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Week 4: The Nature of QUALITATIVE
Research
Module: BUSINESS PROJECT
SESSIONAL SCHEDULE

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WEEK TOPIC
WEEK 1 Introduction to the Module/Assessment Strategy/The Nature of Business Management Research
WEEK 2 Planning a Research Project
WEEK 3 Critically Reviewing the Literature
WEEK 4 The Nature of Qualitative Research
WEEK 5 The Nature of Quantitative Research
WEEK 6 (a) Mixed Methods Research (b) e-Research
WEEK 7 (a) Analysing Qualitative Data (b) Qualitative Analysis – Nvivo
WEEK 8 (a) Analysing Quantitative Data (b) Quantitative Analysis – SPSS
WEEK 9 (a) Writing up Business Management Research (b) Writing up Business Research Outputs
WEEK 10 Assessment Week – Submission of INDIVIDUAL RESEARCH PROPOSALS

3
1. To define qualitative research and what is unique about it
2. To explain the qualitative research process and introduce action
research
3. Understand the terminology, language and various perspectives
associated with qualitative research
4. Be aware of the main criticisms of qualitative research and how to
address them
LEARNING OUTCOMES
Features of qualitative research
Inductive view of relationship between theory and research
theories and concepts emerge from the data
Interpretivist epistemology
Constructionist ontology
Emphasis on words/text rather than numbers
Diversity of approaches
Four traditions of qualitative research
Gubrium and Holstein (1997) suggest four traditions of qualitative research:
Naturalism: seeks to understand social reality in
its own terms; ‘as it really is’.
Ethnomethodology: seeks to understand how
social order is created through talk and interaction
Emotionalism: exhibits a concern with
subjectivity and gaining access to ‘inside’ experience
Postmodernism: emphasizes ‘method talk’
Research methods used in qualitative research
1. Ethnography / participation observation
prolonged immersion in the field
2. Qualitative interviewing
in-depth, semi- or un-structured
3. Focus groups
4. Discourse / conversation analysis
5. Documentary analysis

The main steps of qualitative research
Concepts in qualitative research
Blumer (1954) argued against the use of definitive concepts in
qualitative research:
because the indicators ‘fix’ the concept,
because what phenomena have in common becomes
more important than their variety.
…and in favour of
sensitizing concepts:
giving a general sense of reference and guidance,
allowing discovery of varied forms of phenomena,
capable of being gradually narrowed down

Approaches to reliability and validity
1. Adapting concepts from quantitative research
little change of meaning
quality, rigour and wider potential
external reliability (replication)
internal reliability (inter-observer consistency)
internal validity (good fit between data and theory)
external validity (generalization)
2. Alternative criteria
(Guba & Lincoln, 1994)
Trustworthiness
credibility (a parallel for internal validity)
dependability (a parallel for reliability)
transferability (a parallel for external validity)
confirmability (a parallel for objectivity)
Authenticity
ontological (better understanding of the social situation)
educative (better appreciation of others’ perspectives)
catalytic (impetus for change)
tactical (empowerment of participants)
does the research fairly represent different viewpoints?
3. Midway position
(Hammersley, 1992)
‘validity’ criterion needs to be reformulated:
empirical account must be plausible
but cannot have direct access to social worlds
assess credibility of researcher’s truth claims
adequacy of evidence as ‘true representation’
‘relevance’ criterion
contribution the study makes to the field
The main preoccupations of qualitative researchers 1
Seeing through the eyes of those studied
taking the role of the other
understanding the meanings people attribute to their world
unexpected findings
Description and emphasis on context
detailed account of the social setting
‘thick descriptions’ of what is going on
The main preoccupations of qualitative researchers 2
Emphasis on social process
how patterns of events unfold over time
social worlds characterized by change and flux
Flexibility and limited structure
no ‘prior contamination’ by rigid schedules
sensitizing concepts
Concepts and theory grounded in the data
Criticisms of qualitative research
Too subjective
researcher decides what to focus on
Difficult to replicate
unstructured format
Problems of generalization
samples not ‘representative’ of all cases
Lack of transparency
often unclear what researcher actually did
Is it always like this?
Some qualitative research departs from these
conventions:
focused on a specific research problem (rather than
sensitizing concepts / grounded theory)
more structured data collection (codified conversation
analysis)
more structured data analysis (CAQDAS)
greater transparency
Similarities between quantitative and qualitative research
oThe concern with data reduction
oThe concern with answering research questions
oThe concern with relating data analysis to the research literature
oThe concern with variation
oThe significance of frequency as a springboard for analysis
oThe control of deliberate distortion
oThe importance of transparency
oThe question of error
oThe appropriateness of research methods to questions
Contrasting qualitative and quantitative research
© 2020 ULaw and ULBS 18
Trustworthiness or rigor of a study refers to the degree of confidence in data, interpretation, and methods used to
ensure the quality of a study (Pilot & Beck, 2014).
Lincoln and Guba (1985) rely on four general criteria in their
approach to trustworthiness:
1. Credibility: the equivalent of internal validity in quantitative research and is concerned with the aspect of truthvalue
2. Transferability: The degree to which the results of qualitative research can be transferred to other contexts or
settings with other respondents, facilitated by a potential user through thick description.
3. Dependability: The stability of findings over time. Dependability involves participants’ evaluation of the findings,
interpretation and recommendations of the study
4. Confirmability: The degree to which the findings of the research study could be confirmed by other researchers.
Confirmability is concerned with establishing that data and interpretations of the findings are not figments of the
inquirer’s imagination
What does trustworthiness mean?
Definition of action research
o Experimentation on real problems within an organization
designed to assist in their solution
o Involving an iterative process of problem identification,
planning, action and evaluation
o Leading eventually to re-education, changing patterns of
thinking and action.
o It is intended to contribute both to academic theory and
practical action
Argyris et al. (1985)
Outcomes of good and effective action research
o It should have implications that relate to situations other than
the one studied
o As well as being usable in everyday life, action research should
also be concerned with theory
o It leads to the generation of emergent or grounded theory,
which emanates from the data in gradual incremental steps
o Action researchers must recognize that their findings will have
practical implications and they should be clear about what
they expect participants to take away from the project
Eden and Huxham (1996)
Cognitive mapping
A predominantly qualitative method: used widely by business and
management researchers in a variety of contexts
Is complementary to action research: can be used as a problem-solving
device – commonly used as a management consulting technique
Used to capture individual perspectives: a tool for reflective thinking about
a problem that enables steps to be taken towards its solution
Relates to the thinking processes of individuals, groups, organizations or
even industries: researchers need to be clear about the level of analysis
they are adopting

An example of a part of a cognitive map to
show the process of qualitative interviewing

The feminist critique of quantitative research
It suppresses the voices of women;
Women are turned into research objects;
Controlling variables is viewed as a masculine approach;
The use of predetermined categories in quantitative
research results in …‘the silencing of women’s own voices’;
Women are researched in a value-neutral way.
The feminist preference for qualitative research
Women’s voices can be heard
Exploitation is reduced by giving as well as
receiving in the course of fieldwork
Women not treated as objects to be controlled by
the researcher’s technical procedures
The emancipatory goals of feminism can be
realized.

However…
Many of the worst excesses of discrimination against women
might not have come to light were it not for the collection and
analysis of statistics revealing discrimination (Maynard 1994;
Oakley 1998).
It is difficult to see why feminist research that combines
quantitative and qualitative research would be incompatible
with the feminist cause (Jayaratne and Stewart, 1991 &
Maynard, 1994, 1998).
Qualitative research is not ipso facto feminist in orientation and
some writers have preferred to write about
feminist research
practice
rather than about feminist methods (Maynard 1998).
Features of participative research
1. Diverse parties are involved (management and union leaders,
for example);
2. Involves researchers taking sides (not able to keep a neutral
stance);
3. Diverse perspectives of different parties must be integrated
4. Concrete problems are solved as well as the generation of
abstract knowledge;
5. Outcomes of the research are complex and ambiguous.
Exercise
Read the Journal Article “Qualitative Case Study Methodology” (2008) and then the
short Case Study “
Case 5c – International Marketing Decisions of UK Ski Operators”,
then answer the case questions.
1. How should Elin justify her choice of a case study research strategy to her Project
Tutor?
2. Gaining and maintaining access to organisations is an important aspect of a case
study research project. What obstacles may Elin encounter when trying to gain
access to these organisations? How should she overcome them?
3. What skills will Elin need when carrying out case study research in these three
companies?

Thank you

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