Chapter Three -- Methodology
3.0 IntroductionThe previous chapter analysed the literature around factors influencing organisational change, by this a research question was refined: What are the effects of organisational change on employees and the role of the manager? as well as proposing hypotheses. In order to conduct an appropriate methodology and collect the appropriate data it is essential to develop a suitable research question (Congdon & Dunham, 1999). Conversely, this chapter investigates the research paradigm that is adopted for the study, some of which may also have its limitations and this chapter will quantify all of those elements. This chapter consists of several sections and is divided into two main sections; methodology and method. The chapter will address the research design together with the appropriate research strategy used for data collection and analysis, as well as addressing the research sample, methodological soundness and ethical consideration. To begin with, the research paradigm along with the philosophical assumptions will be discussed.
3.1 Research ParadigmA research paradigm can be defined as a researcher’s conceptual framework that forms ideas and practices (McArthur, 1992). The research paradigm consists of three elements, these are; ontology, epistemology and methodology (Dalmaris, Tsui, Hall & Smith, 2007; Healy & Perry, 2000). Subsequently, ontology refers commonly to the nature of reality and the existence in which the researchers tend to investigate (Healy & Perry, 2000). On the other hand, epistemology refers to the researcher’s relationship with the reality, this is “the relationship between the knower and what is known” (Klenke, 2008, p. 16). Additionally, methodology is formulated from ontological and epistemological assumptions; it refers to the process in which the researcher investigates to study the “reality” (Lehaney & Vinten, 1994; Klenke, 2008). According to literature on social science, there are four main types of paradigms that commonly directs researchers, these are; positivism, pragmatism, constructivism, as well as realism (Guba & Lincoln, 1994; Healy & Perry, 2000).
Pragmatic ApproachAccordingly, the paradigm that is acknowledged as the most appropriate for this research is pragmatism. This is because there is a common tendency for researchers to adopt the pragmatism paradigm when using a mixed method approach, as it supports both quantitative and qualitative data. That is to say that the complexity of the research directs one to focus on using multiple methods (Klenke, 2008). Moreover, a pragmatic approach focuses primarily on the usefulness in addressing the research questions, and placing less importance on the method used (Ethridge, 2004). Therefore, it can be argued that pragmatism primarily focuses on the problem of the knowledge that is linked to action, which in other words is being satisfied with believable information (Bauer & Brighi, 2009; Goldkuhl, 2004; Lefley, 2006).
Furthermore, pragmatism has its implications for the research of ontology, epistemology and methodology. In a pragmatic approach to ontology, researchers accept a practical reality that is formed by values such as cultural, political and economical (Klenke, 2008). Conversely, Healy and Perry (2000) advocate epistemologically, pragmatists are more subjective with knowledge that is shaped from social interactions. Methodologically, pragmatists can be referred to as “transformative individuals”, moreover, it is considered as an essential part of the research process where a dominant use of a mixed method approach is commonly used (Healy and Perry, 2000; Klenke, 2008).
Accordingly, the objective of this research gives an indication to clearly understand employees’ perception on organisational change, as well as considering the role of the manager. Therefore, the use of a mixed method approach is acknowledged as the most suitable to address the research question and test the hypotheses. Similarly, the pragmatic approach adequately supports the mixed method design, which is the use of qualitative and quantitative data, therefore this approach was found to be the best fit for this study (Klenke, 2008; Lefley, 2006). Additionally, qualitative data will assist to clearly understand the managers’ role in assisting employees in organisational change in which it will inform the quantitative part of the research. Subsequently, the motive for this study is achieved through an exploratory research, by means of additionally obtaining qualitative data. Exploratory research aims to identify what individuals concerns are; this is achieved by obtaining preliminary data to identify the problem to test and suggest hypotheses (Kotler, Armstrong, Wong & Saunders, 2008; Schutt, 2006).
3.2 Research DesignA research design is a structured plan to conduct a study that tests the hypotheses and research question (Kumar, 2005: Maxwell, 2005). A well integrated design for a study will successfully achieve the outcomes desired, through adequately addressing the research question by means of data collection, analysis and coming to a viable conclusion (Maxwell, 2005; Yin, 2003). Consequently, this research makes the most of both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Given that the use of pragmatic approach involves the use of quantitative data and qualitative data, it is essential to understand the purpose and relevance of both approaches. Therefore, it was found necessary to outline the theoretical background, as well as addressing the limitations and benefits that come along with both approaches; these are discussed below.
3.2.1 Quantitative ResearchFor several years, quantitative method has been a dominant approach to research. The research method originally instigated in positivism, which is a philosophical view associated with natural science, founded by Comte (1988) that goes back in the 19th century (Ary, Jacobs, Razavieh & Sorensen, 2009; Blackmore, 1972). Today, the research methods popularity has extensively continued with management researchers adopting the method (Creswell, 2007). Moreover, the positivisms’ dependence on quantitative research has had growing attention from many researchers, as the approach provides findings that are systematic and can be overall generalised (Ary et al, 2009; Miller, 2004). Furthermore, Nykiel (2007) highlights that there is a common tendency in researchers to find that quantitative research is particularly useful in obtaining measureable data that can be followed up overtime. Researchers often use quantitative method for data collection or for data analysis, such as questionnaires, and the use of numerical data (Saunders et al, 2009; Thomas, 2003).
According to Newman and Benz (1998) quantitative research primarily refers to hypotheses testing, in which data can be measured through an exploratory research. Moreover, quantitative research method is a deductive approach, where the hypotheses are tested through scientific knowledge, in which the researcher attempts to make predictions and provide facts (Newman and Benz, 1998). The research method provides researchers several advantages in terms of reliability of the statistics, which the data is tested to acknowledge if a research is statically significant (Nykiel, 2007). Additionally, another advantage for the quantitative researchers is that the results are predictable of the population (Creswell, 2007; Nykiel, 2007). Similarly, Thomas (2003) postulates that quantitative research method provides a researcher to produce a generalisable outcome through the use careful sampling strategies, by which the analysis can be replicated by other researchers.
Furthermore, quantitative research as well has its limitations that need to be taken into consideration. There is an argument that the study to be tested may well be more suitable if the issue have been known to the research sample, as respondents may be unaware of the topic and such language presented to them (Nykiel, 2007). In addition, different from qualitative research that provides in-depth data, quantitative research lacks in providing rich descriptive data as the aim of the research focuses on primarily on predicting a large sample of the population (Bernard, 2006).
3.2.2 Qualitative ResearchIn recent years, there is a growing tendency in the interest of researchers to implement a qualitative method in several grounds of management sub-fields (Johnson, Buehring, Cassell & Symon, 2007). Moreover, the qualitative approach has increasing acceptance as a legitimate form of study despite the overriding in quantitative research for several years (Boje, 2001). The growing interest of qualitative research has resulted in several challenges for quantitative methodology that once dominated management research (Johnson & Duberley, 2000). Researchers that are more interested in understanding social situations tend to use qualitative research method in which non numerical data is grasped upon, such as data collection methods of interviews (Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2009). The research method enables researchers to study human beings, and offer such opportunities to enhance the quality of life for people, as well as affecting the public policy (Munhall & Chenail, 2008).
Qualitative research method can be in favour of observing people’s past experiences or everyday behaviour (Silverman, 2005). The use of qualitative research closely examines individuals’ attitudes and perception towards a particular issue with its naturalistic approach in rich description, as well as focusing on motives and aims of the study (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005; Sherman & Webb, 1988). Moreover, this type of method aims to take the reader into the observation so that they are able to capture the moment; this enables the researcher the advantages of interacting with the respondent, as well as inspiring an unanticipated discussion (Nykiel, 2007; Maxwell, 2005; Patton, 2002).
Despite the benefits of using qualitative research method there are also limitations that are apparent. Primarily, it is often found that qualitative research is time consuming in data collection and analysis, an example being an observation (Crabtree & Miller, 1999). It can be argued that the data is not instantly accessible to the researcher straight away, as the data requires processing such as editing and correcting (Miles & Huberman, 1994). Additionally, it appears that a small sample size is common when using qualitative research method, therefore this poses as a limitation in terms of generalisability and validity (Crouch & McKenzie, 2009). Nykiel (2007) similarly postulates the research method may not provide sufficient evidence for the population and may prove to be unreliable as a predictor. Nevertheless, the researcher bias has also been addressed as a limitation of the study, as well as issues relating to the data collection procedures, and relationships of power between the respondent and the researcher (Marschan-Piekkari & Welch, 2004). Therefore, the use of a mixed method approach that comprises of both qualitative and quantitative data is able to provide results that are measurable and generalisable.
3.3 Mixed Method Approach; Triangulation of the DataAs previously discussed in quantitative and qualitative research, it is apparent that both approaches comprise of limitations. Consequently, identifying the limitations and differences in both approaches provides an indication for combining both quantitative and qualitative approaches to a research; this is a triangulation of the data. In other words, it is recognising the strengths and weaknesses of both methods in which one can compensate for such bias in a research (Denscombe, 2007). Jick (1983) supports a similar view that both quantitative and qualitative methods must be seen as complementary rather than rivals. Saunders et al (2009) therefore advocates that the mixed method approach may increase the probability of an unanticipated result, as well as increasing the confidence in the researchers’ conclusion. Additionally the approach provides the researcher in-depth understanding of the study (Arora & Stoner, 2009), with verification, reliability and validity of the study (Jarret, 1996).
Grove (2005) refers triangulation to the comparison in the variation of data in order to assess the accuracy obtained from the results through the use of two different research methods. It is generally assumed that the mixed method approach facilitates a more dependable justification of the research problem than one method can provide on its own (Ary et al, 2009). Thus, there has been rapidly growing attention from researchers to adopt the mixed method approach due to the several benefits associated with the design. Moreover, there is an argument that the mixed method approach should pose as the dominant approach to research (Datta, 1994).
However, although the mixed method approach is associated with many benefits in a single study, such as the soundness and confidence of the research, it also comprises of limitations in terms of practical guidance (Ary et al, 2009; Dunning, Williams, Abonyi & Crooks, 2008). Moreover, the approach poses a challenge to the researcher, as it requires the researcher to be competent in both quantitative and qualitative approaches (Leahey, 2007). Additionally, the approach poses a challenge for researchers in acquiring access to resources in order to analyse data (Ary et al, 2009). Thus, it can be further argued that employing more the one method consists of drawbacks in terms of an increase in time and cost that may be required to commence the study (Dunning et al, 2008). Therefore, there is a need for researchers to primarily focus on such challenges that the mixed method approach may consist of; this places an emphasis on designing a robust study ensuring a generalisable outcome through both methods, which is triangulated through the utilization of both quantitative and qualitative methods.
Subsequently, in order to address the research question it was found necessary to adopt an approach that enabled a better insight into the research where both methods of quantitative and qualitative research were compatibly combined. The mixed method approach to create a triangulation of the data was chosen to avoid a weakness that may arise from one method, and to initially make use of a different research method. It can be argued that adopting a quantitative approach would not provide the researcher to obtain depth of information, therefore, in order to adequately address the research question a mixed method approach to research was assumed to be the best fit for this study.
3.4 Research MethodsThis section proposes the research approach that is undertaken in this study, specifically a mixed method approach; this is achieved by the use of both quantitative and qualitative research approaches, which is directed by the pragmatic paradigm. Moreover, the study is achieved accordingly to address the research question and hypotheses, by means of adopting the most appropriate data collection methods; this includes; questionnaires and focus groups. Accordingly, the methods of data collection adopted in this study are discussed below.
Quantitative Method –QuestionnairesCommonly, quantitative questionnaires are considered as a highly structured instrument used in the social sciences for data collection (Dornyei, 2003). Although questionnaires can be additionally used to obtain qualitative data; it can be argued that qualitative method must be perceived as complementary for the quantitative approach (Morrow, Jackson, Disch & Mood, 2006). Bryman and Bell (2007) postulate the two types of questionnaires that researchers tend to use, these are; interview schedule and self-completion questionnaires. Consequently, for the quantitative part of this study the self-completion questionnaire was found to be the most appropriate data collection method. Self-completion questionnaires are referred to as a structured questionnaire that requires respondents to complete individually (Dornyei, 2003). This method was used as the main data gathering for the study (see Appendix 5). Ultimately, the aim of the questionnaire was to provide an indication for a focus group discussion topic, which the focus group findings can support the questionnaire. Ultimately, in order to adequately address the research question and test the hypotheses it was found essential to conduct a pilot of the questionnaire.
Pilot Study of the QuestionnaireIt is understood that a pilot study is indispensable when conducting a questionnaire (Grove, 2005). It appears a successful piece of research lies behind conducting a pilot study (Brink & Wood, 1998). A pilot study is a small version of the proposed research that is conducted before the final study to determine the study’s feasibility and effectiveness of the research instruments (Grove, 2005; Mauch & Park, 2003). Piloting a study can provide the researcher valuable feedback in terms of the instruments design, format, questions and included items (Thomas, Nelson & Silverman, 2005). Therefore, in order to measure the appropriateness of the questionnaire used in this study, a pilot study was conducted on a group of 10 potential respondents (see Appendix 3). Overall, it was found that there were a few slight adjustments to have been made on the questionnaire structure, as well as removing inappropriate items and including essential items. As a result, the modifications were corrected in the final questionnaire in order to ensure clarity to the respondents.
Qualitative Method- Focus GroupsKey topics that emerged from the questionnaire assisted to develop a discussion for the focus groups for the qualitative part of the study. This is in terms of recognising key themes, categories and viewpoints (Dornyei, 2003). The focus group was selected on the basis of obtaining the desired information by the participants to support the questionnaire findings in response to the exploratory approach (see Appendix 6).
There is a common tendency in researchers to consider focus group discussion as a valuable research method in obtaining qualitative data (Dornyei, 2003; Morrow et al, 2006). A focus group is an organised discussion in which the researcher gathers information from a selected group of individuals to evaluate how they feel and think about a particular issue (Krueger & Casey, 2000). Morgan (1997) recognises the two principles of collecting qualitative data as focus groups and open-ended interviews, which particularly involves participant observation. Subsequently, the human interaction can provide additional data for interpretation of the findings (Neuman, 2006).
3.5 Sample and Sample SizeSampling is an approach used by researchers to select elements to represent a population (Dattalo, 2008). The choice of a research sample relies to a large degree on the feasibility and sensibility in addressing the research question (Saunders, Lewis & Thornhill, 2009). The first sample in this study consists of employees that participated in completing the questionnaires anonymously, and the second sample consisted of the management team that participated in a group discussion.
This study is undertaken at New Look Retailers Ltd in the Barking store in London. This store was taken as a study of the recent management change processes and employee contractual changes which occurred throughout many New Look chains of franchises, to address the research question; ‘What are the effects of organisational change on employees and the role of the manager?’ Primary data were collected through a roll out of a questionnaire that was distributed to all 36 staff at the selected store. The final sample consisted of 31 employees at New Look Retailers in the Barking store that participated and completed the questionnaire; this was a response rate of 86.1%. Saunders et al (2009) suggests this sample is common and considers a sample size of 30 to be a minimum for statistical analysis. Conversely, a research question that does not require statistical evaluation requires a smaller sample (Dattalo, 2008). Moreover, the sample consisted of more females completing the questionnaire than male respondents.
The focus group discussion consisted of six participants, which included the management team at New Look Retailers in Barking. The focus group was conducted on the Store Manager, Deputy Manager, as well as the four Supervisors of the store; this was a total of six participants, which was used as the second case example. The number of participants was intentionally kept to a minimum, as Krueger and Casey (2000) attested that a large number of individuals can cause a focused discussion to fragment.
Although the sample size for both methods was kept to a minimum, the focus was primarily geared towards obtaining employees attitudes and perception of change in the organisation, and the role of the managers in the specific store. Goldstein (2009) suggests that gaining an insight into human behaviours provides the researcher a wide understanding into attitudes and perceptions that can be generalised. Additionally, Walden, (1996) emphasises that the size of a sample is less significant than the accuracy of those interviewed. Moreover, the sample primarily intends to reflect the population to reduce any researcher bias through the objective to test the hypotheses (Newman & Benz, 1998).
3.6 Methodological SoundnessThe methodological soundness of a research design is often said to be a critical element in a study. Kumar (2005) postulates the importance in demonstrating the methodological soundness of the study to attain a quality research, which determines the internal and external validity and reliability of the research findings. The validity of a research commonly sets out to evaluate the research’s initial purpose (Babbie, 2009). It is generally debated that qualitative research may not provide the researcher with such external reliability and validity that a quantitative approach may provide (Hesse-Biber, 2010). Thus, several researchers have suggested using quantitative research in order initiate a methodological soundness of a single study, which may increase the validity and reliability (Cohen, Manion & Morrison, 2000; Kumar, 2005).
According to Cohen et al (2000) the validity of quantitative research can be measured by means of; face validity, content validity, and criterion-related validity, construct validity, as well as concurrent validity. The reliability of quantitative research can be measured through representative, equivalence and stability reliability (Nueman, 2006). Conversely, the meaning of reliability in qualitative research is referred to consistency and fidelity of the research findings (Cohen et al, 2007). There is considerable amount of dispute among researchers that qualitative studies must demonstrate credibility and quality (Hesse-Biber, 2010; Cohen et al, 2000). A common response to this is measures of data triangulation (Silverman, 2005). That is, selecting more than one strategy to establish accuracy in the findings, as well as clarifying such researcher biases. Considering the use of a mixed method approach was adopted for this study, it was found essential to seek validity and reliability in both qualitative and quantitative data in order to establish a methodological soundness. Accordingly, the study consisted of techniques with a clear purpose to the research design, these included; pre-testing the questionnaire, debriefing participants, and audio recording the focus group discussion.
3.7 Ethical ConsiderationThroughout the research process, a number of ethical issues must be taken seriously into consideration. It is critical for the researcher to guarantee and ensure the participants’ safety throughout the research process (Deventer, 2009). Similarly, Saunders et al (2009) postulates that it is an essential component to consider the extent to which the research design should not cause the research sample any form of embarrassment or harm. Mouton (2001) defines research ethics as a set of guidelines associated with the research, which must be taken into consideration in; (a) processing of the research design, (b) applying the research design, and (c) analysing the data, as well as (d) disseminating the results. Moreover, ethically, the design or structure of the research process may well affect groups or individuals; therefore, the researcher must consider the ethical issues that may arise during the research process (Deventer, 2009). This is to say that the research design should be morally accepted before data collection is initiated (Gratton & Jones, 2004).
Prior to undertaking the research, the ethical standards were taken into consideration in concurrence with the possible risks and benefits related to the research. It was found essential to conduct an ethical study that protected the participants’ rights. Moreover, ethical considerations were emphasised with the research design, data analysis, interpretation and finally disseminating the findings. It is often said that the ethics has a huge implication for the access of organisations and individuals to obtain the data (Saunders et al, 2009). As a consequence, it was found crucial to be granted consent by the organisation in order to effectively commence the study. Hefferman (2000) suggests that a letter of introduction from the project supervisor is mandatory, as it provides assurance to the subjects’. Consequently, a formal letter was provided to the selected organisation with detailed information about the study in which it emphasised the voluntary participation of the employees (see Appendix 1). Subsequently, informed consent was granted by the participants, where signed consent was attained by the employees and management team, as well as clarifying their right to withdrawal at any point of the research (see Appendix 4). Deventer (2009) refers informed consent to individuals or groups’ that voluntarily agree to participate in the study with the acceptance of potential risks and benefits associated with the research process.
Forcing participants (i.e. compulsory participation) to take part in the study may result in a decline in validity of the findings (Hefferman, 2000). Consequently, debriefing participants is an important element of the research process as it avoids deceiving participants (Hefferman, 2000; Saunders et al, 2009). It can be argued that some individuals may not be willing to answer particular questions due to a fear of being penalised at work. Therefore, it was found necessary that the employees were informed why the information was being collected and how the results may be beneficial at work, in addition to the questionnaires remaining anonymous. The protection of the subjects’ identity is to be respected throughout the research process ensuring anonymity of the respondents with guaranteed confidentiality (Babbie, 2008). Thus, the Data Protection Act was complied with the research that ensured the data was collected in a lawful and fair manner, as well as ensuring the respondents data was stored in a secure environment maintaining anonymity of the participants.
|Adoption of Research Methods|
3.9 ConclusionOverall, the chapter has aimed to address the elements in the methodology in concurrence with the research. The limitations and benefits of both quantitative and qualitative approaches have been discussed in which a mixed method approach to research has been acknowledged as the best fit for this study in conjunction with a pragmatic approach. The mixed method approach increases the confidence in the researchers’ findings, as well as providing in-depth understanding, which reduces unanticipated results (Arora & Stoner, 2009; Saunders et al, 2009). Consequently, the mixed method approach in conjunction with questionnaires and focus groups were used for data collection and analysis in order to investigate “What are the effects of organisational change on employees and the role of the manager?” as well as testing the proposed hypotheses. The triangulation of the data enables soundness of the findings, as well as considering the validity and reliability in different stages of the study. In addition, this chapter stresses the importance of conducting an ethical study, where ethical standards were incorporated in the research design, data analysis, interpretation and disseminating the findings.