chapter 4 - for downloads

chapter 4 - for downloads

chapter 4 The Research Process: An Overview >Iearningobjectives After reading this chapter, you should understand ... Research is decision- and dil...

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chapter 4 The Research Process: An Overview

>Iearningobjectives After reading this chapter,

you should understand ...

Research is decision- and dilemma-centered. 2 The clarified research question is the result of careful exploration and analysis and sets the direction for the research project. 3 How value assessments and budgeting influence the process for proposing research and, ultimately, research design. 4 W~lat is included in research design, data collection, data analysis, and reporting. 5 Research process problems to avoid.

>bringingresearchtolife We rejoin Henry and Associates' customer satisfaction

Jason Henry as he works on the MindWriter

Mind~

CompleteCare

project. At this stage in the MindWriter research process, Jason Henry's

task is to help MindWriter's

project director, Myra Wines, define the correct information

to collect.

.Jason Henry's partner Sara Arens, Henry, and Wines have just spent the day at the CompleteCare facility in Austin and with other MindWriter managers who are influential to CompleteCare's success. They spent part of their time with Gracie Uhura, MindWriter's

"

.,

marketing

>;;~:::(~. !:~~:g:~~{}( .. ::.,'(." <':...>~:/f(::~J.:;:\~~-'t

; On the return flight JromAustiii';'q~"'f:

manager.

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. "There are: going' to be a feW:pr.9blems;", 4isi:tg't~s:,ot!i$'~lY

;'~"Cie

sun,",e';'~nd:: ~~6;s~e: i'~i~~'lW~~~L!",""~!,, 'tW,~iI;;W¥I~<;: o"vhat,

J wants the like most managers, wants to know the demographic

a dealer tOldthem?'A~iI()(&'ttidyor~f~w

hundred

~~:~~E~!:~~~:;~~~;;= ~~~~1!!t~~;~t "And your point is?" asks Myra.

lin~:~:U :~nG~:;~o::=::~~~P

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firsthand

:~:wth~::tt;=

experience'

deP<~~:~~~'tout

and Gracie call justify asking all these questions. They

witl{;;>Ml:W;~i' ""';."

OfilieCQ~pi~;j;]1

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:;:Ue:c;::;t c:s!:~;~:'d";; :o::~;~:o:~~:;:;:ii:~f(~fi\~iil~ explain the justification for needing the information,.

.. if one of you can't establish that the dollar benefit of knowing is at least as great as the dollar cost.of finding

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the.service department?"

' .. '

'Jasb~'dig~' into.ihis bri~f~llS~-:''!~~i:.. ',[tck:!'~,.,' small sheaf of photocopies. "yes:aM';'S~t5t,,:'p.lf9~.

,~estionwillget from developing~;r~j~~~~:;r.:~ii~;~'C ;:;'4°; f:;~J~¥~~~ '""", B~qii:'~~'qi~~dcir""

struck the "Is there no way we can justify knowing everything

·person-Vi-ites;'MyMindWriter·

was'

,

t'~j~':""':':_:""""~:;':'"

.

,

Gracie wants to know?" inquires Myra.onarrival. "Wecan do a pilot study by survey of a few hundred.

~~t\customers It:0;salary ;;;:

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and-see if the ethnic background,

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they perform~dt~~~i~!~

level, or any other.item that Gracie cares aboutiS,~~c~the¥und~~~}9qdiJ,

You; @dJwiU collaborate t9P:QiPgqwp ~~d'''.. repairs',.' th~s~:~;';d ~ossibly do~~ris more like th~m,; 16 a c~tipfe~ .'.

'~goodjndicaiotbfs~tiifaction, willingness to m~et. repeat purChase: postpurch~se service satisfactio~:r

so forth. If it is, maybe more extensive measurement

Of representative

can be justified."

for clarity, consistency,

=.

"So you feel we need to propose an exploratory study to whittle down the information to critical items,

don't want MindWriter to pay for everything Grade saYSS?'~ wants, just what she wants that has a payoff'

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followed by a larger study."'"

and is researchable."

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questions that can be pilot-tested' and representativeness.

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e-part I Introduction to Business Research

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> The Research Process Writers usually treat the research task as a sequential process involving several clearly defined steps. No one claims that research requires completion of each step before going to the next. Recycling, circumventing, and skipping occur. Some steps are begun out of sequence, some are carried out simultaneously, and some may be omitted. Despite these variations, the idea of a sequence is useful for developing a project and for keeping the project orderly as it unfolds. Exhibit 4-1 models the sequence of the research process. We refer to it often as we discuss each step in subsequent chapters. Our discussion of the questions that guide project planning and data gathering >Exhibit 4-1 The Research Process

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Chapters

2-5

Appendix

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Chapters

6-14

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1 Research Design Strategy (type, purpose, time frame, scope, environment)

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-e-chapter 4

The Research Process: An Overview

is incorporated into the model (see the elements within the pyramid in Exhibit 4-1). Exhibit 4-1 also organizes this chapter and introduces the remainder of the book. The research process begins much as the vignette suggests. A management dilemma triggers the need for a decision. For MindWriter, a growing number of complaints about postpurchase serV ice started [he process. In other situations, a controversy arises, a major commitment of resources is called for, or conditions in the environment signal the need for a decision. For MindWriter, the critical event could have been the introduction by a competitor ofnew technology that would" revolutionize the processing speed of laptops. Such events cause managers to reconsider their purposes or objectives, define a problem for solution, or develop strategies for solutions they have identified. In our view of the research "process, the management question-its origin, selection,sfatement, exploration, and refinement-is the critical activity in the sequence. Throughout the chapter we emphasize problem-related steps. A familiar quotation from Albert Einstein, no less apt today than when it as written, supports this view: The formulation

of a problem

calor experimental creative imagination

is far more often essential

skill, To raise new questions, and marks

real advance

than its solution,

new possibilities,

in science,

which may be merely a matter of mathemati-

to regard old problems

from a new angle requires

1

Whether the researcher is involved in basic or applied research, a thorough understanding of the management question is fundamental to success in the research enterprise.

:>,1 Stage 1: Clarifying the Research Question A useful way to approach the research process is to state the basic dilemma that prompts the research

and then try to develop other questions by progressively breaking down the original question into more specific ones, You can think of the outcome of this process as the management-research question Jrierarchy. Exhibit 4-2 follows the MindWriter example through the process. The process begins at the most general level with the management dilemma. This is usually a symptom of an actual problem, such as: Rising costs. The discovery of an expensive chemical compound that would increase the efficacy of a drug,

I"

Increasing tenant move-cuts from an apartment complex.

o

Declining sales.

" Increasing employee turnover in a restaurant. A larger number of product defects during the manufacture of an automobile. An increasing number of letters and phone complaints about postpurchase service (as in MindWriter; see Exhibit 4-2). The management dilemma call also be triggereel by an early signal of an opportunity or growing evidence that a. fad may be gaining staying power-like the growing interest in hybrid carsindicated by the number of broadcast news segments and print stories over an extended period of time. Identifying management dilemmas is rarely difficult (unless the organization fails to track its performance factors-like sales, profits, employee turnover, manufacturing output and defects, on-time deliveries, customer satisfaction, etc.). However, choosing one dilemma on which to focus may be difficult. Choosing incorrectly will direct valuable resources (time, manpower, money, and equipment) Oil a path that may not provide critical decision-making information (the purpose of good research). As a manager, only practice makes you proficjenr. For new managers, or established managers facing new re'tponsibilities, developing several management-research question hierarchies, each starting with a di11'ferent dilemma, will assi:-;tin the choice process. lnall tigul'cs related to the research process model, in this and subsequent chapters, we use an inverted pyramid to represent the management-research question hierarchy.

81

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»part I

Introductionto BusinessResearch

Exhibit 4-2 Formulating the Research Question for MindWrifer

To move from the management dilemma 10the management question and subsequent research questions takes exploratory research. Such research may include examining previous studies, reviewing published studies and organizational records, and interviewing experts Inlormallon galekeepers

\~fif,':~'iiJj[F;,\i""o~;:;,,-·.·_: _'.

--,

r------' -,·.!:jDi 1a Exploration An increasing number of letters and phone complaints about postpurchase service.

Stage 1: Pre-Austin 1. PC magazines: annua.lsurvey of service, repair, & tech support 2. Published customer satisfaction cornpariscns ' Stage 2: Austin Meeting 1. Production: 5,OOO/mo. 2. Distribution through computer superstores and independent mail order eo. 3. Custom Care process

~----------------------~

What should be done to improve the CompleteCare program for MindWriter product repairs and servicing?

• Should the tech-support operator given more intensive training?

Stage~: Post-Austin: Brainstorming & company letters . 1. Possible problems: (a) Employee shortages (b) Tech-line operator training (c) Uneven courier performance (d) Parts shortages (e) Inconsistent repair servicing (I) Product darnaqe during repair (g) Product damage during shipping (h) Packaging and handling problems

2a Exploration Interviews with • Service manager • Call center manager • Independent package company account executive

be

• Should ABC Courier Service be replaced by an air-transport service? • Should the repair diagnostic and repair sequencing operations be modified? • Should the return packaging be modified to include premolded rigid foam inserts, or c.onforming-expanding foam protection? • Should metropolitan repair centers be established to complement or replace in-factory repair facilities?

»chapter 4

The ResearchProcess: An Overview

is incorporated into the model (see the elements within the pyramid in Exhibit 4-1). Exhibit 4-1 also organizes this chapter and introduces the remainder of the book. The research process begins much as the vignette suggests. A management dilemma triggers rhe need for a decision. For MindWriter, a growing number of complaints about postpurchase ser-vice started the process. In other situations, a controversy arises, a major commitment of resources is called for, or conditions in the environment signal the need for a decision. For MindWriter, the critical event could have been the introduction by a competitor of new technology that would r volutionize the processing speed of laptops. Such events cause managers to reconsider their purposes or objecti ves, define a problem for solution, or develop strategies for solutions they have jqentified. In our view of the research process, the management question-its origin, selection, statement, eJploration, and refinement-is the critical activity in the sequence. Throughout the chapter we empl\asize problem-related steps. A familiar quotation from Albert Einstein, no less apt today than when it ~as written, supports this view:

I

The formulation of a problem is far more often essential than its solution, which may be merely a matter of mathematicalor experimental skill. To raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle requires creative imagination and marks real advance in science.'

I

Whether the researcher is involved in basic or applied research, a thorough understanding of the management question is fundamental to success in the research enterprise.

Stage 1: Clarifying the Research Question

:::1.

A useful way to approach the research process is to state the basic dilemma that prompts the research and then try to develop other questions by progressively breaking down the original question into more specific ones. You can think of the outcome of this process as the management-research question Juerarchy. Exhibit 4-2 follows the MindWriter example through the process. The process begins at the most general level with the management dilemma. This is usually a s mptom of an actual problem, such as: c

.o

Rising costs . The discovery of an expensive chemical compound that would increase the efficacy of a drug.

" Increasing tenant move-cuts from an apartment complex. o

Declining sales.

c

Increasing employee turnover in a restaurant. A larger number of product defects during the manufacture of an automobile. An increasing number of letters and phone complaints about postpurchase service (as in MindWriter; see Exhibit 4-2).

The management dilemma can also be triggered by an early signal of an opportunity or growing evidence that a fad may be gaining staying power-like the growing interest in hybrid carsindicated by the number of broadcast news segments and print stories over an extended period of time. Identifying management dilemmas is rarely difficult (unless the organization fails to track its performance factors-like sales, profits, employee turnover, manufacturing output and defects, on-time deliveries, customer satisfaction, etc.). However, choosing one dilemma on which to focus may be difficult, Choosing incorrectly will direct valuable resources (time, manpower, money, and equipment) on a path that may not provide critical decision-making information (the purpose of good research). As a manager, only practice makes you proficient. For new managers, or established managers facing new responsibilities, developing several management-research question hierarchies, each starting with a dinerent dilemma, will assist in the choice process. Inall figures related to the research process model, in this and subsequent chapters, we use an inverted pyramid to represent the management-research ~

l

question hierarchy.

81

82

r

s-part I Introduction to Business Research

> Exhibit 4-2 Formulating the Research Question for MindWriter To move from the management dilemma to the management question and subsequent research questions takes exploratory research. Such research may include examining previous studies, reviewing published studies and organizational records, and interviewing experts or information gatekeepers.

1a Exploration An increasing number of letters and phone complaints about postpurchase service.

Stage 1: pOre-Austin 1. -PC magazines:

of service, repair, & tech support 2. Published customer satisfaction comparisons" Stage 2: Austin Meeting 1. Production: 5;OOO/mo. 2. Distribution through computer superstores and independent mail order eo. 3. Cus\omCare process

~----------------------~

What should be done to improve the CompleteCare program for MindWriter product repairs and servicing?

• Should the tech-support operator given more intensive training?

annual survey

.Stage 3: Post-Austin: " Brainstorming &. compa"r:»Y "letters" 1. Possible problems: "." (a) Employee shortages . (b) Tech-lin~ operator training (c) Uneven courier performance (d) Parts shortages (e) Inconsistent repair servicing (fj Product damaqe during repair (9) Product damage during shipping (h) Packaging and handling problems

2a Exploration Interviews with • Service manager • Call center manager • Independent package company account executive

be

• Should ABC Courier Service be replaced by an air-transport service? • Should the repair diagnostic and repair sequencing operations be modified? • Should the return packaging be modified to include premolded rigid foam inserts, or conforming-expanding foam protection? • Should metropolitan repair centers be established to complement or replace in-factory repair facilities?

»chapter

4

83

The Research Process: An Overview

According to the US. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32.6 percent of teens nationwide worked during the summer of 2008, another year of decreased participation in the labor force. With the economy in recession, it's no wonder that teen employment is down along with overall employment. For the summer of 2008, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, teens had an unemployment

rate of 23.6 percent, an

increase of more than 9 percent from just two years ago and almost three times the unemployment rate for adults. Economists think that teen unemployment may be significantly understated by the number of teens who felt locked out of the job market and did not actively seek employment. Let's assume you are a manager of an organization that is questioning whether it should hire teen workers. A study sponsored by The Conference Board, Partnership for 21 st Century Skills, Society for Human Resource Management,

and Corpo-

rate Voices for Working Families, "Are They Really Ready to Work?" reports the opinions of more than 400 U.S. executives and human resource professions. Their unfavorable opinion was that "far too many young people are inadequately prepared to be successful in the workplace." Assessing teens with a Workforce Readiness Report Card, "10 skills that a majority of employer respondents rate as 'very important'

to workforce success are

on the Deficiency List." The report further defines the problem of teen workplace skills: "At the high school level, well over one-half

teens" initiative might be counter-productive

of new entrants are deficiently prepared in the most important

advancement

skills-Oral

and Written Communications,

Ethic, and Critical Thinking/Problem You remember

how important

confidence and independence,

Professionalism/VVork

Solving." work was in building

self-

so you don't want to write off

all teens, but you are also concerned

that supporting

could

you do to help formulate

whether

your organization

should

your recommendation or should

workers? www.bls.gov

a "hire

Subsequent stages of the hierarchy take the manager and his or her research collaborator through various brainstorming and exploratory research exercises to define the following: Management »:

o

question-a

restatement of the manager's dilemma(s) in question form.

Research questions-the hypothesis that best states the objective of the research; the question(s) that focuses the researcher's attention. Investigative questions-questions the researcher must answer to satisfactorily answer the I research question; what the manager feels he or she needs to know to arrive at a conclusion about the management dilemma.

" Measurement questions-What observed in a research study.

participants in research are asked or what specifically is

The definition of the management question sets the research task. A poorly defined management

question will misdirect research efforts. In Chapter S we explore this critical stage in more detail in our t""h

to clarify the research question

to your own job

if the study proves to be true. What research on

not hire teen

84

,

»part I Introduction to Business Research

t

i' t

Robert Wood

Johnson

Foundation

(RWJF), a health

care

philanthropy, sponsors the Covering Kids initiative for one reason: Millions of children in low- to moderate-income

families who

are eligible for the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) are not enrolled, RWJF initially became involved because it was concemed

that the federal government

and the states

were not actively or effectively publicizing Medicaid and SCHIP, The initial goal of RWJF's involvement was to make eligible families aware of SCHIP and Medicaid and encourage enrollment To this end, RWJF obtained the services of advertising agency GMMB, research firm Wirthlin Worldwide,

and veteran social

marketer Elaine Bratic Arkin. The Foundation initially asked, "What must be done to enroll the largest percentage of eligible children in Medicaid and SCHIP?" Before GMMB could move forward, the team needed to determine whether the communication correct misconceptions,

communicate

program needed to

benefits, overcome per-

ceived process complexities, or do some combination Early exploratory

research sought

answers

of these,

to "What

keeps

• DOCTOR '/ISITS • HOSP;'''-U;:ATION •

eligible families from taking advantage of the prescription

and

doctor-visit programs of SCHIP and Medicaid?" The team also asked, "Is a negative stigma attached to participation ernment health care programs?"

PR~SCRIPTIONS.



CTl-\~~

Ask about the low-cost programs

8ENEflrs

or free health care coverage

in your state.

in gov-

When research indicated the

answer to this question was "No, "subsequent

efforts focused

'on identifying other critical factors that discouraged families from

Being a good parent means raising happy, healthy Children,

enrolling, After research revealed that most wor1king parents did

and enrolling a program offering low-cost or free health care is

not realize their children were eligible for a govemment program,

a smart choice for families, and (2) every communication

the management question was refined to "What must be com-

give working parents an easy, foolproof way to determine if their

must

municated to parents of eligible children to get them to enroll

children are eligible while reinforcing the logic that making the call to enroll their children would address parents' innate desire

their children in these programs?" Ultimately a creative combination of research design and data analysis revealed: (1) the winning communications

framewor1k:

to be good parents, www.wirthlin.com;

www.gmmb.com;

www.rwjf.org

> Stage 2:, Proposinq F«esearch ",..S. R v~

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General notions about research budgets have a tendency to single out data collection as the most costly activity. Data collection requires substantial resources but perhaps less of the budget than clients expect. Employees must be paid, training and travel must be provided, and other expenses incurred must be paid; but this phase of the project often takes no more than one-third of the total research budget. The geographic scope and the number of observations required do affect the cost, but much of the cost is relatively independent of the size of the data-gathering effort. Thus, a guide might be that (I) project planning; (2) data gathering; and (3) analysis, interpretation, and reporting each shares about equally in the budget.

»chapter

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4

The Research Process: An Overview

Exhibit 4-3 Proposing Research

c

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0-

m (j)

'>m

a:

Cost exceeds value

Rejected

Execute' Research Design

'Withoutbudgetary approval, many research efforts are terminated for lack of resources (see ,.E.~hibit 4-3). A'budget may require significant development and documentation as in grant and contract ''research, or-it may require less attention as in some in-house projects or investigations funded out of the researcher's own resources. The researcher who seeks funding must be able not only to persuasively justify the costs of the project but also to identify the sources and methods of funding. One author identifies three types of budgets in organizations where research is purchased and cost containment is crucial: budgeting involves taking a fixed percentage of some criterion. For example, a percentage of the prior year's sales revenues may be the basis for determining the marketing research budget for a manufacturer.

" Rule-of-thumb

o

r.

Departmental or functional area budgeting allocates a portion of total expenditures in the unit to research activities. Government agencies, not-far-profits, and the private sector alike will frequently manage research activities out of functional budgets. Units such as human resources, marketing, or engineering then have the authority to approve their own projects, Task budgeting selects specific research projects to support on an ad hoc basis. This type is the least proactive but does permit definitive cost-benefit analysis.'

Valuing Research Information There is a great deal of interplay between budgeting and value assessment in any management decision to conduct research. An appropriate research study should help managers avoid losses and increase sales or profits; otherwise, research can be wasteful. The decision maker wants a firm cost estimate for a project and1an equally precise assurance that useful information will result from the study. Even if thF researcher can give good cost and information estimates, the managers still must judge whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

85

86

»part

I Introduction

to Business Research

Conceptually, the value of applied research is not difficult to determine. In a business situation, the research should produce added revenues or reduce expenses in much the same way as any other inves tment of resources. One source suggests that the value of research information may be judged in terms of "the difference between the result of decisions made with the information and the result that would be made without it.'? While such a criterion is simple to state, its actual application presents difficu I t measurement problems.

Evaluation Methods Ex Post Facto Evaluation If there is any measurement of the value of research, it is usually an after-the-fact event. Twedt reports on one such effort, an evaluation of marketing research done at a major corporation.' He secured "an objective estimate of the contribution of each project to corporate profitability." He reports that most studies were intended to help management determine which one of two (or more) alternatives was preferable. He guesses that in 60 percent of the decision situations, the correct decision would have been made without the benefit of the research linformation. In the remaining 40 percent of the cases, the research led to the correct decision. Using these data, he estimates that the return on investment in marketing research in this company was 3.5 times for the year studied. However, he acknowledges the return-on-investment figure was inflated because only the direct research costs were included. This effort at cost-benefit analysis is commendable even though the results come too late to guide a current research decision. Such analysis may sharpen the manager's ability to make judgments about future research proposals. However, the critical problem remains, that of project evaluation before the study is done. Prior or Interim Evaluation A proposal to conducta thorough management audit of operations in a company may be a worthy one, but neither its costs nor its benefits are easily estimated in advance. Such projects are sufficiently unique that managerial experience seldom provides much aid in evaluating such a proposal. But even in these situations, managers can make some useful judgments. They may determine that a management audit is needed because the company is in dire straits and management does not understand the scope of its problems. The management information need may be so great as to ensure that the research is approved. In such cases; managers may decide to control the research expenditure risk by doing a study in stages. They can then review costs and benefits at the end of each stage and give or withhold further authorization. Option Analysis Some progress has been made in the development of methods for assessing the value of research when management has a choice between well-defined options. Managers can conduct a formal analysis with each alternative judged in terms of estimated costs and associated benefits and with managerial judgment playing a major role. If the research design can be stated clearly, one can' estimate an approximate cost. The critical task is to quantify the benefits from the research. At best, estimates of benefits are crude and largely reflect an orderly way to estimate outcomes under uncertain conditions. To illustrate how the contribution of research is evaluated in such a decision situation, we must digress briefly injto the rudiments of decision theory. Decision Theory When there are alternatives from which to choose, a rational way to approach the decision is to try to assess the outcomes of each action. The case of two choices will be discussed here, although the same approach can be used with more than two choices. Two possible actions (A, and A2) may represent two different ways to organize a company, provide financing, produce a product, and so forth. The manager chooses the action that affords the best outcome-the action choice that meets or exceeds whatever criteria are established for judging alternatives. Each criterion is a combination of a decision rule and a decision variable. The decision variable might be "direct dollar savings," "contribution to overhead and profits," "time required for completion of the project," and so forth. For MindWriter, the decision variable might be number

of postservicecomplaints

or the level of postservice satisfaction. Usually the decision variable is

"

»chapter

4

The Research Process: An Overview

!

I

I I II

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expressed in dollars, representing sales, costs, some form of profits or contribution, or some other quantifiable measure. The decision rule may be "choose the course of action with the lowest loss possibility" or perhaps "choose the alternative that provides the greatest annual net profit." For MindWriter, the decision rule might be "choose the alternative that provides the highest level of postservice satisfaction." The alternative selected (AI versus Az) depends on the decision variable chosen and the decision rule used. The evaluation of alternatives requires that (I) each alternative is explicitly stated, (2) a decision variable is defined by an outcome that may be measured, and (3) a decision rule is determined by which outcomes may be compared.

I

The Research Proposal Exhibit 4-1 depicts the research proposal as an activity that incorporates decisions made during early project planning phases of the study, including the management-research question hierarchy and exploration. The proposal thus incorporates the choices the investigator makes in the preliminary steps, as depicted in Exhibit 4-3. A written proposal is often required when a study is being suggested. This is especially truF if an outside research supplier will be contracted to conduct the research. The written proposal ensures that the parties concur on the project's purpose, the proposed methods of investigation, the extent of analysis, and the timing of each phase as well as of delivery of results. Budgets are spelled out, as I are other responsibilities and obligations. The proposal may serve the purpose of a legally binding contract. A research proposal also may be oral, wherein all aspects of the research are discussed but not codified in writing. This is more likely when a manager directs his or her own research or the research activities of subordinates. We describe detailed research proposals in Appendix A, and you will find a sample proposal on the text website.

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3~Designing the Research Project

:~~esearch Desiqn

~

The research design is the blueprint for fulfilling objectives and answering questions. Selecting a design may be complicated by the availability of a large variety of methods, techniques, procedures, protocols, and sampling plans. For example, you may decide on a secondary data study, case study, survey, experiment, or simulation. If a survey is selected, should it be administered by mail, computer, telephone, the Internet, or personal interview? Should all relevant data be collected at one time or at regular intervals? What kind of structure will the questionnaire or interview guide possess? What question wording should be employed? Should the responses be scaled or open-ended? How will reliability and validity be achieved? Will characteristics of the interviewer influence responses to the measurement questions? What kind of training should the data collectors receive? Is a sample or a census to be taken? What types of sampling should be considered? These questions represent only a few of the decisions that have to be made when just one method is chosen. Although selecting an appropriate design may be complicated by this range of options, the creative researcher actually benefits from this confusing array of options. The numerous combinations spawned by the abundance of.tools may be used to construct alternative perspectives on the same problem. By creating a design using diverse methodologies, researchers are able to achieve greater insight than if they followed the most frequently used method or- the method receiving the most media attention. Although pursuing research on a single research problem from a multimethod, multi study strategy is not currently the norm, such designs are getting increasing attention from researchers and winning umerous industry awards for effectiveness. The ad~antages of several competing designs should be . Iconsidered before settling on a final one.

87

88

»part I Introductionto BusinessResearch

e-plcprofile Kraft research

won well-deserved recognition for research that helped diagnose and improve sales of sliced cheese by with a 14.5 percent increase in base volume. Kraft started by sending ethnographers from Strategic Frame.working to interview moms aged 25 to 64 who were fixing sandwiches in' their kitchens. Focus groups then reinforced that .rnoms feel good about giving their kids cheese because of its nutritional value, but that momswould choose' a lower-priced cheese, even though their kids preferred Kraft. A subsequent phone survey by Market.Facts revealed that moms would buy the pricier Kraft slices due to its extra calcium. Two TV commercials were tested 'using the "qood-taste-plus-the-calciurnthey-need" message. The tests revealed that the commercial showing kids scarfing down thei gooey sandwiches where the Dairy Fairy delivered the calcium message outperformed a more serious commercial with the same message. Subse"quent copy-testing research by Millward Brown Group revealed that the dual message {taste-preferred/calcium} was heard. 11.8 percent

www.kratt.com:

~VVtfVtJ~strategicframe'.'\forksng~com; \ll/lf'JV'J.matketfacts.conl;

\ViM\t\f.rnifhl\rardbrQwn~com

Jason's preference for MindWriter is to collect as much information as possible from an exploration of company records, interviews with company managers of various departments, and multiple phone surveys with CompleteCare service program users. Financial constraints, however, might force MindWriter to substitute a less expensive methodology: a self-administered study in the form of a postcard sent to each CompleteCare program user with his or her returned laptop, followed by phone contact with those who don't return the postcard.

Sarnplinq Desi~~n -.'

.

Another step in planning the research project is to identify the target population (those people, events, or records that contain the desired information and can answer the measurement questions) and then determine whether a sample or a census is desired. Taking a census requires that the researcher examine or count all elements in the target population. A sample examines a portion of the target population, and the portion must be carefully selected to represent that population. If sampling is chosen, the researcher must determine which and how many people to interview, which and how many records to inspect. When researchers

which and how many events to observe, or undertake sampling studies, they are inter-

ested in estimating one or more population values (such as the percent of satisfied service customers who will buy new MindWriter laptops when the need arises) and/or testing one or more statistical hypotheses (e.g., that highly satisfied CompleteCare service customers will be far more likely to repur-

chase the MindWriter brand of laptops).

I

r··· I

schapter 4

The Research Process: An Overview

I

I;

I I

If a study's objective is to examine the attitudes of U.S. automobile assemblers about quality improvement, the population may be defined as the entire adult population of auto assemblers employed by the auto industry in the United States. Definition of the terms adult and assembler and the relevant j ob descriptions included under "assembly" and "auto industry" may further limit the population under study. The investigator may also want to restrict the research to readily identifiable companies in the market, vehicle types, or assembly processes. The sampling process must then give every person within the target population a known nonzero c ance of selection if probability sampling is used. If there is no feasible alternative, a non probability approach may be used. Jason knows that his target population comprises MindWriter customers who have firsthand experience with the CompleteCare program. Given that a list of CompleteCare program trsers (a sample frame) is readily available each month, a probability sample is feasible.

II

~FHot Testing

f

i

I

I

i

,

T e data-gathering phase of the research process typically begins with pilot testing. Pilot testing may be skipped when the researcher tries to condense the project time frame. A pilot test is conducted to detect weaknesses in design and instrumentation and to provide proxy data for selection of a probability sample. It should, therefore, draw subjects from the target population and simulate the procedures and protocols that have been designated for data collection. If the study is a survey to be executed by mail, the pilot questionnaire should be mailed. If the design calls for observation by an unobtrusive researcher, this behavior should be practiced. The size of the pilot group may range from 25 to 100 subjects, depending on the method to be tested, but the respondents do not have to be statistically selected. In very small populations or special applications, pilot testing runs the risk of exhausting the supply of respondents and sensitizing them to the purpose of the study. This risk is generally overshadowed by the improvements made to the design by a trial run. There are a number of variations on pilot testing. Some of them are intentionally restricted to data collection activities. One form, pretesting, may rely on colleagues, respondent surrogates, or actual respondents to' refine a measuring instrument. This important activity has saved countless survey studies from disaster by using the suggestions of the respondents to identify and change confusing, awkward, or offensive questions and techniques. One interview study was designed by a group of college professors for EducTV, an educational television consortium. In the pilot test, they discovered tt/at the wording of nearly two-thirds of the questions was unintelligible to the target group, later found to have a median eighth-grade education. The revised instrument used the respondents' language and was successful. Pretesting may be repeated several times to refine questions, instruments, or procedures.

> Stage 4: Data Colrection and Preparation The gathering of data may range from a simple observation at one location to a grandiose survey of multinational corporations at sites in ciifferent parts of the world. The method selected will largely determine how the data are collected. Questionnaires, standardized tests, observational forms, laboratory notes, and instrument calibration logs are among the devices used to record raw data. But what are data? One writer defines data as the facts presented to the researcher from the study'S environment. First, data may be further characterized by their abstractness, verifiability, elusiveness, and closeness to the phenomenon.' As abstractions, data are more metaphorical than real. For example, the growth in GDP cannot be observed directly; only the effects of it may be recorded. Second, data are processed by our senses-often limited incomparison to the senses of other living organisms. When sensory experiences consistently produce the same result; our data are said to be trustworthy because they may be verified. Third, capturing data is elusive, complicated by the speed at which ervents occur and the time-bound nature of observation. Opinions, preferences, and attitudes vary from milieu to another and with the passage of time. For example, attitudes a.bout spending durin~ the 1980s differed dramatically one decade later within the same population, due to the sustained

0fe

Ire

89

90

spart I

Introduction to Business Research

prosperity within the final four years of the millennium. Finally, data reflect their truthfulness by closeness to the phenomena. Secondary data have had at least one level of interpretation inserted between the event and its recording. Primary data are sought for their proximity to the truth and control over error. These cautions remind us to use care in designing data collection procedures and generalizing from results. Data are edited to ensure consistency across respondents and to locate omissions. In the case of survey methods, editing reduces errors in the recording, improves legibility, and clarifies unclear and inappropriate responses. Edited data are then put into a form that makes analysis possible. Because it is impractical to place raw data into a report, alphanumeric codes are used to reduce the responses to a more manageable system for storage and future processing. The codes follow various decision rules that the researcher has devised to assist with sorting, tabulating, and analyzing. Personal computers have made it possible to merge editing, coding, and data entry into fewer steps even when the final analysis may be run on a larger system.

> Stage 5: Data Analysis and Interpretation Managers need information, not raw data. Researchers generate information by analyzing data after its collection. Data analysis usually involves reducing accumulated data to a manageable size, developing summaries, looking for patterns, and applying statistical techniques. Scaled responses on questionnaires and experimental instruments often require the analyst to derive various functions, as well as to explore relationships among variables. Further, researchers must interpret these findings in light of the client's research question or determine if the results are consistent with their hypotheses and theories. Increasingly, managers are asking research specialists to make recommendations based on their interpretation of the data. A modest example involves a market research firm that polls 2,000 people from its target population for a new generation of wallet-sized portable telephones. Each respondent will be asked four questions: 1. "Do you prefer the convenience of Pocket-Phone over existing cellular telephones?" 2. "Are there transmission problems with Pocket-Phone?"

3. "Is Pocket-Phone better suited to worldwide transmission than your existing cellular phone?" 4. "Would cost alone persuade you to purchase Pocket-Phone'?"

The answers will produce 8,000 pieces of raw data. Reducing the data to a workable size will yield eight statistics: the percentage of yes and no answers to each question. When a half-dozen demographic questions about the respondents are added, the total amount of data easily triples. If the researcher scaled the four key questions rather than eliciting yes-no responses, the analysis would likely require more powerful statistical analysis than summarization.

> Stage 6~Reporting the Results

49

Finally, it is necessary to prepare a report and transmit the findings and recommendations to the manager for the intended purpose of decision making. The researcher adjusts the style and organization of the report according to the target audience, the occasion, and the purpose of the research. The results of applied research may be communicated via conference call, letter, The percent of hiring managers who written report, oral presentation, or some combination of discovered a lie on a resume. any or all of these methods. Reports should be developed from the manager's or information user's perspective. The sophistication of the design and sampling plan or the software used to analyze the data may help to establish the researcher's credibility, but in the end, the manager's foremost concern is solving the management dilemma. Thus, the researcher must accurately assess the manager's needs throughout the

research process and incorporate this understanding into the final product, the research report.

»chapter

4

91

The Research Process: An Overview

The management decision maker occasionally shelves the research report without taking action. Inferior communication of results is a primary reason for this outcome. With this possibility in mind, a research specialist should strive for: • Insightful adaptation of the information to the client's needs. c

Careful choice of words in crafting interpretations, conclusions, and recommendations.

Occasionally, organizational and environmental forces beyond the researcher's control argue against the implementation of results. Such was the case in a study conducted for the Association of American Publishers, which needed an ad campaign to encourage people to read more books. The project, costing $125,000, found that only 13 percent of Americans buy general-interest books in stores. When the time came to commit $14 million to the campaign to raise book sales, the membership'S interest had faded and the project died." I At a minimum, a research report should contain the following: • An executive summary consisting of a synopsis of the problem, findings, and recommendaiions. An overview of the research: the problem's background, literature summary, methods and procedures, and conclusions. A section on implementation strategies for the recommendations. o

A technical appendix with all the materials necessary to replicate the project.

> Research Process Issues Although it"is desirable for research to be thoroughly grounded in management decision priorities, studies can wander off target or be less effective than they should be.

y!

The Pavored-Techruque Syndrome Some researchers are method-bound. They recast the management question so that it is amenable to their favorite methodology-a survey, for example. Others might prefer to emphasize the case study, while still others wouldn't consider either approach. Not all researchers are comfortable with experimental designs. The past reluctance of most social scientists to use experimental designs is believed to have retarded the development of scientific research in that arena. The availability of technique is an important factor in determining how research will be done or whether a given study can be done. Persons knowledgeable about and skilled in some techniques but not in others are too .often blinded by their special competencies. Their concern for technique dominates the decisions concerning what will be studied (both investigative and measurement questions) and how (research design). Since the advent of total quality management (TQM), numerous, standardized customer satisfaction questionnaires have been developed. Jason nl~y have done studies using these instruments for any number of his clients. Myra should be cautious. She must not let

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92

spart I

Introduction to Business Research

very persuasive about its success in the past. Such a technique might not be appropriate Writer's search to resolve postpurchase service dissatisfaction.

for Mind-

Company Database Strip-Mininq The existence of a pool of information or a database can distract a manager, seemingly reducing the need for other research. As evidence of the research-as-expense-not-investment mentality mentioned ill Chapter I, managers frequently hear from superiors, "We should use the information we already have before collecting more." Modern management information systems are capable of providing massive volumes of data. This is not the same as saying modern management information systems provide substantial knowledge. Each field in a database was originally created for a specific reason, a reason that mayor may not be compatible with the management question facing the organization. The MindWriter service department's database, for example, probably contains several fields about the type of problem, the location of the problem, the remedy used to correct the problem, and so forth. Jason and Sara can accumulate facts concerning the service, and they can match each service problem with a particular MindWriter model and production sequence (from a production database), and, using yet another database (generated from warranty registration), they can match each problem to a name and address of an owner. But, having done all that, they still aren't likely to know how a particular owner uses his or her laptop or how satisfied an owner was with MindWriter's postpurchase service policies and practices. Mining management information databases is fashionable, and all types of organizations increasingly value the ability to extract meaningful information. While such data mining is often a starting point in decision-based research, rarely will such activity answer all management questions related to a particular management dilemma.

Unresearchable Questions Not all management questions are researchable, and not all research questions are answerable. To be researchable, a question must be one for which observation or other data collection can provide the answer. Many questions cannot be answered on the basis of information alone. Questions of value and policy often must be weighed in management decisions. In the MetalWorks study, management may be asking, "Should we hold out fora liberalization of the seniority rules in our new labor negotiations?" While information can be brought to bear on thisjquestion, such additional considerations as "fairness to the workers" or "management's right to manage" may he important to the decision. It may be possible for many of these questions of value to be transformed into questions of fact. Concerning "fairness to the workers," one might first gather information from which to estimate the extent and degree to which workers will be affected by a rule change; then one could gather opinion statements by the workers about the fairness of seniority rules. Even so, substantial value elements remain. Questions left unanswered include "Should we argue for a policy that will adversely affect the security and well-being of older workers who are least equipped to cope with this adversity?" Even if a question can be answered by facts alone, it might not be researchable because currently accepted and tested procedures or techniques are inadequate.

m-Defined Manaqernent Problems Some categories of problems are so complex, value-laden, and bound by constraints that they prove to be intractable to traditional forms of analysis. These questions have characteristics that are virtually the opposite of those of well-defined problems. One author describes the differences like this: To the extent that a problem situation evokes a high level of agreement over a specified community of problem solvers regarding the referents of the attributes in which it is given. the operations that are permitted. and the consequences of

those operations, it may be termed unambiguous or well defined with respect to that community. On the other hand,

schapter

4

93

The Research Process: An Overview

to the extent Ihat a problem evokes a highly variable set of responses concerning referents of attributes, permissible operations, and their consequences, it may be considered ill-defined or ambiguous with respect to that community.'

Another author points out that ill-defined research questions are least susceptible to attack from quantitative research methods because such problems have too many interrelated facets for measurement to handle with accuracy." Yet another authority suggests there are some research questions of this type for which methods do not presently exist or, if the methods were to be invented, still might not provide the data necessary to solve thern.? Novice researchers should avoid ill-defined problems. E~en seasoned researchers will want to conduct a thorough exploratory study before proceeding with the latest approaches. I

lAolitically Motivated Research It is important to remember that a manager's motivations for seeking research are not always obvious. Managers might express a genuine need for specific information on which to base a decision. This is the ideal scenario for quality research. Sometimes, however, a research study may not really be desirable but is authorized anyway, chiefly because its presence may win approval for a certain manager's pet idea. At other times, research may be authorized as a measure of personal protection for a decision maker in case he or she is criticized later. In these less-than-ideal cases, the researcher may find it more difficult to win the manager's support for an appropriate research design.

»summary Research originates in the decision needs specific information

ing tasks, firiding the best strategy out the tasks, or judging

Exploration

process. A manager

for setting objectives,

familiarization

defin-

how well the strategy is being

A dilemma-centered statement,

dominates

emphasis-the exploration,

the sequence

management ganization.

problem's

dilemma can originate

driven by the availability of coveted a problern

in any aspect of an or-

2 How one structures

tools and databases.

data collection.

the research

and enhances the researcher's

mentation

determine

sets the direc-

design.

whether

is an integral part of the research

at a minimum,

outcome

understanding

a successful

posals are required for many research

most docu-

proposal.

projects

describe the research question

Pro-

and should, and the spe-

cific task the research will undertake. 4 Decisions concerning

question

is a desirable

collection,

the type of study, the means of data

measurement,

and sampling

plans must be

tion for the project. A management

problern or opportunity

made when planning the design. Most researchers

can be formulated

sequence

take sarnpling studies because of an interest in estimating

as a hierarchical

At the most general level is the management is translated a research

into a management question-the

question

major objective

turn, the research

question

tigative questions.

These questions

facets of the problem research

I

To

must be subject to observation

or other forrns of empirical

or research questions

projects receive necessary funding. Their thorough

A decision to do research can be inappropriately

be researchable,

management

3 Budgets and value assessments

of the research process. A

with ex-

Revision of the

of exploration

of the options available for developing

origin,

and refinement-

through

interviews

perts, focus groups, or some combination.

by which to carry

implemented. selection,

of the problem is accomplished with the available literature,

dilemma.

This

values or testing a statistical hypothesiS.

fully constructed

of the study. In

appropriate

represent

into investhe various

and they influence

design strategy, data collec-

tion planning,

and sampling.

measurement

questions

that are answered

in a surveyor

answered

about each subject in a[l observa-

tional study.

population

and then into

is further expanded

to be solved,

design, including

of questions.

At the most specific level are by respondents

delimitations

probability

underCare-

are essential for specifying

sample. Nonprobability

an

samples are

also used. Pilot tests are conducted

to detect weaknesses

the study's design, data collection

instruments,

in

and pro-

cedures. Once the researcher is satisfied that the plan is sound, data collection

begins. Data are collected,

edited,

coded, and prepared for analysis. Oata analysis involves reduction, exarnination,

summarization,

and the statistical evaluation

pattern

of hypotheses.

94

spart I Introduction to Business Research

A written report describing

the study's findings is used to

transmit the results and recommendations

is inappropriate

decision maker. By cycling the conclusions

for the information

it is familiar or the researcher

to the intended

tempting

back into the

to substitute

original problem, a new research iteration may begin, and

on an unresearchable

findings may be applied.

the management

5 Several research process problems of research.

can diminish

motivated

the value

Included in these are using a technique

needed just because

~as experience

with it; at-

data mining for research; question;

problem;

focusing

failing to correctly

and conducting

rather than management

define

politically

dilemma-motivated

research.

that

>keyter,ms 88

census data

management

89

management-research hierarchy

90

data analysis decision

rule 86

!

variable

investigative

questions

management

dilemma

primary

83

process

research

question{s)

88

secondary target

83

data

population

90

88

90

data

research

81

83

80

research

sample questions

89

pilot test

86

question

81

measurement

I decision

83

question

design

87

»dlscusslonquestions

I Terms

in Review

5 Based on an analysis of the last six months' sales, your

Some questions

are answerable

ers are not. Using some management choosing,

distinguish

2 Discuss the problems

between

mediate and long-term

3 A company

constraints.

and pilot

What are the im-

Proposal

changes to the procedures

as

2 is to study and and systems

used

Discuss issues of evaluation

in terms of:

a What do you think of this research suggestion? How, if at all, could you improve on your boss's formulation of the research question? Bringing

Research

L

to Life

6 What are the benefits to Mind ates implements

l

existing database

plaints be used to accumulate

b Evaluation using option analysis and decision theory.

in advance of the proposed

4 Confronted International satisfaction

by low productivity,

the president

Inc. asks a research in the corporation.

problems?

contribution

of service com-

service problem

research.

information

What information

should be sought?

Decisions

company

of Oaks

to study job

What are some of the im-

portant reasons that this research an adequate

riter if Henry and Associ-

a pilot study?

7 How can MindWriter's

Research

discov-

a survey of area

to see if the situation is pervasive.

a Ex post facto versus prior evaluation.

Making

in

due to several

stories reporting E. coli contamination

ered at area grocery stores, he suggests

b

research proposals.

1 is to use an audit of last year's transactions

by the materials department.

newspaper restaurants

a poor inventory management

a basis for recommendations.

are declining

As beef entree sales decline, so

do profits. Fearing beef sales have declined

effects?

is experiencing

recommend

your chain's restaurants.

of your

them.

situation and receives altemative Proposal

problems

of trading off exploration

testing under tight budgetary

boss notices that sales of beef products

by research and oth-

project may fail to make

to the solution of management

From Concept

to Practice

8 Using Exhibit 4-1 and case examples from some research company's approaches activities.

website,

discover

how favored technique

to research design dominate

many firms'

schapter

9 Using Exhibit 4-1 , find a case study of a research example in which a clear statement

of the management

leads to a precise and actionable search company ideas-or

research.

websites - see Appendix

4

an APP is not a guarantee

dilemma

of success. The most success-

ful APPs, sold as downloads,

(Hint: Visit re1a for company

with Apple's

to see within the proposal

erate an application

$55.000

only

approval can an APP be officially offered for

the iPod. If you were Apple, what research would you want

From the Headlines it costs approximately

have to offer true functional

value. Apple takes weeks to review an APP proposal;

use a search engine to find examples.)

1I) By some estimates.

95

The Research Process: An Overview

to approve a new APP for the

iPod?

to gen-

(APP) for the Apple iPod. Just offering

I »cases= Akron

I

Children's

Calling

Mastering

Hospital

NCRCC:

Up Attendance

Teacher

Teeing

Leadership

Up a New Strategic

Direction

I

Covering

Kids with Health

Care Ohio Lottery:

I

Donatos:

I~

Goodyear's

Design Finding

Drives

Innovative

Research

Winning

the New Pizza

I

Ramada

DeJonstrates

Its Personal

Aquatred

I

HeroBuilders.com

State Farm: Dangerous

Inquiring

USTA: Come

Intersections

.1

Lexus

• You will find a description determine

whether

are downloadable

Minds Want to Know-NOW!

Out Swinging

SC 430

of each case in the Case Abstracts

a case provides

section of this textbook.

data, the research instrument,

from the text website (www.mhhe.com/cooper11e).

Check the Case Index to

video, or other supplementary

material. Written cases

All video material and video cases are avail-

able from the Online Learning Center. The film reel icon indicates a video case or video rmteriat relevant to the case.

i...

l