Sample Essay on Research Methodology and Design

Research Methodology and Design

Introduction

            Before starting a business study, researchers ought to choose the most appropriate research methodology and design to apply. According to Baxter and Jack (2008), researchers must use a method and design that is not only cheap but also can address the research question adequately. The research questions dictate the kind of methodology and design that a researcher can apply. Moreover, the selection of a research design and methodology depends on other factors such as the availability of data and the experience of the investigator. Most business researchers are conceptual in nature. They entail analyzing textual and verbal information collected from the customers. Most researchers in business environment focus on novel marketing challenges. Thus, the researchers do not have adequate information about the challenges. As a result, it is hard for the researchers to use research methodology and design that can yield quantifiable results.

Baxter and Jack (2008) argue that the best research method to apply in a business environment is a case study. Besides, experimental design helps to gather and analyze data in the enterprise environment. Qualitative analysis through case studies allows the researchers to investigate business challenges in-depth in an unstructured manner. Consequently, the investigators understand why customers behave in certain ways. Baxter and Jack (2008) claim that qualitative case study and experimental design help researchers to analyze the emotions, perceptions, minds and beliefs of clients. This report will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative case study design over other research designs.

Qualitative Case Study

            Numerous researchers have come up with varied definitions of the case study. However, the researchers do not agree on a standard definition. Robson (1993) states, “Qualitative case study refers to a strategy for doing research which involves an empirical investigation of a particular contemporary phenomenon within its real-life context using multiple sources of evidence” (p. 146). Numerous features characterize qualitative case study. Robson (1993) argues that qualitative case study is open. The researchers have the liberty to set the limits of the study based on the nature and scope of the research question. Additionally, qualitative case study accords the researchers an opportunity to use varied methods of data collection. According to Robson (1993), qualitative case study allows examination of “phenomenon within its context using a variety of data sources” (p. 147). It enables the researchers to examine issues through numerous lenses, therefore being in a position to analyze multiple facets of the incident. The approaches that govern qualitative case study aims at guaranteeing that the researchers cover the topic of interest.

Baxter and Jack (2008) allege that qualitative case study is based on a constructivist paradigm. The model encourages close ties between the researcher and the participants. It gives the participants an opportunity to narrate their stories. In other words, qualitative case study helps the researchers to understand why the members behave in certain ways. The use of qualitative case study method in a business environment may contribute to understanding the various actions of customers. Baxter and Jack (2008) insist that qualitative case study design is appropriate in a business climate because it helps to understand the behavioral patterns of customers. The majority of researchers in business environment tend to answer the “why” and “how” questions. Additionally, qualitative case study design is appropriate in studies that the researchers cannot influence the behavior of the participants. According to Robson (1993), it is hard to analyze most business challenges without covering their environmental circumstances. Qualitative case study design helps the researchers to capture the environmental conditions of a company event, thus giving the researcher a first-hand experience of the phenomenon. Qualitative case study design is appropriate where the interest of the researcher is to understand an individual process. According to Eisenhardt (2006), a researcher can view the process in two different ways. The first meaning of process is “monitoring: describing the context and population of the study” (Eisenhardt, 2006, p. 533). The second definition of process refers to the causal explanation. Causal explanation entails confirming or identifying the means through which the phenomenon had the impacts that it did.

Strengths of Qualitative Case Study Design

            Researchers chose different research designs according to their relative merits and demerits. Eisenhardt (2006) argues that the strength of a particular model depends on the reason for choosing it as the most apposite method for handling the research question. Therefore, a researcher would opt to use qualitative case study design due to the nature of the study. Qualitative case studies help to analyze research questions, particularly where other methodologies are weak.  According to Eisenhardt (2006), the character of the research question determines the selection of appropriate research methodology and design. The qualitative case study has numerous strengths over other forms of research methodology and designs like quantitative research and participatory studies. Qualitative case study enables researchers to investigate and interpret complex business challenges. Most business challenges arise due to multiple variables. Thus, to understand the challenges, it is important to identify all the variables and understand their contribution.  It would be difficult for researchers to determine the variables through quantitative research methodology. According to Flyvberg (2006), quantitative research is not anchored in real-life situations. Instead, the study relies on stored data. On the other hand, a qualitative case study is based on real-life situations. Thus, it gives the researcher a comprehensive account of the challenge. As a result, the researchers are able not only to understand the problem but also dissect and resolve it. Additionally, the research methodology provides insights and sheds light on information that enhances the researcher’s experience.

Flyvberg (2006) argues that one of the weaknesses of both the quantitative and participatory research methodologies is they do not contribute significantly to the future studies. On the other hand, qualitative case study offers insights that are treated as provisional hypotheses, which shape the future studies. Flyvberg (2006) maintains that qualitative case study design is appropriate for serving the heuristic goal of generating new theories and variables. Quantitative and participatory models do not have ways of creating novel variables and conjectures. Through qualitative case study design, researchers can evaluate intricate incidents and consider multiple factors since they do not need numerous events or a smaller number of variables. Unlike in quantitative design, qualitative case study researchers are not constrained to using pre-existing and quantitative variables.

Quantitative and participatory research models may help to determine unusual circumstances that may generate novel conjectures and variables. However, the designs, in themselves, are short of any precise ways of determining novel hypotheses. They require further assessment like open-ended interviews to establish an inductive way of spotting absent variables. Thus, qualitative case study methodology is valuable in the business environment since it facilitates the advancement of the business knowledge. Qualitative case study design focuses on a single phenomenon. Therefore, the challenge of generalizability is more eminent here than in other forms of research methodology and design. Nevertheless, researchers can learn a lot from a single phenomenon through qualitative case study design.

Eisenhardt (2006) argues that researchers can learn explicitly by participating in a case through narrative description. The description of a case study helps scientists to create mental pictures of a phenomenon, which serves as excellent means of interpreting the situation. The challengers of qualitative case study design claim that it is difficult to come up with general results from a case study. They relate generalization to hypothesis testing, which is the subsequent phase after case selection. However, qualitative case study method is can result in general findings since it entails a process that determines the correlations between the causes and outcomes. Additionally, it offers a comprehensive analysis of theorized causal means.

A major strength of qualitative case study design is its high conceptual validity. Flyvberg (2006) defines conceptual validity as the determination and measurement of the variables that “best represents the theoretical concepts that a researcher wants to measure” (p. 221). A majority of the variables that the researchers in business environment use are hard to quantify. As a result, the investigators require conducting a contextualized comparison. Contextualized comparison yields systematically comparable phenomena that are articulated in different terms and contexts. Other forms of research design such as quantitative and participatory studies have little conceptual validity since they cannot yield comparable phenomena. Moreover, it is hard to achieve a comprehensive reflection of contextual factors through quantitative research design. Qualitative case study design facilitates detailed representation of contextual variables, therefore supporting contextualized comparison. The quantitative research design is prone to conceptual stretching. The design brings together multiple and unrelated case studies to attain a larger sample. Eventually, the researcher ends up misunderstanding the target concept. On the other hand, qualitative case study design enables the researcher to refine a concept using a less number of cases.

According to Krefting (2007), it is hard to explore causal mechanisms through quantitative research method. Qualitative case study methodology facilitates a comprehensive analysis of causal mechanisms in every case. It enables the researchers to identify all the intervening variables in a single case. Thus, a qualitative case study is suitable for conducting research in the business environment since it gives researchers a platform to evaluate multiple causal factors. Krefting (2007) claims that it would be wrong to assume that quantitative research design lacks causality. The design has causality. However, it does not take into account appropriate variables that are not codified in the elements under investigation. As a result, using a quantitative design to analyze business phenomena may lead to the researcher overlooking multiple variables that might be contextually valuable.

Krefting (2007) maintains that qualitative case study design has an upper hand relative to other methodologies due to its capacity to accommodate compound contributory relations. The associations include path dependency, composite interaction effects and equifanality. Qualitative case study design tolerates equifanality by “producing generalizations that are narrower and more contingent” (Krefting, 2007, p. 217). The use of qualitative case study design has other benefits as well. There is a high correlation between cases studies and everyday life. Moreover, case studies are rich in details and individual elements that are valuable to researchers. Qualitative case study enables researchers to develop different opinions of reality (Krefting, 2007). For instance, the researchers realize that a theory or a rule is not the only factor that influences human behavior. In return, the investigator can stretch their study beyond rules or principles when examining the factors that influence human behavior in the business world. Exploratory and quantitative designs do not contribute significantly to the professional growth of the researcher since they do not offer tangible, context-oriented experience. On the other hand, qualitative case study method provides context-dependent experience, thus promoting professional growth of the researchers.

Qualitative case study design is suitable for studies that entail evaluation. In most cases, the future of business ventures is contingent upon assessments. Seale, Gobo and Gubrium (2004) allege that it is hard to establish variables that can predict the future of a business by analyzing behavioral objectives. Qualitative case study design helps the researchers to understand the dynamics of the business environment. It enables the researchers to establish a comprehensive and vigorously wealthy account of a future business venture. Not all business operators understand scientific jargons. Unfortunately quantitative design relies on scientific data. One can hardly report the findings of a quantitative study using a standard language. Thus, the quantitative model is not appropriate for conducting research in the business field. According to Seale et al. (2004), qualitative case study design supports the use of standard language. As a result, it is easier to report the findings of a research through qualitative case study design than quantitative or exploratory method.

In support of the use of qualitative case study to analyze the business environment, Stake (2005) argues that the case study accounts for methodological, epistemological and ideological differences. Qualitative case study design makes no effort to purge what is hard to discount. Additionally, the researchers try as much as possible not to alter information that is hard to modify. Qualitative case study design is associated with selection bias. The selection bias exhibits both strength and weakness with respect to research preparation and analysis. The primary strength of selection bias is that it facilitates the development of a research plan. A researcher is likely to come up with a firm plan if dealing with cases that he or she understands. Additionally, selecting cases based on prior experience enables the researcher to establish a sturdy theoretical foundation for the study. As a result, it helps the researcher to conduct a meticulous academic test.

Weaknesses of Qualitative Case Study Design

            The various characteristics of qualitative case study design that promote its preference over other research designs also present particular weaknesses in its application. Even through in research one requires providing a wealthy, broad account and analysis of an event, the researcher may lack adequate resources to accomplish such an undertaking (Seale et al., 2004). For instance, one may not have sufficient money and time to conduct a comprehensive qualitative case study. On the other hand, even if one has adequate time to carry out a case study, the results might be too extensive, too lengthy or quite complicated for the intended consumers to read and implement. Quantitative designs entail analyzing data. On the other hand, qualitative case study involves elaborating on the emotions, behaviors and opinions of the research subjects. Such variables are hard to explain using numbers. Consequently, the results of qualitative case study method are extensive compared to those of the quantitative and participatory designs.

According to Stake (2005), a qualitative case study may result in erroneous findings. The findings of a qualitative case study are prone to researcher bias. A qualitative case study may complicate or oversimplify a condition making the consumers of the research to make erroneous conclusions about the real nature of the situation. Additionally, qualitative case study design depends on a small sample. Failure to notify the readers that the findings of the study are based on a small sample may lead to them treating the results as the description of the entire phenomenon. Stake (2005) avers that the results of a qualitative case study design tend to disguise as an account of an entire incident. This might be misleading to the users of the results. The honesty and sensitivity of the researcher influence the findings of qualitative case study method. In this design, the researcher serves as the chief apparatus of data collection and analysis. Hence, the researcher may manipulate the data collected to serve personal interests. The fact that there are no regulations to govern the findings of a qualitative case study design makes the methodology prone to bias. The researcher relies on knowledge and instincts in the entire course of data collection and analysis. The same challenge does not apply in quantitative design since there are rules that govern the analysis of research data.

A further weakness of qualitative case study method is the atypical challenge of ethics. An unethical researcher can interfere with the data to come up with the desired results. The same might not happen in quantitative research design since there are stand procedures of data collection and analysis. Besides, it is easier to confirm the credibility of a quantitative study than a qualitative case study. Stake (2005) holds that it is imperative for both the researcher and the consumer of the findings to be conscious of biases that might arise in the course of data collection or analysis. According to Stake (2005), the evaluation of qualitative case studies is susceptible to political interference. In the business world, influential individuals may influence the analysis of qualitative case studies to suit their needs. In the end, the researcher would come up with findings that favor particular business personnel at the expense of others. In most cases, individuals with interests, in particular, business areas finance qualitative case studies. Thus, the individuals have power over the results of the studies.

The validity and reliability of qualitative case study design are in doubt. Qualitative case study methodology is criticized for lack of representativeness (Starman, 2013). Besides, researchers claim that it lacks rigor in the gathering, assembling and analyzing of the experimental materials that yield the study. The absence of firmness is associated with the issue of bias. Both the researchers and participants are subjective in the process of the research. As a result, the researcher does not gather accurate data. The greatest weakness of qualitative case study design lies in internal versus external validity. In this design, the researcher has no influence over particular incidences and variables (Starman, 2013). As a result, he/she cannot manipulate them as one can during a laboratory experiment. The issue of internal versus external validity limits the findings of a qualitative case study to similar cases. Starman (2013) posits, “What the qualitative case study design gains in internal validity, it loses in external validity” (p. 34).

Conclusion

            Qualitative case study design is superior to other research designs as it helps to meet the goals of the business studies. The design facilitates the intensive study of particular incidents. Additionally, it helps to simplify or interpret composite issues as well as augment the results of the past studies. Researchers use a qualitative case study to analyze the current real-life situations. It helps to conduct a comprehensive and in-depth analysis of occurrences. Most scholars agree that qualitative case study design helps to address the “how” and “why” questions better than other research designs. Besides, the scientists claim that qualitative case study has distinctive advantages over quantitative model when investigating modern incidents that the researcher cannot control. Qualitative case study design facilitates theory development. Additionally, it assists in the development of hypotheses for future studies, thus helping the researcher to boost his/her knowledge in particular fields. Although qualitative case study design has numerous advantages over other research designs, it also has numerous limitations. The design is time-consuming since it involves the collection of extensive data. It takes the time to analyze a qualitative case study due to the amount of data. Besides, it is hard for one to cross-check information when using qualitative case study design. Qualitative case study method is faulted for its objectivity. Therefore, the researchers are encouraged to be objective when conducting the research. In spite of the weaknesses of the qualitative case study design, the method is suitable for most studies since it offers an in-depth analysis of phenomena.

References

Baxter, P., & Jack, S. (2008). Qualitative case study methodology: Study design and implementation for novice researchers. The Qualitative Report, 13(4), 544-559.

Eisenhardt, K. (2006). Building theories from case study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532-550.

Flyvberg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 219-245.

Krefting, L. (2007). Rigor in qualitative research: The assessment of trustworthiness. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 45(3), 214-222.

Robson, C. (1993). Real world research: A resource for social scientists and practitioner-researchers. Oxford: Blackwell.

Seale, C., Gobo, G., & Gubrium, J. (2004). Qualitative research practice: Sampling, representativeness and generalizability. London: Sage.

Stake, R. (2005). The SAGE handbook of qualitative research: Qualitative case studies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Starman, A. (2013). The case study as a type of qualitative research. Journal of Contemporary Educational Studies, 1(1), 28-43.