responses.

According to Marshall and Rossman (1989), the advantages of interviewing that face-to-face meeting with informants obtains large amount of expansive and contextual data which facilitate access for immediate follow-up. Data collection for clarification and omissions is possible. Data are collected in natural setting because data obtains on non-verbal behaviour and communication. Interview facilitates analysis, validity checks, and triangulation, which also provides background context for more focus on activities, behaviours, and events. Interviewing is great utility for uncovering the subjective side, the native’s perspective of organisational processes. Some of the disadvantages of interviewing that data are open to misinterpretation due to cultural differences, especially in diverse society. Depends on the co-operation of a small group of key informants and procedure are not always explicit. Interviewing depends on researcher’s opportunity or characteristics because data are often subject to observer effects; obtrusive or reactive because its dependent on the honesty of those providing the data , dependent on the ability of the researcher to be resourceful, systematic and honest; to control bias.

3.7 Analysis:

Unquestionably, data analysis is the most composite and puzzling of all of the phases of a qualitative project (Thorne, 2000).Therefore, to analyze the data, it was important to choose a relevant method which suited the research approach. Considering all possibilities available ‘Grounded Theory’ was decided to be the most suitable form of analysis, as grounded theory “offers a way of attending in detail the qualitative material in order to develop systematically theories about the phenomena which have been observed” (Turner, 1983). It also gives internal validity to a study because of its systematic processes.

The discussion from each focus group was listened to a couple of times, and the transcription read a couple of times so as to develop a familiarity to the researcher with the content, as Hague and Jackson (1999) points out that with interviews ‘it is generally good practice to transcribe them into typed up context and carry out analysis with this material’. A lot of revelations became and most noticeable being the differences and similarities between the groups. The researcher spent time on examining upon the different parts of the discussions so as to attain a right understanding of what was actually meant by the respondents. Interpreting the data and simplifying meaning from the analysis (Miles and Huberman, 1994) is difficult task. All the emerging ideas were examined further at each stage of analysis, with the regular refining which formed the recoding stage of the grounded theory process. All through this analysis stage an attempt was made to relate the concepts to the previous research where possible.

Accessibility is essential to people within the organizations i.e. telecom industry that are involved in customer relationship management, management of customer data to retain the data of existing customers. Such sources would give key insights into how organizations are responding to the threats and opportunities of relationship marketing in the electronic age and with a freshness and energy that would deliver inspirational and perhaps leading edge thinking into e-marketing and the link with content.

In summary the methodology of this research is developed from the question, to get better understanding of the concept relationship marketing. How content is being used to build relationship with existing customers. Throughout the development of the methodology, the most suitable research design methods is chosen with regards to this question alongside other more practical considerations.

The limitations of research methodology are included accessibility to the research population of interest and time constraint. A major consideration in this study was perceptual and subjective bias although this is likely to apply to any research of this type and topic. However, ultimately the interpretation of the results is subject to the researcher’s own perception especially due to the researcher’s natural interest in the subject matter.

3.8 Methodological Critique

This section reveals the flaws and defects which may have resulted because of the chosen methodology. Firstly, the qualitative approach was chosen but some practitioners who still believe that the qualitative research even now experiences from an uncertain image (Coldwell, 1990).

The qualitative research which does not meet the requirements of validity and reliability as opponents of qualitative research time and again refer to the fact that this kind of research does not meet the demands of validity and reliability, standard which are usually viewed as the basis of any research. Indeed, as a consequence of the relative choice and lack of structure and inflexibility characteristic of most qualitative research methods it is simple to question validity and reliability in their conventional sense (Kirk and Miller, 1986; Warren, 1991; Warren and Cragg, 1991). Even the selected sample size was too small and cannot be said to provide the accuracy for the research as the small, qualitative study cannot maintain the power; mainly the sample studied cannot stand for the whole population sight and feelings. Methodological triangulation can be utilized to improve the reliability and validity of the facts (Denzin, 1989). Triangulation, whereby methods are derived from several sources, ideally using both qualitative and quantitative data would have been a superior approach this enhances validity (Threlfall, 1999). It would have also allowed cross referencing of data.

As the researcher himself was the moderator, so it cannot be said a perfect condition for the focus group because a moderator for the focus group facilitation should be experienced and have some topic background, if available, would be an ideal moderator (Seggern and Young, 2003). The methodology of using focus groups and the availability of past research allowed the researcher to have data from different sources. The participants were known to the researcher and the majority were friends and colleagues, so the biasness to the discussion could have been created by them and the direction given by the moderator at times did not allow the respondents to express their true view, as the data acquired from the focus group is likely to symbolize the preconceived thoughts of the moderator as the approach of the subject interviewed (Threlfall, 1999).

The group discussion in the focus group may let the respondents to leave the major conflicting views as it has been argued that group interaction can also be a major disadvantage of focus groups as it may inhibit the exchange of opinions and ideas and lead to the loss of minority or opposing points of view (Gordon and Langmaid, 1988). The discussion for this kind of study have provided the researcher with the substantial amount of data, some of which were relevant to the study and much which had no direct connection with the topic investigated because participants focus on one another rather than the researcher (Kitzinger, 1994). During the focus group discussion, respondents engaged in active talks to reach a same view for the group and it was hard to correctly record this conversation with a tape recorder, since on many occasions more than one respondent was conversing at one time.

There is a possibility that the topic remain less or more inert throughout the discussion because the guide given by the questioner which may escort them the other way (Threlfall, 1999). In other terms researcher can say that the information gathered


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