Qualitative Research Methodology Sample Work

Qualitative Research Methodology Sample Work

Qualitative Research Methodology Sample Work

Published 22, July 2013


According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009), accomplishing the intended objectives necessitates carrying out a research through methodically gathering data and analysing them in order to discover phenomenon. Considering the research process, it is realised that defining the research strategy is necessary. For this purpose, Saunders Lewis and Thornhill (2009) bring forward the research process onion, which assists the researchers in illustrating the aspects that drive the selection of data collection methods. According to the scholars, the research process onion consists of five layers, which are the philosophy of the research, the approach of the research, the methodology of the research, time prospects and data gathering techniques (Saunders Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).In developing the methodology of this research, the research process onion offered by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) is utilised.

Research Philosophies

Out of the many ways of explaining, theorising and categorising research methodologies, studying them on the basis of their philosophy is the most fundamental approach (Clarke, 1998). Philosophical approach towards studying research methodologies works with certain premises built on the most basic aspects of the world, for instance the mind, substance, reality, logic, truth, the nature of learning and how it is substantiated (Hughes 1994). Research philosophies are classified under three categories which are namely positivism, interpretivism and realism.
Positivist thought has a long history of evolution, rebuttals, reiteration and reassessment. The rationale behind positivist thinking is that there is an independent truth that is external to human actions and hence cannot be reduced to being a figment of human imagination. As per positivism, science is the way to reach the truth, to understand the world better to be able to predict and control it. The universe operates by the laws of cause and effect, is deterministic, and is different when we apply the scientific approach. Science is, therefore, broadly a mechanistic or mechanical affair in positivism. Methodical reasoning is used speculate and test theories. Based on the results of the tests we can see whether a theory fits the facts or not, if not then we revise the theory accordingly to predict reality more accurately (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson, 2008). The positivists believe in empiricism, with observation and measurement being the centre of the scientific endeavour. Scientific methods main approach is the experiment, to recognize and understand laws through direct manipulation and observation (Trochim, 2000). On the other hand, approach has its own pre-defined limitations for research due to the structured research design requirement. According to the assumptions of the approach researchers may affect the approach by their own values or may be objective. In order to attain generalisations from the outcomes, large samples should be utilised considering the fact that one measurement would not be sufficient to comprehend the complex nature of the studied subject.
According to Hatch and Cunliffe (2006), the interpretivist/constructivist philosophy can be succinctly described as anti-positivist. Interpretivism can be generally described as an inductive or theory-building model. Interpretivists believe that there can be various realities (Denzin and Lincoln, 2003) and that all knowledge is ultimately related to, and influenced by, the person who has attained the knowledge. Therefore, interpretivists attempt to work collaboratively to understand and gain meaning from various points of view, and use this to form conclusions for their research projects (Hatch and Cunliffe, 2006).
Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) state that results from these types of studies tend not to be generalised, but are focused on understanding the meanings and points of view of individual subjects within their unique contexts. It is also important to study the thoughts and feelings of individuals, along with their verbal and non-verbal methods of communication (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson, 2008). This type of study is considered more qualitative than quantitative due to the emphasis on language and the subjective type of data gathering that is used (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2008). Researchers following this paradigm are particularly cautioned to carefully contemplate any bias that they may unintentionally introduce into the study due to its subjective nature, as well as the close interactions between researchers and their subjects.
The realist philosophy was created as an alternative to the extremes of positivism, which was considered too determined by the absolute control of natural laws, and constructivism, which was too relative and dependent on the individual circumstances. The realist philosophy proposes that there are indeed realities that are not related to or created by human awareness, but that understanding of information is influenced by society. Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) interpret this paradigm to mean that social conditioning creates an individual’s understanding of the world.
According to Blaikie (1993), realists are fundamentally striving to understand and quantify these mechanisms; however, they also understand that these mechanisms sometimes do not mesh with actual observations. The idea that events can happen without actually being experienced is shared by Hatch and Cunliffe (2006), who describe this layered form of reality in which visible events are actually being controlled by underlying mechanisms that are not readily visible to the outside observer.
In this research, the author adopted a realistic stance for the investigation of topic at hand which is development of marketing communications strategy for “Me! Bath” brand to be launched in India. This is because carrying out this research involved exploring current customer trends towards luxury bath and spa products in India as well as measuring the effectiveness of marketing communication strategies of existing companies operating in bath and spa products segment in the eyes of Indian consumers. Adoption of the realistic philosophy made it possible incorporating qualitative and quantitative methods in reaching the aim of this study.

Research Approaches

Two research approaches are offered in the methodology literature. These are deductive and inductive approaches. The deductive approach to research is also known as the top-down approach in which a comprehensive theory is developed before reaching a summarised hypothesis. Researchers then gather sufficient data on the subject that is then analysed to prove or disprove the hypothesis. Thus, it can be said that this approach has a converging orientation between its application and development thereafter (Nance, 2008).
The inductive approach to research is the opposite of the deductive. Under this approach, a small part of the bigger subject being researched is studied in great detail in order to reach a conclusion. The section being studied may seem inconsequential on its own but, in the end, proves to be integral to the research matter, as a whole (Hatch, 2002). This approach starts by examining the observations and data about the segment and assessing it, keeping in mind the larger context (Denzin and Lincoln, 2003). Basically, the process moves from a specific section of the larger research topic to the generalised subject before reaching a conclusion.
In this research, a deductive approach was followed. In developing the conceptual background of this dissertation, following sources were critically reviewed.
Through following a top-down approach, the author reviewed the literature starting from marketing communications and consumer behaviour in general and narrowed down to marketing communications and consumer behaviour in fashion and beauty/bath and spa products. Secondary research was also carried out on the Key marketing communications best practices followed globally in the premium home spa segment. This was followed by assumptions, hypotheses and primary research, concluded with an empirical research investigating the assumptions and hypotheses (Bryman and Bell, 2007).

Research Design

Methodology is defined by Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009) as the belief that e stablishes the methods in which research should be performed in order to achieve the defined purposes. While intending to reach the objectives of research, methodology requires producing a theory and providing the necessary techniques to determine the hypothesis. The aim of this dissertation is to evaluate the effectiveness of marketing communications used for premium home spa bath and body care products in India in order to develop an integrated marketing communications plan for Me Bath’s launch in India. To reach this aim, this study takes Bendixen (1993) suggestion in conducting the research. Bendixen (1993) suggests that “asking questions about consumers’ intention to purchase the advertised brand or product will complement the research”. The author also points out that “this type of research generally leaves a serious gap in the measurement of true advertisement effectiveness and argues that the actual sales of the product, or surrogate variables such as market share should be also considered as these variables indicate the true reflection of the behaviour stage of communication process; however it is believed that by integrating qualitative and quantitative variables, it is possible to measure the effectiveness of marketing communications efforts of firms in the long-term (Bendixen, 1993).
Saunders et. al (2009) distinguish between exploratory, descriptive and explanatory research. Exploratory research is used when the purpose of a study is to clarify the understanding of a problem. Collis and Hussey (2009) show that when there are limited studies concerning the issue to which the researcher can refer to for information, the exploratory research method is performed. Descriptive research according to Robson (2002,p.59) is “to portray an accurate profile of events, or situations”. And explanatory research follows the aim to establish causal relationships between variables. Whereas exploratory research combines literature review with qualitative data in form of expert interviews and focus groups, descriptive and explanatory research consists of quantitative data.
This research investigates the effectiveness of marketing communications efforts of firms operating in bath and spa products segment and thereby attempts to create an Integrated Marketing Communications Plan for ME! Bath’s launch in India. This will be done by combining literature review findings with qualitative data in the form of expert interviews and focus groups with quantitative data in form of a consumer-based survey. Hence exploratory as well as descriptive and explanatory research is conducted.

Accordingly, the following research questions are formed for this study:
  • What is the role of marketing communications in consumers’ decision making process for premium home spa products (globally and in India respectively) ?
  • How do consumers respond to integrated marketing communications efforts of bath and spa products currently in India?
  • What kinds of marketing communications are run by organisations operating in luxury bath and spa industry in India? Wha are the key differences between the global and Indian context ?
  • To what extent are the existing marketing communications practices of firms operating in bath and spa segment in India effective in attracting customers to their offerings?
  • What are the global best practices in marketing communications that could be deployed in India by premium home spa products ?
  • PART B.) Design of innovative marketing communication tools and evolving an IMC Strategy around the same for ME! Bath’s launch in India
  • What are the innovative marketing communication tools (evolved from the above research) that could be deployed by ME ! Bath for its launch in India ?
  • How effective are the newly introduced marketing communication tools ?
  • What should be ME ! Bath’s integrated marketing communications strategy ? (This is to be built around the newly introduced tools that are found to be effective)

The methods used for measuring effectiveness of marketing communications have already been elaborated in the literature review.

    There are seven research strategies according to Saunder et.al (2009). These are:
  • Case Studies
  • Survey
  • Action research
  • Experiment
  • Grounded Theory
  • Ethnography
  • Archive Research

A Case Study is “a strategy for doing research which involves empirical investigation of a particular phenomenon within its real life context using multiple sources of evidence”. Surveys allow researches to collect a high amount of data in a highly economical way (Saunders et. al, 2009)

To achieve the research objectives in Part A of this study, case studies in the form of in-depth one-on-one interviews with experts, and focus group discussions with consumers

have been conducted. Additionally, this research conducted a consumer-based survey to investigate consumer’s perception on marketing communication tools deployed to date, and their assessment of the impact on the brand’s equity. This led to a triangulation strategy which is not uncommon (Saunders et al., 2009).

To achieve the objectives in Part B of this study, expert interviews were carried out to come up with suitable innovative solutions based on gaps in the existing marketing communications space for premium home spa brands in India. Then focus group discussions were carried out amongst consumers to help shortlist possible innovative marketing communication tools for the segment. Innovative MC tools once designed, were experimented at points of sale, and suitable empirical data was collected though real-time analytics and also consumer surveys, to assess the effectiveness of the newly designed tools. An IMC Strategy was then built around the impactful new MC tools. Expert interviews could be further used to evolve the same if required. This choice of research approach can also be labelled as “methodological triangulation”.

The advantage with methodological triangulation used in PART A & B, is that it helps to enhance reliability, validity as well as widening the knowledge and understanding of the chosen research field and avoiding misinterpretation of the collected data (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Saunders et al., 2009)


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Research Choice

Saunders et al (2009) highlight two main research choices- the mono method and the multiple method. The mono method comprises single data collection and analysis, which thus is either quantitative or qualititative. Quantitative data collection techniques or data analysis generates or uses numerical values (Bryman & Bell, 2007). In contrast, qualitative data is used for any data collection technique (eg. Interviews) or data analysis (eg: categorising data) that generate or use non-numerical data (Saunders et. al, 2009).

In contrast to the mono method, the multiple method uses more than one data collection technique and analysis procedure (Saunders et. al, 2009:152, figure below).

In this dissertation, as previously mentioned, primary research is intended to conducted through interviews with experts and focus groups with consumers (qualitative data collection) on the one hand and through a consumer based survey and real-time analytical data (quantitative data collection) on the other hand.

Time Horizons

Time horizons of a research indicate the time frame used for carrying out a study. Based on this, two classifications are made by Saunders, Lewis and Thronhill (2009) which are namely cross-sectional and longitudinal. In a cross-sectional study, the topic at hand is investigated in a particular time period and with such research, the aim is to provide a snap shot of an ongoing situation (Saunders, Lewis and Thronhill, 2009). In longitudinal research, the research is carried out in an extended period of time. The intention of this research is to observe and investigate the change and development in a certain topic (Saunders, Lewis and Thronhill, 2009).

In this study, the time horizon for the investigation was set as cross-sectional because qualitative and quantitative data collection was conducted at particular times and not over a long time frame, due to the fact that the investigation had to be completed within 3 months.

Techniques and Procedure of this Research

This research combines quantitative data with qualitative data and hence a mixed-methods design. It uses ‘methodological triangulation’ in both its parts. In Part A, the starting point of the triangulation of this dissertation was a set of interviews with leading global as well India Premium Home Spa brands’ Brand Managers / General Managers; Owners of Premium Salons/ Spa’s; Retail Heads of leading department stores beauty retail stores. This was followed by consumer based surveys and conluded with a focus group with consumers.

In Part B, in-depth interviews with experts were carried out to shortlist solutions, focus groups with consumers were then used to refine the choices and take interesting ideas for the design of innovative MC solutions, and consumer based surverys and real-time analytics were used to validate the effectiveness of the tools designed. Evolution of a complete IMC strategy, by building on the impactful new tools designed for the launch of ME Bath in India, was then done with the help of another round of expert interviews.

Data Collection Methods

In finding answers for the research questions, this study, first, conducted a secondary data research on the following topics; marketing, marketing communications, marketing communications mix, integrated marketing communications, advertising and advertising campaigns. In this part, conducted secondary data was mainly used for the forming a literature review base for the study. In this part, secondary data was mostly collected from the books and articles, along with the online sources.

Furthermore, initial secondary data research was also conducted in this study to form a methodology and furthermore to provide information about the market in the global context as well as in India. Besides, secondary research also helped in identifying, understanding and analysing the existing marketing communication strategies deployed by Premium Bath and Body Brands globally and in India through available literature online and in book/ articles. At this point, methodology literature is mostly formed by the data collected through reviewing the research books, such as Collins and Hussey (2009) and Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2009). Online sources were the main sources of data collection in forming the market study on the bath and spa market in the world and in India.

This study also used primary data collection in answering the set research questions. Primary data collection methods are explained in the following section.

Methods Used for Data Analysis

To fulfil the aim of this research, this study collected both quantitative and qualitative data. Quantitative data is collected to explore consumer trends for bath and spa products in India and to measure the effectiveness of the existing marketing communication practices used by firms offering bath and spa products in the country through exploring Indian consumers’ perceptions towards these efforts. Thus, in the analysis of data collected via questionnaires, the author employed statistical methods. First, the author utilised frequency statistics. Frequency is an important statistical function which relates to the entire number of observations for a considered variant. Frequency distribution is an organisation of the frequencies by volume illustrated in a table, chart, graph or other figure (Collis and Hussey, 2009). In interpreting the results by means of performing frequency testing, the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), which is known to be the preferred software in social sciences, is used (Bryman and Bell, 2003).
In order to determine as to whether the findings were statistically meaningful, the author employed student t-test method. The t-test analysis was used in this study to obtain and evaluate the distinctions in means between two different variables. T-test analysis was also run with the help of SPSS.

For the analysis of information collected from the interviews, the author employed thematic analysis. This means that focus points in the analysis was interviewees’ actual words rather than what they intent to claim by saying the words (Gibbs, 2007). Detail explanations of the findings were given in the analysis though using story-telling method.


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