MEANING OF RESEARCH
Research refers to a search for knowledge. Research is an art of scientific investigation.
“A careful investigation or inquiry specially through search for new facts in any branch of knowledge”.
OBJECTIVES OF RESEARCH
1. To gain familiarity with a phenomenon or to achieve new insights into it. (exploratory or formulative research studies)
2. To describe accurately the characteristics of a particular individual, situation or a group. (descriptive research)
3. To determine the frequency with which something occurs or with which it is associated with something else. (studies with this object known as diagnostic research)
4. To test a hypothesis of a causal relationship between variables. (such studies are known as hypothesis testing research)
TYPES OF RESEARCH
It is imperative that a marketer has to have a broad understanding of the various types of research, in general. There are eleven types of research depending on whether it is primarily “fundamental” or “applied” in nature. They are as follows:
1. Applied research, also known as decisional research, use existing knowledge as an aid to the solution of some given problem or set of problems.
2. Fundamental research, frequently called basic or pure research, seeks to extend the boundaries of knowledge in a given area with no necessary immediate application to existing problems.
3. Futuristic research: Futures research is the systematic study of possible future conditions. It includes analysis of how those conditions might change as a result of the implementation of policies and actions, and the consequences of these policies and actions.
4. Descriptive research includes surveys and fact-finding enquiries of different kinds. It tries to discover answers to the questions who, what, when and sometimes how. Here the researcher attempts to describe or define a subject, often by creating a profile of a group of problems, people, or events. The major purpose of descriptive research is description of the state of affairs as it exists at present
5. Explanatory research: Explanatory research goes beyond description and attempts to explain the reasons for the phenomenon that the descriptive research only observed. The research would use theories or at least hypothesis to account for the forces that caused a certain phenomenon to occur.
6. Predictive research: If we can provide a plausible explanation for an event after it has occurred, it is desirable to be able to predict when and in what situations the event will occur. This research is just as rooted in theory as explanation. This research calls for a high order of inference making. In business research, prediction is found in studies conducted to evaluate specific courses of action or to forecast current and future values.
7. Analytical research: The researcher has to use facts or information already available, and analyse these to make a critical evaluation of the material.
8. Quantitative research: Quantitative research is based on the measurement of quantity or amount. It is applicable to phenomena that can be expressed in terms of quantity.
9. Qualitative research: It is concerned with qualitative phenomenon (i.e.) phenomena relating to or involving quality or kind. This type of research aims at discovering the underlying motives and desires, using in depth interviews for the purpose. Other techniques of such research are word association test, sentence completion test, story completion tests and similar other projective techniques. Attitude or opinion research i.e., research designed to find out how people feel or what the think about a particular subject or institution is also qualitative research.
10. Conceptual research: Conceptual research is that related to some abstract idea(s) or theory. It is generally used by philosophers and thinkers to develop new concepts or to reinterpret existing ones.
11. Empirical research: It is appropriate when proof is sought that certain variables affect other variables in some way. Evidence gathered through experiments or empirical studies is today considered to be the most powerful support possible for a give hypothesis.
THE RESEARCH PROCESS
Several authors have attempted to enumerate the steps involved in the research process, however, inconclusive. Nevertheless, the research process broadly consists of the following steps and predominantly follows a sequential order
1. Problem formulation
2. Development of an approach to the problem
3. Research Design
4. Selection of Data collection techniques
5. Sampling techniques
6. Fieldwork or Data Collection
7. Analysis and interpretation
8. Report preparation and presentation
The above mentioned steps may be placed in three groups as follows:
First there is initiating or planning of a study, which comprises the initial four steps in our model: determining (1) problem formulation, (2) development of an approach to the problem (3) Research design (4) selection of data collection techniques (5) sampling techniques.
Second, there is (6) fieldwork or data collection
Third, there is (7) analysis and interpretation of the data and (8) report preparation and presentation.
The starting point of any research is to formulate the problem and mention the objectives before specifying any variables or measures. This involved defining the problem in clear terms.
Problem definition involves stating the general problem and identifying the specific components of the research problem. Components of the research problem include (1) the decision maker and the objectives (2) the environment of the problem (3) alternative courses of action (4) a set of consequences that relate to courses of action and the occurrence of events not under the control
of the decision maker and (5) a state of doubt as to which course of action is best. Here, the first two components of the research problem are discussed whereas others are not well within the scope, though, not beyond.
Problem formulation is perceived as most important of all the other steps, because of the fact that a clearly and accurately identified problem would lead to effective conduct of the other steps involved in the research process. Moreover, this is the most challenging task as the result yields information that directly addresses the management issue, though, the end result is for the
management to understand the information fully and take action based on it. From this we understand, that the correctness of the result depends on how well the research takes on, at the starting point.
Problem formulation refers to translating the management problem into a research problem. It involves stating the general problem and identifying the specific components of research problem. This step and the findings that emerge would help define the management decision problem and research problem.
Research problem cannot exist in isolation as it is an outcome of management decision problem.
The management decision problem may be, for example, to know whether keeping Saturday a working day would increase productivity. The associated research problem for the above example may be the impact of keeping Saturday a working day on employee morale. The task of the researcher is to investigate on employee morale. Hence, it is understood that the researcher is
perhaps, a scientific means, to solve the management problem the decision maker faces.
ROLE OF INFORMATION IN PROBLEM FORMULATION
Problem formulation starts with a sound information seeking process by the researcher. The decision maker is the provider of information pertaining to the problem at the beginning of the research process (problem formulation) as well as the user of the information that germinates at the end of the research process. Given the importance of accurate problem formulation, the research should take enough care to ensure that information seeking process should be well within the ethical boundaries of a true research. The researcher may use different types of information at the problem formulation stage. They are:
1. Subjective information termed as those based on the decision maker‟s past experiences, expertise, assumptions, feelings or judgments without any systematic gathering of facts. Such information is usually readily available.
2. Secondary information are those collected and interpreted at least once for some specific situation other than the current one. Availability of this type of information is normally high.
3. Primary information refers to first hand information derived through a formalised research process for a specific, current problem situation.
In order to have better understanding on problem formulation, the researcher may tend to categorise the information collected into four types. The categorisation of the information is done based on the quality and complexity of the information collected. They are:
1. Facts are some piece of information with very high quality information and a higher degree of accuracy and reliability. They could be absolutely observable and verifiable. They are not complicated and are easy to understand and use.
2. Estimates are information whose degree of quality is based on the representativeness of the fact sources and the statistical procedures used to create them. They are more complex than facts due to the statistical procedures involved in deriving them and the likelihood of errors.
3. Predictions are lower quality information due to perceived risk and uncertainty of future conditions. They have greater complexity and are difficult to understand and use for decision-making as they are forecasted estimates or projections into the future.
4. Relationships are information whose quality is dependent on the precision of the researcher‟s statements of the interrelationship between sets of variables. They have the highest degree of complexity as they involve any number of relationships paths with several variables being analysed simultaneously.
APPROACHES TO THE PROBLEM
The outputs of the approach development process should include the following components:
(i) Objective/theoretical framework
(ii) analytical model
(iii) Research questions
Each of these components is discussed below:
(i) Objective/theoretical framework: Every research should have a theoretical framework and objective evidence. The theoretical framework is a conceptual scheme containing:
a set of concepts and definitions
a set of statements that describes the situations on which the theory can be applied
a set of relational statements divided into: axioms and theorems
The theoretical evidence is very much imperative in research as it leads to identification of variables that should be investigated. They also lead to formulating the operational definition of the marketing problem. An operational definition is a set of procedures that describe the activities one should perform in order to establish empirically the existence or degree of existence of a concept.
Operationalising the concept gives more understanding on the meanings of the concepts specified and explication of the testing procedures that provide criteria for the empirical application of the concepts. Operational definition would specify a procedure that involves say, for example, a weighing machine that measures the weight of a person or an object.
(ii) Analytical model: An analytical model could be referred to as a likeness of something. It consists of symbols referred to a set of variables and their interrelationships represented in logical arrangements designed to represent, in whole or in part, some real system or process.
It is a representation of reality making explicit the significant relationships among the aspects. It enables the formulation of empirically testable propositions regarding the nature of these relationships. An empirical model refers to research that uses data derived from actual observation or experimentation.
(iii) Research Questions: Research questions are refined statements of the specific components of the problem. It refers to a statement that ascertains the phenomenon to be studied. The research questions should be raised in an unambiguous manner and hence, would help the researcher in becoming resourceful in identifying the components of the problem. The formulation of the questions should be strongly guided by the problem definition, theoretical
framework and the analytical model. The knowledge gained by the researcher from his/her interaction with the decision maker should be borne in mind as they sometimes form the basis of research questions.
The researcher should exercise extreme caution while formulation research questions as they are the forerunner for developing hypothesis. Any flaw in the research questions may lead to flawed hypothesis. The following questions may be asked while developing research questions:
a) Do I know the area of investigation and its literature?
b) What are the research questions pertinent to the area of investigation?
c) What are the areas that are not explored by the previous researchers?
d) Would my study lead to greater understanding on the area of study?
e) Are enough number of literatures available in this topic area?
f) Is my study a new one thus contributing to the society or has it been done before?
(iv) Hypothesis: Hypothesis could be termed as tentative answers to a research problem. The structure of a hypothesis involves conjectural statements relating to two or more variables.
They are deduced from theories, directly from observation, intuitively, or from a combination of these. Hypothesis deduced from any of the means would have four common characteristics. They should be clear, value-free, specific and amenable to empirical testing.
Hypothesis could be viewed as statements that indicate the direction of the relationship or recognition of differences in groups. However, the researcher may not be able to frame hypotheses in all situations. It may be because that a particular investigation does not warrant a hypothesis or sufficient information may not be available to develop the hypotheses.