Research methods and methodology
How to... guides for researchers
The study of research methods is not only an essential requirement for social scientists, it is also vital for anyone looking to succeed in business and management. Stay informed on the basics, and familiarize yourself with recent developments and trends in research techniques.
The term “crowdsourcing” was first used by Jeff Howe in a 2006 Time magazine article, to describe the phenomenon of online content created by amateurs. Why use the crowd rather than experts, and why should people volunteer their time to provide content to a website when it is so much easier just to browse what is there?
Properly used, "mixed methods" research is a design methodology, a paradigm, and not just an arbitrary mix of qualitative and quantitative techniques. This article examines what the term means, why it has come into favour, its advantages and disadvantages, and some aspects of the execution of a mixed method design.
Case study research, in which the subject of the research is studied within its social, political, organizational or economic context, is one of the commonest research approaches across the social and management sciences. This research guide examines the use of case study research and gives advice on how to conduct it in a rigorous manner.
In this guide, Margaret Adolphus explores what is meant by the term discourse analysis, situates it in its context of qualitative data analysis and looks at some of the key theorists and its applications. Finally, she explores some of the ways in which discourse analysis can benefit research.
Grounded theory (GT) is a method of social research which involves generating theory from empirical data. Originating in sociology, it has become highly popular in management research. This article looks at the key features of GT and at the all-important historical evolution of different GT schools. It also looks at its applications in the various areas of management and LIS research, as well as its misuse.
This article explores how to make use of a versatile and ingenious research technique – the repertory grid. In the first section an overview of the method is given, in the second it is explained how to set one up, and in the third how to carry out an analysis. Finally, examples of how Emerald authors have used it, together with other sources of help, including software, are given.
This feature provides a general introduction to ethnographic methods of research with a particular focus on participant observation. Ethnographic methods originate from the social sciences, particularly anthropology, and are about immersing yourself in a particular setting (usually in business research a company or other organization) and "hanging out" there to obtain a rich and detailed description.
These pages deal with a very common research technique: the interview. In the main, they concentrate on the interview as a qualitative technique, although personal interviews are also used as a quantitative survey method. They look first at the general features of the interview, then at different types of interview, then at how to stage the interview and frame the questions, and finally (and briefly) at how to analyse, code and present the responses.
In this feature, we describe one of the key techniques of qualitative and ethnographic research: the focus group, which is often also referred to as the group interview. We shall here use the former term also to describe the latter, and will look at its main features, at the key tasks of the facilitator, at how to recruit for and organize a focus group, and finally where to go for further information.
Action research has been around for some time and is now an increasingly popular research approach. This article defines and situates it, then looks at how to design a good action research project, how to ensure its validity, and the best vehicles of dissemination. Finally, it looks at some useful sites on action research.
Qualitative research techniques are becoming more and more important in management and social science research. Careful analysis can ensure the research has a depth not always present in quantitative research, while retaining rigour and validity. This guide covers how the process differs from that for quantitative data, principles of data collection, coding, theory building, use of CAQDAS software, and finally at some of the main techniques and methods used for qualitative analysis, from grounded theory to hermeneutics.
A survey is a structured method for gathering data from a large number of respondents. It is used as a social science research method, by businesses determining the likely success of products, and by pollsters considering the impact of a particular policy or the likely outcome of an election. In these pages we are specifically concerned with the use of surveys as a tool for scholarly research in management-related disciplines, or for those who may use surveys in their business consulting work. We will also be focusing specifically on the design of the survey as a research enterprise.
The questionnaire is one of the most widely used instruments in research in the management sciences; it is also commonly used in business for market research. Effectively used, it is a highly efficient tool for obtaining data of a both structured (i.e. the answers are predetermined) and unstructured (the answers are open to the respondent) nature.
This feature is concerned with the choice of basic statistical analysis tools appropriate for academic research. It does not pretend to be exhaustive, but aims to give broad direction, some definitions, and a starting point for those with little experience of statistical methods. It does not go into any detail of how to apply the various tools, or perform the calculations, as these are best carried out by any of the range of statistical packages available as part of spreadsheet and database programs or as standalone tools.
These pages are concerned with what in general terms is considered, from the point of view of rigour, the gold standard of research, the experiment, which is nevertheless something of a Cinderella in the management sciences. We shall look first at what defines the experiment and what qualifies its use in management research, then in more detail at design issues, before exploring various types of experiment.
This is a huge topic, worthy of a whole monograph or text book, and we cannot here do more than provide some basic guidelines and tips. What we have also done is to provide some examples of research which has been published in the pages of Emerald journals, in the hope that this may provide inspiration as examples of good practice, or that you may see a particular methodology which you might consider applying to your own research.
All literature reviews should be more than a mere description of the current state of knowledge of an area, and should critically evaluate the theoretical positions and research studies, drawing attention to major debates. In this guide, Margaret Adolphus looks at how to write a literature review in the context of a research-based dissertation or scholarly paper and considers what constitutes a systematic, as opposed to a descriptive, literature review.
In this feature, we look at the use of secondary data, that is data that are not collected directly by observation, focus group or surveys. We start with a general look at the research methods associated with secondary data, examine the main types of secondary data and look at how to incorporate secondary data as part of a research design. Finally, where such data exist as part of public or private collections, we consider how to access them.
These pages are concerned with data collection and preliminary analysis methods appropriate for academic research. They do not pretend to be exhaustive, but aim to give broad direction, some definitions, and a starting point for those with little experience of statistical methods.