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Research methods: case study analysis

 

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Introduction

Research method is the effective tool towards gathering of information in sciences. The research paradigm adopted for any specific research exercise will affect the research results by creating a slightly different view or the perspective of the study (Christensen, 2007). The three research paradigms are qualitative research, quantitative research, and mixed research which employs research aspects of qualitative and quantitative research methods. This essay will analyze two researches; “Understanding the effects of adolescent girls’ social positions within peer groups on exchange practices” by Elodie Gentina Journal of Consumer Behaviour, J. Consumer Behav. 13: 73–80 (2014) and “Brand image and customers’ willingness to pay a price premium for food brands” by Johan Anselmsson, Niklas Vestman Bondesson, and Ulf Johansson, Journal of Product & Brand Management, Vol. 23 Iss 2 pp. 90 – 102 (2014). The analysis will be done to establish the rationale behind the research method used the choice of the method used, and the strengths and weaknesses of the method. The information used will be sourced through literature review of relevant materials.

Choice and rationale of research method

The choice of the appropriate research method depends on the study. McNabb (2008) and Babbie (2010) indicate that, if the study is aimed at establishing the explanation to a phenomena through numerical evidence, then the appropriate method is quantitative research whereas if the study seeks to establish further information for a given phenomena, then the appropriate method to use is qualitative research.

Gentina (2014) research is “studying a peer group” in its natural settings (p. 74 &75) and as stated in p. 74, “The exploratory nature of this research called for a qualitative methodology.” In addition, the research design according to Merriam (2009) fits that of qualitative research. In p. 75 the study has to be done through participation “in two separate 1-week school trips from two different schools to study the adolescent peer groups that emerged.” According to Anderson (2010), the presentation of a qualitative research design is anchored on three aspects; naturalistic, emergent, and purposeful.

The naturalistic aspect requires the study be done in real-world situations as the on-goings of the event understand unfold, the event should not be manipulated in any way, should not be controlled, and the researcher is open to any emergent. The emergent aspect of the design requires acceptance and adaptation of the research to the happening of the research as it goes on and as understanding of the events deepens or as the situation changes. Emergence requires that the researcher as well as the research design be flexible enough to respond to any new paths accordingly (Merriam, 2009). The last aspect is purposeful and it requires that the research design for a qualitative research should be to provide insights on the phenomena under study. The choice of the study cases is and should be done because the case presents an opportunity for relevant and useful information.

In Gentina (2014) research, the study was to establish the role of a peer group in the choices made by an adolescent girl especially while shopping. To gather insights to inform the phenomena, the research was done in a natural setting “trip” and the methods of data collection used being “social network methods, participant observations, and semi-structured interviews” (p. 73). According to Merriam (2009), these are the three main data collection methods in qualitative research. In addition, the research presents the researcher with the rich opportunity of personal experience and engagement with the study case where the personal experiences and insights play a crucial role in understanding the phenomena.  The researcher in qualitative research requires empathic neutrality when observing and more so when interviews are conducted to avoid being judgmental and show openness, sensitivity, respect, and awareness. One of the main characteristics of qualitative research is the dynamism of the system which has the potential to assume change on an ongoing basis regardless of the case under study.

Given the characteristics of Getina’s research, qualitative research was the appropriate method as it presented the design suitable to the case settings and the potential for maximum data gathering to help in understanding the phenomena. Moreover, the case under study does not have any specific measurements that are required for quantitative study.

In Anselmsson at al (2014), the study is founded on a conceptual framework of price premium and brand equity. This conception is used to build hypothesis which are them to be tested through the research. Babbie (2010) argues that, quantitative research methods aim at measuring and analysis of data collected through mathematical, numerical analysis, or statistically. In such researches, data is collected through polls, surveys, questionnaires, or through manipulation of earlier-collected data through computer-based techniques. In quantitative research, the study sample is determined based on statistical techniques in relation to the whole target population then the data collected generalized through the entire population. To ensure the results are representative of the population, a confidence level; is used mainly 95% (Muijs, 2010).

The goal in a quantitative research is to test the relationship between one factor and another, in which one is an independent variable and the other a dependent or outcome variable (McNabb, 2008). In Anselmsson et al (2014), the research seeks to establish the relationship between brand image (independent variable) and premium price which is the dependent variable. This type of study is descriptive quantitative research because it seeks to establish the relationship between variables.

Anselmsson research was done in a market setting where the consumer of food brands was the target. Given the enormous nature of any market and the differing preferences and opinions, it was inappropriate to use a given group to develop an informed opinion and it was impossible to get every consumers opinion. As a result and as indicated by Babbie (2010), the appropriate method was to get a representative sample of the market, 850 respondents in this case (p. 94), get their opinion through structured research instruments in this case, questionnaires (p. 94), analyze the data collected through statistical techniques,  and qualify the findings to an appropriate confidence level, 95% (p 0.05). The measurable values in this study are Brand, Perceived quality, CSR, Home country origin, Social image, and Uniqueness.

Quantitative research

Strengths

In quantitative research, researchers make an effort to recognize the various specific variables that are in the study framework and isolate them for purposes of establishing their correlation, relationships and causality, and try to manipulate as well as control the study environment in which data is collected to eliminate or minimize the risk of variables that are not understand affecting the relationship under study (McNabb, 2008). In Anselmsson at al (2014), six different variables are established from the conceptual framework and are all used in the questionnaire with each variable having a hypothesis. This aspect of quantitative research helps to establish the specific effect of each specific dependent variable to the independent variable.

Quantitative research allows for a greater number of study cases (Muijs, 2010). In Anselmsson et al (2014), a total of 850 respondents area used. This allows for a more representative finding with a lower error margin to the general population’s opinion. Through such findings, there is greater objectivity, accuracy, and supports generalization (Babbie, 2010).

Weakness

Quantitative research methods presume to have an approach that is objective for the study of research problems where data is controlled and measured, to determine causality, and address the accumulation of facts. The result of this is that, even though the research findings may be statistically significant, they are often humanly insignificant (McNabb, 2008).

Additionally, quantitative research has the limitation of lacking contextual detail (Babbie, 2010). In Anselmsson et al (2014), the findings suited for the hypothesis, but the same cannot be used in a real market setting with substitute food brands. According to Babbie (2010), quantitative results risks providing ‘laboratory results’ due to the controlled research environment.

Qualitative research

Strengths

According to Anderson (2010), qualitative methods lead to collection of rich and detailed data that captures the participants’ perspectives in their originality and provides a multifaceted understanding of the research phenomena. In Gentina (2014), the research is done in the natural setting of the adolescent girls. As a result, the findings can be used to generate clear cross-case comparisons and analysis of other groups or individuals.

The sample size in qualitative research, which is small in number, allows the researcher to do a more in-depth research and full data collection. In the case analyzed, the research is done on only two schools for a whole one week.

Qualitative study helps to create a realistic view of the real world, which cannot be effectively represented through numerical data or/and statistical derivations (Merriam, 2009). Due to the fact that the researcher interacts with the participants/cases under study, there is better understanding of the collected data hence better interpretation of the collected information.

Weaknesses

Due to the small sample used in qualitative research, it presents challenges in generalizing the findings to the entire population (Merriam, 2009). According to Christensen (2007), for a sample to be determined representative of a population it should be determined through statistical methods. As a result, quantitative research doesn’t qualify for population oriented studies.

The data collection method in qualitative research is observation and interviews with no structure. According to Anderson (2010), this presents a serious opportunity for data manipulation through biasness and being judgmental. This risk is more pronounced in cases where the researcher and participants cultures differ (Merriam, 2009).

Due to the dynamic nature of the research setting, qualitative research poses the risk of drifting away from the original research objectives (McNabb, 2008). In addition, in highly fluidic setting, the environment can completely change to imbed the success of the research.

References

Anderson C. (2010). Presenting and Evaluating Qualitative Research. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 74.

Babbie, E.R. (2010). The Practice of Social Research. 12th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage.

Christensen L.B. (2007). Experimental methodology (10th Ed.). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon

McNabb D.E. (2008). Research Methods in Public Administration and Nonprofit Management: Quantitative and Qualitative Approaches. 2nd ed. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe.

Merriam S.B. (2009). Qualitative Research: A Guide to Design and Implementation. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Muijs D. (2010). Doing Quantitative Research in Education with SPSS. 2nd edition. London: SAGE Publications.

Singh K. (2007). Quantitative Social Research Methods. Los Angeles, CA: Sage.


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