Individual Assignment

Individual Assignment: Planning for your research project

This week, you will complete the first of two Individual Assignments, the second of which will be completed in Week 7. The Individual Assignments are designed to develop your skills at applying the knowledge gained in the module to the development of a potential future proposal for a research project.

The initial stages of the research proposal are illustrated in Figure 6.2 of the text book (Collis & Hussey, 2013, p. 100). This week you will present your topic (keeping in mind the criteria mentioned in your text book Box 6.1 p. 101) research motivation, and pertinent literature reading so far.

Revisit Chapter 6 of your core text, ‘Writing your research proposal’ (Collis & Hussey, 2013, pp. 96-128)

Return to your chosen research topic-problem identified in Week 1 (as subsequently amended) and consider how you may develop your ideas further including literature, research questions, your interest and scope, and feasibility.


WORK ALREADY DONE

CHOSEN TOPIC -GDPR IMPACT ON TRADITIONAL AND ONLINE MARKETING AND ADVERTISING ON SMALL BUSINESS

Introduction

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one of the most widely discussed topics in the business world and especially in the EU region and one I will like to research.

GDPR is a newly introduced concept in the marketing field which provides brief guidelines as to the marketing procedures adopted by the businesses. Since GDPR provides rules and regulations as to the way of marketing by the corporate houses, there is a number of restrictions imposed on the firms in order to market their offerings. Moreover, GDPR provides fines and penal actions for non-compliance which further makes the situation critical. Further, it has also been assessed that the implication of GDPR in terms of its procedures for compliance and impact of non-compliance has been severe for a small business firms. Therefore, the problem statement revolves around the implication of GDPR on the business as a whole. This is a pertinent topic and hence forms relevance in the present context.

Since GDPR lays down a number of conditions as to how the data will be collected and protected for marketing purposes, the same significantly affects the marketing strategy of the corporate firms. As GDPR demands the direct marketers to show how competent and ready they are for the purpose of data collection and data privacy, it indirectly imposes restrictions on the businesses to devise their marketing strategy effectively and accordingly so that the same may meet the requirement of the given regulations (Buttarelli, 2016). Also, consent is one of the very crucial aspects of digital marketing and GDPR seeks to ensure that the data subject has been consented to further processing by the marketers. Lastly, it may also be noted that the impact of GDPR has been significant as the same clearly sets out the detailed and exhaustive rules and regulations as to how the digital and direct marketing may be effectively conducted. However, there has been a number of firms, especially in the EU regions which are not yet ready for GDPR adoptions (Smart Insights, 2018). The figure below shows that the most of the firms are aware of the concept of GDPR. However, those firms have not been able to adopt the same because of non-readiness.

(Smart Insights, 2018)

There have been a number of pieces of literature on GDPR which analyses the different aspects of the regulations and its impact on the firms. For some author, GDPR has been coined as a revolutionary attempt to streamline digital marketing strategy of the companies (Faisal, 2016). On the other hand, some researchers have criticised the same because of its expensiveness with respect to its implementation, especially in the context of small firms (Mandal, 2017). However, it may be concluded that the concept of GDPR has been moderns and contemporary. A systematic implementation of the same may yield a significant benefit or the businesses in order to achieve their marketing goals and sustainability in the long-run.

References:

Buttarelli, G. (2016). The EU GDPR as a clarion call for a new global digital gold standard. International Data Privacy Law, 6(2), pp.77-78.

Faisal, A. (2016). Marketing Strategies in Online/Digital Marketing. Account and Financial Management Journal.

Mandal, P. (2017). Understanding Digital Marketing Strategy. International Journal of Scientific Research and Management.

Smart Insights. (2018). Implications of the GDPR for marketing in the UK and Europe | Smart Insights. [online] Available at: https://www.smartinsights.com/tag/gdpr/ [Accessed 18 Aug. 2018].

FEEDBACK

Your submission was good this first week. You have provided a good analysis explaining the rationale behind the area of research. However, your topic is related to business context and you have established very weak links with theory. You should identify the major theoretical constructs of your study as soon as possible.

To complete this Individual Assignment:

Prepare a report of approximately 1,500 words in which you:

Present/discuss your chosen research topic from your degree field. See above chosen topic.(NARROWING DOWN TO THE GDPRIMPACT ON TRADITIONAL AND ONLINE MARKETING AND ADVERTISING ON SMALL BUSINESS I.E SPA INDUSTRY

Discuss the key arguments and findings from pertinent literature and draft your critical review keeping in mind its purpose

Formulate the main research question(s)

Describe your interest in the topic and questions, demonstrating the motivation for your research, plus the link between your topic/questions and existing research literature

Discuss the feasibility of the study and explain how you can gain access to the data that you need to collect

MATERIALS NEEDED.

Box 6.1

Criteria for assessing a research topic ??

Is the topic relevant to your degree? ??

Is the scope of the topic sufficiently narrow to make it feasible? ??

Do you have access to the data you will need to research this topic? ??

Do you have enough time to develop the knowledge and skills to research this topic? ??

Is your interest in this topic sufficient to keep you motivated over the duration of the research? ??

Is an article on this topic likely to be publishable in an academic journal (or attractive to a research committee)? ??

Will the study fill a gap in knowledge, extend or replicate a previous study or develop new ideas in the literature? ??

Will the study enhance your employability?

 

Writing your research proposal’ (Collis & Hussey, 2013, pp. 96-128)

PAGE 96-107

writing your research proposal

learning objectives

When you have studied this chapter, you should be able to:

?? identify a research problem or issue ?? determine the purpose of the research ?? identify the main research question(s) ?? determine the research design ?? write a research proposal.

6.1 Introduction

Having identified your research paradigm, selected a research topic and begun to investi- gate the relevant literature, you are now ready to design your study and write your research proposal. If you are a student, the intellectual sophistication and length of your proposal will depend on the level and requirements of your programme, but once accepted by your supervisor(s), this critical document provides you with a detailed plan for your study. If you are bidding for research funds, your proposal will also play an important role.

This chapter draws together much of the information and guidance given in earlier chapters. For most students, writing their research proposal is the first formal milestone in their studies and paves the way for their dissertation or thesis. If you are studying for a Master’s degree or a doctorate, it is likely that your research proposal will need to be more substantial than the proposal required for a Bachelor’s degree.This means you will have to spend more time working on it to obtain the approval of your supervisor(s) and/ or research committee. All students may find it useful to look at the examples of proposals at the end of the chapter.

We start by guiding you through the process of designing your research and then go on to explain how to communicate the main features of your proposed study in your research proposal. It is important to remember that we are only able to give general advice, and you will need to follow the specific requirements of your institution.

6.2 Overview of research design

Before you can write your research proposal, you must spend some time designing your proposed study. According to Vogt and Burke Johnson (2011), research design is the science and art of planning procedures for conducting studies so as to get the most valid findings. Determining your research design will give you a detailed plan, which you will use to guide and focus your research.Whether you are on an undergraduate course or are a postgraduate student, you will be expected to set out your research design in a docu- ment known as a research proposal. This is an important step because your research project will be accepted or rejected on the basis of your proposal.

McKerchar (2009) identifies the following characteristics of good research design:

?? There is a good fit between the methodology and a paradigm that is understood and accepted by others, especially your supervisor.

?? There is a fundamental framework or structure that guides the conduct of the research. ?? Appropriate strategies of inquiry or research methods are employed. ?? The design allows for knowledge claims to be made that are consistent with the

strategy of inquiry. ?? It allows the researcher to address the research question(s) and hence meet the aims

and objectives of the study.

However, there are a number of constraints on achieving the optimal research design as Bono and McNamara (2011, p. 657) point out: ‘The practical problem confronting researchers as they design studies is that (a) there are no hard and fast rules to apply; matching research design to research questions is as much art as science; and (b) external factors sometimes constrain researchers’ ability to carry out optimal designs.’

Before you can begin designing your project, you need to have identified your research paradigm and chosen a research topic.You will remember that your choice of paradigm has important implications for your choice of methodology and the methods you will use

to collect and analyse your research data. It also influences your choice of research problem and research questions. Figure 6.1 shows the main steps in research design. This simple model suggests the process is linear and moves smoothly from the research problem to the expected outcome. In practice, however, the process is often circular, reiterative and time-consuming, so do not be surprised if you find yourself constantly reviewing previous stages as you progress.

The research problem is the specific problem or issue that is the focus of the research.

The first step in designing your research is to identify a research problem or issue to investigate. However, you must remember that this does not take place in a vacuum, but in a particular context. Although you may have already determined your research paradigm, you might find that you have selected a research problem where you

consider it is necessary to change some of your basic assumptions. Therefore, you may have to review your choice of paradigm and reflect on how appropriate it is to the problem you have identified. Another possibility is that you have picked a problem which is not acceptable to your supervisor or which for practical reasons cannot be investigated.

You will need to refine your research problem by providing a succinct purpose statement and developing research question(s). In a positivist study, you will develop a theoretical framework which will lead to hypotheses. In an interpretivist study, you are more likely to determine the purpose of your research and construct only one or two questions that you will refine and modify, and set within a theoretical context during the course of the research itself. The final stages of your research design will be defining terms, estab- lishing your methodology and giving an indi- cation of the expected outcome. It is important to remember that ‘the more sophisticated and rigorous the research design is, the greater the time, costs, and other resources expended on it will be’ (Sekaran, 2003, p. 118).

Identify research problem or issue

Determine purpose

Identify main research question(s)

Choose methodology and methods

In the following sections we consider each of these activities separately. However, it is important to remember that although we have shown them in a linked sequence, in practice, research is seldom quite so straightforward and orderly. It is highly likely that you will have to retrace your steps and review some of the earlier stages as more information and more problems come to light in the later stages of constructing your research design. We will now examine each of the stages of research design shown in Figure 6.1 in detail.

6.3 The research problem 6.3.1 Identifying a research problem

Figure 6.1

Main steps in research design

Determine outcomes and timetable

Write the proposal

You will remember from previous chapters that a research project must focus on a specific problem or issue. If you are a student, this topic must be relevant to your degree

chapter ? | writing your research proposal ??

programme and, if you are receiving funding, it must be relevant to your sponsor. Of course, it must also be a topic that is of interest to you!

When you have chosen your research problem, you will find it useful to write a simple statement describing it to help you to remain focused while planning the design of your research. Table 6.1 gives some examples of business research problems other students have identified.

Table 6.1 Examples of research problems

Identifying a research problem or issue is always an exploratory and reiterative phase in your research. There are a number of ways in which you can develop your ideas within a general topic of interest. These include reading the relevant literature, discussions with your lecturers and other students, and looking at previous students’ dissertations and theses. When choosing a research problem, you need to bear in mind that your study must be achievable in terms of the resources available, your skills and the time constraints imposed by the submission date. It must also be sufficiently challenging to meet the academic standards expected at your level of study.

The classic way in academic research is to read the literature on the topic of interest to you and identify any gaps and deficiencies in previous studies, since these will indicate opportunities for further research. Figure 6.2 shows a useful procedure for doing this. Identifying a research problem or issue can be a lengthy business since you have to keep revising your initial ideas and referring to the literature until you arrive at a business problem or issue you think will lead to a researchable project. You know that you are arriving at this stage when you can start generating suitable research questions.

Your initial search will probably result in three or four projects within your broad area of interest. You now need to compare them so that you can select one. At this stage it is helpful to eliminate any research problem that you consider is less likely to lead to a successful outcome. Although you may select a topic that is of great interest to you (and your supervisor), at the end of the day you will want to submit a research report which receives a high mark from the examiner or is accepted by the research/doctoral committee. Therefore, you need to examine your list of potential research problems criti- cally and make certain that you select the one likely to give you the highest chance of success. We discuss the specific issues that give some indication of which of the research problems or issues you identify are likely to be the most researchable next.

Research topic

Research problem

Accounting regulations

Whether accounting practices should be regulated by the government or by the accounting profession

Corporate governance

How corporate governance can be extended to employee communications

Financial accounting in the NHS

The use of financial accounting by doctors in general practice

Financial reporting

The most effective ways for communicating financial information to stakeholders

Environmental issues in accounting ethics

The criteria by which shareholders measure ‘green’ companies

Environmental issues in manufacturing

The influence of ‘green’ factors on supplier selection in the manufacturing sector

Gender issues in employment

The effect of career-break schemes on the recruitment and retention of skilled staff

Public service announcements as a method of communication

The effectiveness of public service announcements for communicating with students

???

6.3.2

business research

Move on to next stage of research design

Figure 6.2 Identifying a research problem Access to data

Yes

1. Read literature, reflect and discuss Identify gaps

2. Generate list of interesting potential questions

Yes No

6. Does a suitable problem exist?

3. Check literature Have questions been answered already?

No

5. Eliminate impractical questions

4. Test feasibility

The availability of data is crucial to the successful outcome of your research. The term data refers to known facts or things used as a basis for inference or analysis.You will need to find out whether you will be able to have access to all the secondary and/or primary

Data are known facts or things used as a basis for inference or reckoning.

data you need for your study. Although you may be able to think of a number of interesting problems, your final choice may be constrained because the necessary data either are not available or are very difficult to collect.

Table 6.2

Many students fail to appreciate the barriers to collecting data. For example, postal questionnaire response rates are often very low; 20% is typical. Companies will rarely provide commercially sensitive information and in many cases may not have suitable records to allow them to give the required data. Therefore, before deciding on your research project, you must be sure that you will be able to get the data and other infor- mation you will need to conduct your research. Table 6.2 provides a checklist that you may find useful for assessing the availability of data.

Assessing the availability of data

Type of data

Source

The literature

Check journal databases for academic articles, the library catalogue and Internet for other publications.

Official statistics

National jurisdictions, the European Commission and international organizations such as the World Bank publish statistics on their websites. Some may be available in your library.

Industry data

You may need background information about a particular industry. Check your library catalogue, databases and the Internet

Company data

Information may be available on the company’s website and the company’s annual report and accounts (which contains extensive narrative information in the case of listed companies). Check your library catalogue for other publications.

chapter ? | writing your research proposal ???

Type of data

Source

Internal data

List the information you require from the organization’s records and get permission/confirmation of access in writing. Do not use unethical methods, such as asking a friend who happens to work in the accounts department!

People

How many will you need to see? Do you know them already? Have you got the necessary communication skills and recording equipment? Do you have sufficient funds and time?

Surveys

Where will you find a list of relevant organizations and contact details? How many interviews or questionnaires will you need for your analysis? What response rate do you anticipate? Do you have sufficient funds and time?

6.3.3 Your skills and resources

When planning your research, you need to consider what you will need to know and do to complete your research.You should be able to gain a reasonable understanding of your subject area by reading the relevant literature, but you will also need other skills, such as:

?? IT skills for searching the literature and analysing data ?? creative skills for designing questions and communicating concepts ?? verbal communication skills for interviewing ?? knowledge of statistics if you are planning a quantitative analysis ?? general analytical skills if you are planning to interpret qualitative data ?? verbal and written communication skills for presenting your research.

If you know that you have certain weaknesses, you need to assess whether you can overcome them in the time available. Your project is a period of development and you should welcome any opportunity to improve your skills and exploit your existing strengths.

When considering different research problems, it is useful to look at the implications of your choice. We summarize the main criteria for assessing potential research topics in Box 6.1.

Box 6.1 Criteria for assessing a research topic

?? Is the topic relevant to your degree? ?? Is the scope of the topic sufficiently narrow to make it feasible? ?? Do you have access to the data you will need to research this topic? ?? Do you have enough time to develop the knowledge and skills to research this topic? ?? Is your interest in this topic sufficient to keep you motivated over the duration of the

research? ?? Is an article on this topic likely to be publishable in an academic journal (or attractive to a

research committee)? ?? Will the study fill a gap in knowledge, extend or replicate a previous study or develop new

ideas in the literature? ?? Will the study enhance your employability?

6.4 Purpose of the research

The unit of analysis is the phenomenon under study, about which data are collected and analysed.

Once you have chosen a suitable research problem or issue, your next task is to identify the overall purpose of the research and determine the unit of analysis. The unit of analysis is the phenomenon under study, about which data are collected and analysed, and is closely linked to the ???

Table 6.3

business research

research problem and research questions. In business research, a unit of analysis might be a particular organization, division or department within an organization, or a more general group, such as business owners, managers, advisers or regulators. It could also be an inanimate object such as a particular type of event, decision, procedure, contract or communication (Blumberg, Cooper and Schindler, 2005).

Kervin (1992) suggests that it is generally best to select a unit of analysis at as low a level as possible. This should be at the level where decisions are made. Table 6.3 shows examples of different units of analysis, starting at the lowest and simplest level.

Units of analysis

Once you have determined your unit of analysis, you can state the purpose of your study clearly and succinctly. This can be achieved by writing two or three sentences that explain the main aim of the research and the more detailed objectives. The content depends on whether you are designing your research under a positivist or an interpre- tivist paradigm.You will use the future tense when explaining the purpose of the study in your proposal, but in your dissertation or thesis you will use the present or the past tense. Your writing style will reflect your rhetorical assumptions.

In a positivist study, the researcher adopts a formal style and uses the passive voice, accepted quantitative words and set definitions. For example, instead of writing ‘I will hold interviews with …’ or ‘I held interviews with …’ you will write ‘Interviews will be held with …’ or ‘Interviews were held with …’. This is because positivists are trying to convey their rhetorical assumptions (see Chapter 4) and emphasize their independence and objectivity. The purpose statement needs to identify the sample, the unit of analysis and the variables to be studied. It may also be appropriate to identify key theory and the methods to be employed. The statement does not have to follow a formula. In the example in Box 6.2, the researcher explains the purpose of the research at the same time as describing the context and rationale for the study.

Box 6.2 Example of a purpose statement in a positivist study

This study focuses on a sample of 592 small companies in the UK, which includes 419 companies that are likely to be categorized as micro-companies under the European Commission’s proposed Directive on accounting for ‘micro-entities’ (EC 2007, 2011). The sample represents a subset of private companies that took part in a survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) (Collis 2008). The purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature by investigating the determinants of two voluntary behaviours in micro- and non-micro small private companies: non-statutory audit and the filing of voluntary full accounts. The research examines the reasons for the

Unit of analysis

Example

An individual

A manager, employee, union member, investor, lender, supplier or customer

An event

A merger, strike, relocation, acquisition, change of leadership, change of strategy or decision to divest or close

An object

A machine, product, service or document

An organization or group of people

A type of business, division, department, committee or particular group of employees

A relationship

A manager/subordinate relationship, management/union relationship or head office/branch relationship, investor/manager relationship or customer/supplier relationship

An aggregate

A collection of undifferentiated individuals or bodies with no internal structure, such as companies in a certain industry, businesses of a certain size or in a particular location


Table 6.3

business research

research problem and research questions. In business research, a unit of analysis might be a particular organization, division or department within an organization, or a more general group, such as business owners, managers, advisers or regulators. It could also be an inanimate object such as a particular type of event, decision, procedure, contract or communication (Blumberg, Cooper and Schindler, 2005).

Kervin (1992) suggests that it is generally best to select a unit of analysis at as low a level as possible. This should be at the level where decisions are made. Table 6.3 shows examples of different units of analysis, starting at the lowest and simplest level.

Units of analysis

Once you have determined your unit of analysis, you can state the purpose of your study clearly and succinctly. This can be achieved by writing two or three sentences that explain the main aim of the research and the more detailed objectives. The content depends on whether you are designing your research under a positivist or an interpre- tivist paradigm.You will use the future tense when explaining the purpose of the study in your proposal, but in your dissertation or thesis you will use the present or the past tense. Your writing style will reflect your rhetorical assumptions.

In a positivist study, the researcher adopts a formal style and uses the passive voice, accepted quantitative words and set definitions. For example, instead of writing ‘I will hold interviews with …’ or ‘I held interviews with …’ you will write ‘Interviews will be held with …’ or ‘Interviews were held with …’. This is because positivists are trying to convey their rhetorical assumptions (see Chapter 4) and emphasize their independence and objectivity. The purpose statement needs to identify the sample, the unit of analysis and the variables to be studied. It may also be appropriate to identify key theory and the methods to be employed. The statement does not have to follow a formula. In the example in Box 6.2, the researcher explains the purpose of the research at the same time as describing the context and rationale for the study.

Box 6.2 Example of a purpose statement in a positivist study

This study focuses on a sample of 592 small companies in the UK, which includes 419 companies that are likely to be categorized as micro-companies under the European Commission’s proposed Directive on accounting for ‘micro-entities’ (EC 2007, 2011). The sample represents a subset of private companies that took part in a survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) (Collis 2008). The purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature by investigating the determinants of two voluntary behaviours in micro- and non-micro small private companies: non-statutory audit and the filing of voluntary full accounts. The research examines the reasons for the

Unit of analysis

Example

An individual

A manager, employee, union member, investor, lender, supplier or customer

An event

A merger, strike, relocation, acquisition, change of leadership, change of strategy or decision to divest or close

An object

A machine, product, service or document

An organization or group of people

A type of business, division, department, committee or particular group of employees

A relationship

A manager/subordinate relationship, management/union relationship or head office/branch relationship, investor/manager relationship or customer/supplier relationship

An aggregate

A collection of undifferentiated individuals or bodies with no internal structure, such as companies in a certain industry, businesses of a certain size or in a particular location

Once you have determined your unit of analysis, you can state the purpose of your study clearly and succinctly. This can be achieved by writing two or three sentences that explain the main aim of the research and the more detailed objectives. The content depends on whether you are designing your research under a positivist or an interpre- tivist paradigm.You will use the future tense when explaining the purpose of the study in your proposal, but in your dissertation or thesis you will use the present or the past tense. Your writing style will reflect your rhetorical assumptions.

In a positivist study, the researcher adopts a formal style and uses the passive voice, accepted quantitative words and set definitions. For example, instead of writing ‘I will hold interviews with …’ or ‘I held interviews with …’ you will write ‘Interviews will be held with …’ or ‘Interviews were held with …’. This is because positivists are trying to convey their rhetorical assumptions (see Chapter 4) and emphasize their independence and objectivity. The purpose statement needs to identify the sample, the unit of analysis and the variables to be studied. It may also be appropriate to identify key theory and the methods to be employed. The statement does not have to follow a formula. In the example in Box 6.2, the researcher explains the purpose of the research at the same time as describing the context and rationale for the study.

Box 6.2 Example of a purpose statement in a positivist study

This study focuses on a sample of 592 small companies in the UK, which includes 419 companies that are likely to be categorized as micro-companies under the European Commission’s proposed Directive on accounting for ‘micro-entities’ (EC 2007, 2011). The sample represents a subset of private companies that took part in a survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) (Collis 2008). The purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature by investigating the determinants of two voluntary behaviours in micro- and non-micro small private companies: non-statutory audit and the filing of voluntary full accounts. The research examines the reasons for chapter ? | writing your research proposal ???

auditing and filing decisions made in connection with the companies’ financial statements for accounting periods ending in 2006 in the context of the UK raising the size thresholds for a small company to the EU maxima in 2004. It also explores the potential impact of the proposed Directive on accounting for ‘micro-entities’, which is intended to reduce accounting and financial reporting obligations for approximately 5.3 million companies, representing some 75% of entities within scope of the Fourth Company Law Directive (EC 2008a). It has the potential to affect some 60% of registered companies in the UK (BIS/FRC 2011).

Source: Collis (2012, pp. 1–2). Reprinted by permission of the publisher (Taylor & Francis Ltd, http://www.tandfonline.com).

In an interpretivist study it is normal to emphasize the methodology employed and to imply the inductive nature of the research. The central phenomenon being explored should be described as well as the location of the study.To reflect the rhetorical assump- tion of this paradigm, the researcher uses the personal voice, accepted qualitative terms and limited definitions. For example, instead of writing ‘Interviews will be held with …’ or ‘Interviews were held with …’, you will write ‘I will hold interviews with …’ or ‘I held interviews with …’. This is because you are trying to convey the philosophical assump- tions that are appropriate to your paradigm, emphasizing your involvement and subjec- tivity. In the example in Box 6.3, the researcher explains the purpose of the study and also gives details of the research questions.

Box 6.3 Example of a purpose statement in an interpretivist study

The purpose of this study is to address the gaps in the literature by providing empirical evidence on the value of the financial statements of incorporated and unincorporated SMEs in the context of trade credit decisions that support customer/supplier relationships. To obtain insights into potential international differences, we examine cases in Finland, the UK, South Africa and the USA in order to investigate the following research questions: 1 What are the main sources of information and types of information used by SMEs when

making credit decisions in connection with new or existing customers? 2 What are the main sources and types of information used by credit rating agencies and

credit insurers when making credit rating decisions? 3 In both cases, how is the information used and for what purposes? 4 In both cases, what other information would the decision maker like to see in the

financial statements that would aid their decision? 5 What are the international similarities and differences in the findings in the context of

institutional factors?

Source: Collis, Jarvis and Page (2013, p. 4).

6.5 The research questions

When you explain the purpose of your study, you may only give the general aims and objectives, but you can see from the example in Box 6.3 that the researchers have listed their research questions. A research question states the specific line of inquiry the research

A research question is a specific question the research is designed to investigate and attempt to answer.

will investigate and attempt to answer. Therefore, your research ques- tions provide a focus for your endeavours and are not the actual ques- tions you might use in a questionnaire or interview. Identifying the research question(s) is a crucial stage in your research because it lies at the heart of your research design.

???

Table 6.3

business research

research problem and research questions. In business research, a unit of analysis might be a particular organization, division or department within an organization, or a more general group, such as business owners, managers, advisers or regulators. It could also be an inanimate object such as a particular type of event, decision, procedure, contract or communication (Blumberg, Cooper and Schindler, 2005).

Kervin (1992) suggests that it is generally best to select a unit of analysis at as low a level as possible. This should be at the level where decisions are made. Table 6.3 shows examples of different units of analysis, starting at the lowest and simplest level.

Units of analysis

Once you have determined your unit of analysis, you can state the purpose of your study clearly and succinctly. This can be achieved by writing two or three sentences that explain the main aim of the research and the more detailed objectives. The content depends on whether you are designing your research under a positivist or an interpre- tivist paradigm.You will use the future tense when explaining the purpose of the study in your proposal, but in your dissertation or thesis you will use the present or the past tense. Your writing style will reflect your rhetorical assumptions.

In a positivist study, the researcher adopts a formal style and uses the passive voice, accepted quantitative words and set definitions. For example, instead of writing ‘I will hold interviews with …’ or ‘I held interviews with …’ you will write ‘Interviews will be held with …’ or ‘Interviews were held with …’. This is because positivists are trying to convey their rhetorical assumptions (see Chapter 4) and emphasize their independence and objectivity. The purpose statement needs to identify the sample, the unit of analysis and the variables to be studied. It may also be appropriate to identify key theory and the methods to be employed. The statement does not have to follow a formula. In the example in Box 6.2, the researcher explains the purpose of the research at the same time as describing the context and rationale for the study.

Box 6.2 Example of a purpose statement in a positivist study

This study focuses on a sample of 592 small companies in the UK, which includes 419 companies that are likely to be categorized as micro-companies under the European Commission’s proposed Directive on accounting for ‘micro-entities’ (EC 2007, 2011). The sample represents a subset of private companies that took part in a survey commissioned by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) (Collis 2008). The purpose of this study is to contribute to the literature by investigating the determinants of two voluntary behaviours in micro- and non-micro small private companies: non-statutory audit and the filing of voluntary full accounts. The research examines the reasons for the

Unit of analysis

Example

An individual

A manager, employee, union member, investor, lender, supplier or customer

An event

A merger, strike, relocation, acquisition, change of leadership, change of strategy or decision to divest or close

An object

A machine, product, service or document

An organization or group of people

A type of business, division, department, committee or particular group of employees

A relationship

A manager/subordinate relationship, management/union relationship or head office/branch relationship, investor/manager relationship or customer/supplier relationship

An aggregate

A collection of undifferentiated individuals or bodies with no internal structure, such as companies in a certain industry, businesses of a certain size or in a particular location

 

???

6.5.1

business research

Figure 6.3 shows a simple model of how you can develop research questions. At each stage in the process you need to read, reflect and discuss what you are doing with others. The people you discuss your research with may be fellow students as well as your super- visor. We have already identified research as a process of inquiry, so the outcome of your investigation will be answers. However, you must ensure that the answers will be of interest or importance, otherwise your research will not receive much attention.

Move on to next stage of research design

Figure 6.3 Identifying research questions

No

1. State purpose of the research

2. Formulate specific questions or hypotheses

No Yes

5. Have questions been answered already?

3. Are they interesting or important?

Yes

4. Survey relevant literature

Before launching your investigations, you must search the relevant literature to see if anyone else has already answered your particular questions. If not, you can commence your research. However, if work has already been done in your chosen area, you may have to find ways of amending your proposed research so that it will produce new find- ings by extending or updating the existing body of knowledge.

Role of theory

According to Kerlinger and Lee (2000), a theory is a set of interrelated

A theoretical framework is a collection of theories and models from the literature of phenomena by specifying relationships among variables with the

which underpins a purpose of explaining natural phenomena. On a more simple level,

variables, definitions and propositions that presents a systematic view

positivist study. Theory can be generated from some interpretivist studies. A theory is a set of interre- lated variables, definitions and propositions that can also be suggested by empirical evidence (from an exploratory study, specifies relationships

theories are ‘explanations of how things function or why events occur’ (Black, 1993, p. 25). A theoretical framework is a collection of theories and models from the literature. It is a fundamental part of most research studies and underpins the research questions. However, these

for example), from which you subsequ