Qualitative Research Methodology Samples

Qualitative Research Methodology Samples

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Qualitative Research Methodology Samples

Published 5, January 2009


This chapter discusses the philosophy of the research concepts and the assumptions on which they are grounded. It explains the research approaches, philosophical assumptions, research paradigms, research strategies and techniques for collecting and analysing data in conducting valid research. Further, it surveys the advantages, drawbacks, problems and limitations of my research topic so as to reach a comprehensive understanding of the research.

A research design is a plan that helps the researcher outline the various stages involved in the research process and influences their research philosophy (Pathirage, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2008).I began my research by drafting an outlineof research questions and objectives, research approaches, research methods, and protocols and procedures that would produces valid research process (Yin, 2009).

Research Approach

The choice of research philosophy is influenced by inductive and deductive thinking, which relate to deductive and inductive methods (Hussey and Hussey, 2003). The choice of research method relates to the nature of reality in the social world, and whether the data proceeds from theories or vice versa (Bryman and Bell, 2003; Pathirage, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2008).I have adopted an inductive method to uphold Interpretivism. This supports empirical research in the examination of real situations in the world, based on existing theories drawn from literature (Yin, 2009). My research is based on the analysis of qualitative data obtained from semi-structured interviews and archives. The data helped me compare results across multiple case studies with the existing theory, to validate my findings andthen generate a newtheory (Bryman and Bell, 2003; Sekaran, 2003; Pathirage, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2008; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009; Yin, 2009). In adopting an inductive method, I took an ideographic stance and participated in the research process. This helped with collecting the qualitative data and understanding the individual personalities and attitudes of people involved in the research process (Eisner, 1991). I have adopted an interpretive research paradigm, which is uncritical and does not advocate any fundamental changes to existing ventures.
Although some scholars hold that both deductive and inductive approaches can be used in the same study to complement each other (Creswell, 1994; 1998; Neuman, 2006; Collis and Hussey, 2009; Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson, 2009), I have adopted an inductive approach to suit my research philosophy, philosophical assumptions and research methodologies towards understanding the nature of social science (Burrell and Morgan, 1979; Hussey and Hussey, 2003; Collis and Hussey, 2009; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). It helped me to understand and answer my research questions on how entrepreneurial characteristics influence product innovation for growth in the textile industry in India (Yin, 2009).

Assumptions about the nature of social sciences

In social science, research scholars construct views about social entities on the basis of different philosophical assumptions, such as ontological assumption, epistemological assumption, axiological assumption, human nature and methodology (Burrell and Morgan, 1979; Hussey and Hussey, 2003; Collis and Hussey, 2009; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).Research scholars’ontological assumptions lead them to different views about the nature of reality in the social world; their epistemological assumptions determine what they consider valid knowledge for the purpose of research (Burrelland Morgan, 1979; Bryman, 2004; Bryman and Bell, 2007; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).Some scholars hold rhetorical assumptions, which relate to the method of writing the thesis (Cresswell, 1994).Further ontological and epistemological assumptions explain how research scholars understand reality and obtain knowledgeabout the social world (Pathirage, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2008; Yin, 2009).
My research questions relate to how entrepreneurial characteristics such as creativity and risk-taking influence Indian entrepreneurs in introducing innovative products. I have adopted Interpretivism in support of the subjective views of the entrepreneurs involved in the research process, and to study independent research variables that cannot be manipulated, such as creativeness and risk-taking (Eisner, 1991; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).
In adopting Interpretivism I hold that all social entities are conceived by independent actions and the views of people in society, which they believe to be true.This results in multiple realities (Pathirage, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2008; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009; Yin, 2009).The philosophy upholds that the social world requiresa different logic from Positivism, one that reflects on the distinctiveness of human beings in society. My research is based on the views and actions of entrepreneurs in influencing growth, to establish multiple realities (Yin, 2009).
I considered the subjective views of entrepreneurs as valuable knowledge for research. Archives were used to obtain additional data to ground my epistemological assumptions (Yin, 2009). These have guided the research questions and helped me determine what must be added to my beliefs in order to convert them into knowledge (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).Furthermore, they have helped me understand the social phenomenon of why people behave differently and how to explain this in the findings (Yin, 2009).
In order toparticipate closely in the research process I adopted an ideographic methodology. In order to achieve this, I examined the social phenomena and collected qualitative data from various sources to test existing theories and form new ones (Burrelland Morgan, 1979; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, Yin, 2009). I conducted semi-structured interviews to collect in-depth data from entrepreneurs, obtained data by making personal observations at the interviews and examined records to obtain additional data (Burrelland Morgan, 1979; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009, Yin, 2009).I have triangulated data obtained from various sources that points to the same set of facts so as to strengthen the claims of my research findings (Yin, 2009).
Research scholars use ontological and epistemological assumptions as the basis for axiological assumptions that relate to values that influence the research process (Pathirage, Amaratunga and Haigh, 2008; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009; Yin, 2009). My research is value-laden since I have participated in the research process, but in validating my research this is explained in my findings (Yin, 2009).
So as to uphold the interpretive philosophy that relates to my rhetorical assumptions in writing the thesis. I have used an informal style and personal voice, and accepted qualitative words and limited definitions (Cresswell, 1994; 1998).
Research philosophy holds it necessary to understand human naturein establishing philosophical assumptions about the relationship between human beings and their environment (Burrelland Morgan, 1979; Husseyand Hussey, 2003; Collis and Hussey, 2009; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). I adopt a voluntarist approach, which states that human beings act of their free will and their actions are autonomous (Burrell and Morgan, 1979).


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Research Paradigm

Research paradigms relate to how research scholars view the world.Theyrelate to beliefs specific to a discipline; research methods; relevant knowledge for the purpose of research; and ways to interpret results (Bryman, 2004).They deal with problems and recommendations to improve them in specific conditions (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). My research adopts an interpretive paradigm and upholds Interpretivism, nominalism and voluntarism. It explains how entrepreneurs involved in the research process introduce innovative products to grow their ventures in the textile industry in Tamil Nadu State, India. Research methodology
My research methodology helps me answer the research questions and support my epistemological and methodological assumptions (Kelle, 2006). I have adopted an ideographic multiple-case study as an effective strategy. This is a method used in qualitative research (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Yin, 2009)to test existing theories and generate new ones(Eisenhardt, 1989).It uses supported semi-structured interviews for data collection and the adoption of logical analysis to produce valid findings(Sekaran, 2003).
I have based my research on primary data from unpublished semi-structured interviews and secondary data from archives. These two datasets complement each other in achieving complete and valid research (Yin, 2009).They have helped me understand how the views and actions of entrepreneurs influence product innovation for growth. I have also used secondary data such as sales reports prepared by business staff. These have furnished data on products and sales turnover, and the growth achieved over a period of time (Bryman and Bell, 2007; Yin, 2009). This data is valuable to my research and has enabled me to analyse common patterns in multiple-case studies, which have led to the generation of new theories (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995; Hill and McGowan, 1999; Yin, 2009).

Research sample and nature of study

The size of my samples is small, and I have used purposive sampling methods in selecting them. They include six entrepreneurs in the textiles industry in Tamil Nadu who have common characteristics and so can furnish relevant data (Cresswell, 1998). I have adopted a cross-sectional study, which involves examining the phenomenon over a relatively short period of time. This suits multiple-case studies since it is less expensive and less time-consuming (Eisner, 1991;Robson, 2002; Neuman, 2005; Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009).

Unit analysis

My research is based in Tirupur, Tamil Nadu state. I have selected six entrepreneurs to conduct multiple case studies in the textiles manufacturing industry at Tirupur, Karur and Salem district. They have all established entrepreneurial ventures in the textiles industry between 1993 and 2010 and are still in active business. Furthermore, they are connected to a developing economy, India, which has been previously studied for the effect of entrepreneurial characteristics on growth (Majumdar, 2008).

First phase of research

I beganmy research by studying the entrepreneurship literature and formulating research questions based on the the gaps identified. I contacted several state institutions in Tamil Nadu, such as handloom co-operative societies, Khadi boards and other textiles associations, by phone for the details and addresses of entrepreneurs. I contacted these entrepreneurs by phone to obtain their voluntary consent to participate in semi-structured interviews (Kajornboon, 2004). Some of them refused to answer questionnaires by email but voluntarily agreed to participate as respondents in face to face and personal interviews at places of their choice (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2009). The final shortlist of entrepreneurs was based on their products in the market and their willingness to participate in the research. These entrepreneurs were informed by phone that they had been selected to participate in the research process and details of the interviews with them were discussed (Kajornboon, 2004).


Innovation is measured by number of products. Growth is measured by sales turnover and number of employees.

Interview guide

The research questions, aims and purposes of the research, and research themes were outlined in an interview guide. This helped regulate the order of questions of semi-structured interviews and frame any new questions that arose from unexpected encounters. It enabled me to seek explanations of ambiguous terms from entrepreneurs, and probe to obtain spontaneous answers from them on specific areas of the research (David and Sutton, 2004).

Ethical considerations

In order to avoid upsetting the interviewees I explained to them the purpose of the inquiry and how they might benefit from it (Gray, 2004). I addressed possible legal risks and political repercussions of the interviews .Furthermore; I explained how and to what extent the details of the interviews might be kept in confidence to protect their interests (Gray, 2004; Kajornboon, 2004; Yin, 2009). Above all, I obtained consent from them in writing about the right to publish the data obtained from them. This covers anonymity, the right to read and comment on publications, and any right to veto (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson, 2009).

Multiple case studies (Research strategy)

I have adopted multiple case studies as an effective research strategy for studying entrepreneurs who are living and understanding real events relevant to the research that cannot be distinguished from the phenomenon within which they happened(Stake, 1994;Kajornboon, 2004;Yin, 2009). Multiple case studies reflect on how changing events in different situations influence the growth of ventures (Eisner, 1995; Hill and McGowan, 1995). They help us understand how the changing perceptions and actions of entrepreneurs over a period of time influencing growth. Furthermore, the study enables us connect cases to specific theories and to generalise across similar cases (Hilland McGowan, 1999; Yin, 2009).

Semi-structured interviews (Research technique)

In order to support a multi-case study, I have adopted semi-structured interviews to collect in-depth data from entrepreneurs. This has helped me obtain spontaneous answers to questions from entrepreneurs (David and Sutton, 2004),to frame new questions, to change questions and their order to suit the situation (Gray, 2004),and to probe answers for additional data (Corbetta, 2003; Kajornboon, 2004). New data obtained from the interviews led to the formation of themes other than those considered at the beginning of the research (Gray, 2004).New insight was gained on how entrepreneurs employ different kinds of knowledge, raw materials, manufacturing processes and social capital to introduce innovative products. Above all, the interviews made it possible to observe the social environment of the interviews, including the demeanour of the interviewees. Some entrepreneurs were very confident of their answers while others hesitated to answer questions. I reflect this in my findings invalidating the data (Hilland McGowan, 1999).

Recording data

I used audio tapes to record and store the interviews as evidence of my research (Kajornboon, 2004). I analysed them roughly and stored them safely within 24 hours (Flick, 2002).After five days, I met the entrepreneurs again to review the interviews and gave them each a paper copy of interview transcription. They were allowed to check its contents and reformulate, eliminate and/or replace any inappropriate statements. Furthermore, they were allowed to reflect on their final views by comparing their original and subsequent statements, before signing the contents (Flick, 2002).All changes in the contents were transcribed and typed to reflect the final views reflected in the appendix (final research draft).
Physical observations about the environment and the behaviour of the entrepreneurs during the interviews were recorded in a note book. This helped me observe any repetitive words and phrases used, and ascertain key words. These were categorised and linked as common patterns across different cases to form themes. The data was analysed to frame new theories (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Creswell, 1994).

Data analysis

I have observed the themes emerging across a single case study and used literal replications to test them across similar cases. This has been useful in constructing alogical analysis based on common patterns emerging across similar cases that lead to the formation of new theories. Logical analysis helped create general theories that could be applied to similar cases. Furthermore, it helped test the existing theories that were established ininitiating the research process (Fetterman, 1989; Marshall and Rossman, 1989; Creswell, 1994; Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995; Yin, 2009).

Problems and limitations of research

Semi-structured interviews have limitations. They are based on the presumption that interviewees possess full knowledge of the topics discussed, and any opinions are also subjective (Flick, 2002).
The research process required time and money in selecting the right entrepreneurs when it was difficult to obtain their consent to participate (Yin, 2009). Although the initial study involved nine case studies, three entrepreneurs were not available for interview.

Advantages and disadvantages of multiple case studies

While multiple case studies are useful for providing in-depth data, some scholars maintain that they do not lead to general theories that can be universally applied. However, the purpose of multiple-case studies is to study the phenomenon and use logical analysis to draw theories in specific contexts that might be used more generally in similar cases. Although positivists believe that qualitative methods do not allow the replication of experiments because of reliability, I have adopted multiple case studies that are not meant to replicate experiments but to repeat similar case studies as valid research (Yin, 2009).


Although the research method has its advantages and disadvantages, multiple case studies were useful for collecting valuable data on the personal experiences of entrepreneurs and real events related to the research topic. The study helped make a contextual study of the events and obtain the views of Indian entrepreneurs in individual cases that could not be distinguished from the phenomenon within which they took place. The study was useful to understanding how entrepreneurial characteristics influence innovative products for growth in ventures. The data obtained was valuable for comparing and contrasting similar cases, drawing up theories for specific cases and explaining how they might be applied to similar cases involved in the research process. They helped to test the original theory, build new theory as an additional contribution to literature and draw out findings that contributed to valid research (Yin, 2009).


Burrell, G. and Morgan, G., 1979.Sociological Paradigms and Organisational Analysis, Elements of the Sociology of Corporate Life, London: Heinemann Educational Books Ltd.

Bryman, A., 2004.Social Research Methods, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bryman, A. and Bell, E., 2003.Business Research Methods. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bryman, A. and Bell, E., 2007.Business Research Methods.Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Collis, J. and Hussey, R., 2009.Business Research.London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Corbetta, P. and Patrick, B., 2003.Social Research: Theory, Methods and Techniques.London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

Creswell, J. W., 1994.Research Design: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Creswell, J. W., 1998.Qualitative Inquiry and Research Design: Choosing Among Five Approaches.Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

David, M. and Sutton C.D., 2004.SocialResearch:The Basics. London: Sage Publications.

Easterby-Smith, M., Thorpe, R. and Jackson, P., 2009.Management Research.3rd ed. London: Sage Publications.

Eisenhardt, K.M., 1989. Building theories from case study research.Academy of Management Review, 14(4), pp.532–55.

Eisner, E. W., 1991.The Enlightened Eye: Qualitative Inquiry and Enhancement of Educational Practice. New York: Macmillan.

Fetterman, D. M., 1989.Ethnography: Step by Step. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Flick, U., 2002.An Introduction to Qualitative Research. London: Sage Publications

Glaser, B. and Strauss, A., 1967.The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Aldine, New York.

Gray, D. E., 2004.Doing Research in the Real World. London: Sage Publications.

Hammersley, M. and Atkinson, P., 1995.Ethnography: Principles and Practice. London, Routledge.

Hill, J. and McGowan, P., 1999. Small business and enterprise development: questions about research methodology.International Journal of Entrepreneurial Behaviourand Research, 5(1), pp.5–18.

Hussey, J. and Hussey, R., 2003.Business Research.London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Kajornboon, A. B., 2004.Creating Useful Knowledge: A Case Study of Policy Development in E-learning at Chulalongkorn University Language Institute. Dissertation. University of Melbourne: Australia Sage Publications.

Kelle, U., 2006. Combining qualitative and quantitative methods in research practice: purposes and advantages. Qualitative Research in Psychology.3, pp.293–311.

Majumdar, S., 2008.Modellinggrowth strategy in small entrepreneurial business organisations.The Journal of Entrepreneurship, 17(2), pp.157–68.

Marshall, C., and Rossman, G. B., 1989.Designing Qualitative Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

Neuman, W.L., 2005.Social Research Methods. London: Pearson.

Pathirage, C.P., Amaratunga, R.D.G and Haigh, R.P., 2008.The Role of Philosophical Context in the Development of Theory: Towards Methodological Pluralism.The Built and Human Environment Review, 1,pp.1–10.

Robson, C., 2002.Real World Research. Oxford: Blackwell.

Saunders, M., Lewis, P. and Thornhill, A., 2007.Research Methods for Business Students. London: FT Prentice Hall.

Sekaran, U., 2003.Research Methods for Business: A Skill Building Approach.4th ed. New Jersey: John Wiley and Sons.

Stake, R.E., 1994. Case Studies.In: Denzin, N. K. and Lincoln, Y. S.,eds.Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp.236–47.

Yin, R. K., 2009.Case Study Research: Design and Methods. Newbury Park: Sage Publications.


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