All 3 entries tagged Research Methods

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June 18, 2009

Hybrid methods in communications research

Fascinating. This is the only word to describe yesterday's seminar delivered by Prof Debra Roter of John Hopkins University under the auspices of Warwick's Institute of Health Short Term Fellow programme and a part of Warwick's Festival of Social Sciences.

Debra, one of the most cited researchers in her field (physician-patient communication) and in fact in the top 250 most cited of all social scientists, delivered a paper on hybrid research methods (the merging of quantitative and qualitative - perhaps we should give it a name ?quantalitive or qualantitive). The context of the research was the oral communication between clinician and patient and the role of 'oral literacy'. Debra's framework for assessing the oral literacy burden (the impact of the use of jargon, complexity of language usage, the informational context and the interactive structural characteristics of dyadic exchanges) required the development of a new technique.

Simulated consultancy sessions between genuine clinicians and 'patients' (played by briefed actors) were taped. The 'patient' was asked for a post event assessment of how the session went and how satisfied they were with the encounter, the whole encounter was transcribed and analyzed for items such as use of jargon, language complexity (e.g. Fleisch-Kincaid scores) and interactivity (e.g. who spoke when and for how long), and the sessions were then viewed by 'analogue clients' (subjects recruited to watch, view and evaluate the sessions imagining that they were the client in the session and thus to objectively evaluate the interaction as an interested observer).

The output from this combinatorial approach produced quantifiable data (e.g. frequency of specific jargon, ratings of demeanour, interactivity, turn-taking, etc., ) that then permitted use of statistical tools (Debra only reported correlations within the seminar but more sophisticated analytical tools would be possible) to test for significant factors. As Debra stated, if, in a study, some main effects show up as significant despite being unable to account for all of the complexities in a research context, then something worth studying is present in the research.

The hybrid merging of quatitative and qualitative methods is not wholly original. In the management field there are many papers (e.g. Harrigan, 1983) and research methods texts (e.g. Bryman & Bell, 2007, where it is termed mixed methods) that advocate its possible usefulness. Most published research in the marketing field uses both as a matter of course (although it must be admitted that the range of qualitative techniques used is limited). Churchill's 'paradigm for development of better marketing measures' (Journal of Marketing, 1981) advocates the use of 'insight stimulating examples' and 'in depth interviews' (inter alia) as foundations in the building of robust questionaires. And content analysis is a well known technique for quantifying oral, textual and visual data to permit statistical analysis.

However, most of the previous work is triangulation (the use of different methods to investigate the same phenomenon to enable a cross-check and validity assessment) as opposed to a true hybridisation (the cross-pollinated and integrated use of methodologies to produce new insights into the phenomenon). What appears to be unique and interesting about Debra's approach is the simultaneous and multimethod extraction of information along both qualitative and quantitative lines of enquiry, leading to a richer interpretation and understanding of the phenomenon.

There is clear potential for a similar approach in the fields of marketing or business. For example, this technique applied to a study of buyer-seller interactions might prove extremely interesting and here the outcome - sale or no sale - could be even more certainly measured.

Thoughts and views on hybrid methods are welcome.


June 10, 2009

Research Methods: Useful knowledge or wasting time?

In this blog strand the emphasis is on ontological, epistemological, and methodological issues, ideas, and examples relating to empirical and interpretative research in the disciplines of marketing and/or strategy.

All HE taught business modules (especially in leading business schools such as Warwick) are (or should be) research led. Without robust research that explores or seeks to understand the conceptual underpinnings of business success and failure (whether qualitative or quantitative, positivist or constructionist), the teaching of business in higher education would be little more than either training in a particular technique (and that could be learned from a book) or a series of interesting business stories, anecdotes and experiences from which any learning would be wholly reliant on serendipity.

This is not to denigrate the role of experience, anecdotes or serendipity: spotting opportunities or insights drawn from stimulating examples is a major part of what business, and business research, is about. To paraphrase Machiavelli ('The Prince', 1532) we are all presented with opportunities but for them to be real opportunities we must a) recognise them as opportunities and then b) be in a position (i.e. have access to the knowledge and the resources) to take advantage of them as and when the opportunities are presented.

Business research is about conceptualising, understanding and/or categorising, and then making available and accessible, the knowledge needed to recognise opportunities and then to understand how the available resources can be best deployed to take advantage of those opportunities. However, unless such research is built on solid, robust, reliable and valid foundations the danger (?) is that business edifices are built on sand. For example, if more market researchers and users of market research understood the strengths and limitations of the various data collection and analysis methods, better and more robust research might emerge and better business decisions might result. My witness: the 'New Coke' debacle, in which, in essence, the wrong question was being investigated.

Thoughts, comments, ideas, examples and discussions relating to business (but particularly marketing and strategy) research methods are most welcome.

June 05, 2009

Hi Honey! I'm Home

Well, hello world

After a year of silence from this blog (during which time no one knew whether this c(h)at existed,  inside or outside of cyberspace) the goal now is to develop some strands that will hopefully entice comment and discussion.

Intitially, the main foci for this blog will be fourfold (all relating to my own areas of research and teaching expertise and interest - well it is my blog, and I do research and teach in one of the world's leading business schools!). These strands are: The concept of trust; Online marketing; Research methods in marketing and strategy; and Marketing education.

Each strand or zone will have its own separate track and tags (q.v.)

And of course, amongst the more serious entries, there will be the ususal smattering of jokes, quotes and anecdotes, together with the occasional 'speakers corner' moments. No point in having a blog if you cannot occasionally express an opinion. But, of course, these will always be with a weather-eye on what is permissible in the globally restrictive insanity that is 'political correctness' that leads us down the road to 1984 and the thought ploice. (Pet peeve #1).

Here's hoping that you will contribute to any debates raised.


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