Business Research methods
When managers use research, they are applying the methods of science to the art of management. All business undertakings operate in the world of uncertainty. There is no unique method which can entirely eliminate uncertainty. But research methodology, more than any other procedure, can minimise the degree of uncertainty. Thus it reduces the probability of making a wrong choice amongst alternative courses of action. This is particularly significant in the light of increasing competition and growing size which make the task of choosing the best course of action difficult for any business enterprise.
It is imperative that any type of organisation in the present environment needs systematic supply of information coupled with tools of analysis for making sound decisions which involve minimum risk. It is in this context that the research methodology plays a very important role. In this unit, we will discuss at length the importance of research in decision making by delineating all its relevant elements.
Research is not an existing bag of techniques. Research is not a fishing expedition or an encyclopaedic gathering of assorted facts. Research is purposeful investigation. It provides a structure for decision making. There are three parts involved in any investigation: (1) the implicit question posed. (2) the explicit answer proposed. (3)collection, analysis, and interpretation of the information leading from the question to the answer. This third part is the defense that justifies the recommendation and is viewed as research. For example consider the statement “We recommend that model A TV be priced at 14000/!”. This was the recommendation forwarded to the marketing vice president by the marketing research manager. The implicit question posed in this quote is what should be the selling price of model A? The explicit answer is Rs.14000/. The third part deals with the collection, analysis, and interpretation of the information leading from the question to the answer of Rs.14000/.
The word research identifies a process by which the organisation attempts to supply the information required for making sound management decisions. Research is not synonymous with common sense. The difference revolves around words such as “systematic,” “objective,” and “reproducible.”Both research and common sense depend on information; the distinction between them lies in the procedures and methods adopted by which the information is obtained and used in arriving at conclusions. Research cannot address itself to the complete information on a particular subject. Hence two secondary characteristics of research specify “relevance”, and “control.”
A systematic approach is essential in good research. Each step must be so planned that it leads to the next step. It is usually very difficult to go back and correct the mistakes of the previous step; sometimes it is impossible. Even when it is possible, it will involve loss in time and money. Authors have divided research in to a number of steps. Both the number of steps and the names are somewhat arbitrary, however the recognition of a sequence is crucial. Planning and organisation are part of this systematic approach with a lot of emphasis given to the interdependence of the various steps.
While planning, one of the very common mistakes that is committed is the separation of data collection and data analysis. First we collect the data; then, we decide what anlysis is appropriate. This approach invites a disaster. In one of the research projects, depth interviews of the fresh college students were carried out at a very high cost and the necessary data were all collected. The data were still unanalysed because no one knew how to proceed. Our point is that considerable thought should have been given at the planning stage itself as to what kind of analysis will be required for the project which will satisfy the needs of the decision maker.
Objectivity warrants an approach which is independent of the researcher’s personal views and opinions with regard to the answer to the problem under investigation. It is possible to have honest differences with respect to the proper definition or collection procedure, but the one selected must not be chosen in order to verify a prior position.
Look at a scene in the morning and then in the evening. Use the naked eye and then the tinted glasses. It is the same with research. A high proportion of shoppers in store A have a positive opinion of store A. Shoppers in store B may have a totally different opinion of store A. Purchase behaviour varies with price specials. It is always possible to prove a point if one desires, by carefully selecting the respondents, time, and place. True research attempts to find out an unbiased answer to the decision making problem.
A reproducible research procedure is one which an equally competent researcher could duplicate and from it obtain approximately the same results. In order to achieve reproducibility, all procedures must be stated unambiguously. Precise wording of questions, method of sampling, collection method, interviewer instructions, and all other details must be clearly stated. Even if the environment changes, the research is atleast “conceptually” reproducible in the sense that the steps could be mentally duplicated.
The interviewer should avoid the temptation of rephrasing the question for the respondent in order to preserve reproducibility aspect. Poor and vague sampling procedure can also lead to nonreproducibility. If procedures are vague and not stated clearly, you cannot expect consistency even from the same interviewers.
Relevancy accomplishes two important tasks. First it avoids the collection of unnecessary information along with the accompanying cost. In the second place it forces the comparison of the data collected with the decision maker’s criteria for action. Before the start of the research project, you should ask the question “what action would you take if the research answer were?” This approach enables both the investigator and the decision maker to know whether the project is on the right direction.
Control aspect is particularly elusive in research. We must be aware that the results of our study are due to the presence of some factor other than those we are
investigating. It is impossible to have control on all other factors; the best we can do is to have control for those we think are most likely to cause us difficulty. Suppose we study the relationship between shopping behaviour and income without controlling for education and age, it will be the height of folly since our findings may reflect the effect of education or age rather than income.
Control raises extremely difficult issues when research is conducted in a live environment. Many factors other than the ones of principal interest may influence the research results. The danger is that the researcher may attribute changes to one variable when the uncontrolled variables are the causes.
Control must consider two aspects. (1) Those variables that are truly with in your control must be varied according to the nature of your investigation. (2) Those variables beyond your control should be recorded.