Applied research has a practical problem-solving emphasis. It is conducted to reveal answers to specific questions related to action, performance, or policy needs. In this respect, all four examples appear to qualify as applied research. Pure or basic research is also problem solving, but in a different sense. It aims to solve perplexing questions (that is, problems) of a theoretical nature that have little direct impact on action, performance, or policy decisions. Thus, both applied and pure research are problem based, but applied research is directed much more to making decisions.
The managers of tomorrow will need to know more than any managers in history. Research will be a major contributor to that knowledge. Managers will find knowledge of research methods to be of value in many situations. They may need to conduct research either for themselves or others. As buyers of research services, they will need to be able to judge research quality. Finally, they may become research specialist themselves.
Business research has an inherent value to the extent that it helps management in making decisions. Interesting information about consumers, employees, or competitors might be pleasant to have, but its value is limited. If a study does not help management select more efficient, less risky, or more profitable alternatives than otherwise would be the case, its use should be questioned. The important point is; Applied research in a business environment finds its justification in the contribution it makes to the decision-maker’s task.
Research Types / Methods
Exploration is particularly useful when researchers lack a clear idea of the problems they will meet during the study. Through exploration the researchers develop the concepts more clearly, establish priorities, and improve the final research design. Exploration may also save time and money if it is decided the problem is not as important as first thought.
When we consider the scope of qualitative research, several approaches are adaptable for exploratory investigations of management questions:
Indepth-interviewing (usually conversational rather than structured).
Participant observation (to perceive firsthand what that participants in the setting experience).
Films, photographs, and videotape (to capture what that participants in the setting experience).
Projective techniques and psychological testing (such as a Thematic Apperception Test, projective measures, games, or role-play).
Case studies (for an indepth contextual analysis of a few events or conditions).
Street ethnography (to discover how a cultural subgroup describes and structures its world at the street level).
Elite interviewing (for information from influential or well-informed people in an organization or community).
Document analysis (to evaluate historical or contemporary confidential or public records, reports, government documents, and opinions).
Proxemics and kinesics (to study of the use of space and body motion communication, respectively).
The objective of descriptive study is to learn the who, what, when, where, and how of a topic. The study may be simple or complex; it may be done in many settings.
The simplest descriptive study concerns a univariate question or hypothesis in which we ask about, or state something about, the size, form, distribution, or existence of a variable. In an account analysis at a savings and loan association, we might be interested in developing a profile of savers. We may want first to locate them in relation to the association office. The question might be, “What percent of the savers live within a two-mile radius of the office?”
The research design constitutes the blueprint for the collection, measurement, and analysis of data. It aids the scientist in the allocation of his limited resources by posing crucial choices: Is the blueprint to include experiments, interviews, observation, the analysis of records, simulation, or some combination of these? Are the methods of data collection and the research situation to be highly structured? Is an intensive study of a small sample more effective than a less intensive study of large sample? Should the analysis be primarily quantitative or qualitative?
Research design is the plan and structure of investigation so conceived as to obtain answers to research questions. The plan is the overall scheme or program of the research. It includes an outline of what the investigator will do from writing hypotheses and their operational implications to the final analysis of data. A structure is the framework, organization, or configuration of the relations among variables of a study. A research design express both the structure of the research problem and the plan of investigation used to obtain empirical evidence on relations of the problem.
These definitions differ in detail, but together they give the essentials of research design. First, the design is a plan for selecting the sources and types of information used to answer the research question. Second, it is a framework for specifying the relationships among the study’s variables. Third, it is a blueprint that outlines each procedure from the hypotheses to the analysis of data. The design provides answers for such questions as: What technique will be used to gather data? What kind of sampling will be used? How will time and cost constrains be dealt with?
Early in any research study, one faces the task of selecting the specific design to use. A number of different design approaches exist, but unfortunately, no simple classification system defines all the variations that must be considered. We can classify research design using at least eight different perspectives.
The degree to which the research problem has been crystallized (the study may be either exploratory or formal).
The method of data collection (studies may be observational or survey).
The power of the researcher to produce effects in the variables under study (the two major types of research are the experimental and the ex post facto).
The purpose of the study (research studies may be descriptive or causal).
The time dimension (research may be cross-sectional or longitudinal).
The topical scope – breadth and depth – of the study (a case or statistical study).
The research environment (most business research is conducted in a field setting, although laboratory research is not unusual; simulation is another category).
The subjects’ perception of the research (do they perceive deviations from their everyday routines).
A brief discussion of these perspectives illustrate their nature and contribution to research.
In measuring, one devises some form of scale and then transfers the observation of property indicants onto this scale. Several type of scales are possible; the appropriate choice depends on what you assume about the mapping rules. Each scale has its own set of underlying assumptions about how the numerals correspond to real world observations.
Nominal scales are the least powerful of the four types. They suggest no order or distance relationship and have no arithmetic origin. The scale wastes any information about varying degree of the property being measures.
Since the only quantification is the number count of cases in each category, the researcher is restricted to the use of the mode as the measure of central tendency.
Ordinal scales include the characteristics of the nominal scale plus an indicator of order. Ordinal scales are possible if the transitivity postulate is fulfilled. This postulate states: If a is greater than b and b is greater than c, then a is greater than c. The use of an ordinal scale implies a statement of “greater than” or “less than” (an equality statement is also acceptable) without stating how much greater or less. Like a rubber yardstick, it can stretch varying amounts at different places along its length. Thus, the real difference between ranks 1 and 2 may more or less than the different between ranks 2 and 3.
The interval scale has the powers of nominal and ordinal scales plus one additional strength: It incorporates the concept of equality of interval (the distance between 1 and 2 equals the distance between 2 and 3). Calendar time is such a scale. For example, the elapsed time between 3 and 6 A.M. equals the time between 4 and 7 A.M. One cannot say, however, 6 A.M. is twice as late as 3 A.M. because “zero time” is an arbitrary origin. Centigrade and Fahrenheit temperature scales are other examples of classical interval scales. Both have an arbitrarily determined zero point.
Ratio scales incorporate all of the powers of the previous ones plus the provision for absolute zero or origin. The ratio scale represents the actual amount of a variable. Measures of physical dimensions such as weight, height, distance, and area are examples. In the behavioral sciences, few situations satisfy the requirements of the ratio scale – the area of psychophysics offering some exception. In business research, we find ratio scales in many area. There are money values, population counts, distances, return rates, and amount of time in a time-period sense.
The ultimate test of a sample design is how well it represents the characteristics of the population it purports of represent. In measurements terms, the sample must be valid. Validity of a sample depends upon two considerations.
First is the matter of accuracy – the degree to which bias is absent from the sample. An accurate (unbiased) sample is one in which the underestimators and the overestimators are balances among the members of the sample. There is no systematic variance with an accurate sample. Systematic variance has been defined as “the variation in measures due to some known or unknown influences that “cause” the scores to lean in one direction more than another”. It has been observed that homes on the corner of the block are often larger and more valuable than those within blocks. Thus, a sample that selects corner homes only will cause us to overestimate home values in the area.
Types of Sample Design
A variety of sampling techniques is available. The one selected depends on the requirements of the project, its objectives, and funds, available. The different approaches may be classified by their representation basis and the element selection techniques.
The members of a sample are selected either on a probability basis or by another means. Probability sampling is based on the concept of random selection – a controlled procedure that assures that each population element is given a known nonzero chance of selection.
In contrast, nonprobability sampling is nonrandom and subjective. That is, each member does not have a known nonzero chance of being included. Allowing interviewers to choose sample members “at random” (meaning as they wish or wherever they find them) is not random sampling. Only probability samples provide estimates of precision.
Sample may also be classified by whether the elements are selected individually and directly from the population – viewed as a single pool – or whether additional controls are placed on element selection. When each sample element is drawn individually from the population at large, it is an unrestricted sample. Restricted sampling covers all other forms of sampling.
In research, a hypothesis serves several important functions. The most important is that it guides the direction of the study. A frequent problem in research is the proliferation of interesting information. Unless the urge to include additional elements is curbed, a study can be diluted by trivial concerns that do not answer the basic questions posed. The virtue of the hypothesis is that, if taken seriously, it limits what shall be studied and what shall hypothesis is that, if taken seriously, it limits what shall be studied and what shall not. It identifies facts that are relevant and those that are not; in so doing, it suggests which form of research design is likely to be most appropriate. A final role of the hypothesis is to provide a framework for organizing the conclusions that result.
What are the main components of written Research Report? Which components are essential in long report.
Reports may be defined in terms of their degree of formally and design. The formal report follows a well-delineated and longer format. This contrasts to the more informal or short report.
Short reports are appropriate when the problem is well defined, of limited scope, and has a simple and straightforward methodology. Most information, progress, and interim reports are of this kind: a report of cost-of-living changes for upcoming labor negotiations or an exploration of filling “dumping” charges against a foreign competitioner.
Short reports are about give pages. At the beginning, there should be a brief statement on the authorization for the study, the problem examined, and its breadth and depth. Next are the conclusions and recommendations, followed by the findings that support them. Section headings should be used.
Long reports are of two types, the technical or base report and the management report. The choice depends on the audience and the researcher’s objectives.
The Technical Report
This report should include full documentation and detail. It will normally survive all working papers and original data files and so will become the major source document. It is the report that other researchers will want to see because it has the full story of what was done and how it was done.
A technical report should also include a full presentation and analysis of significant data. Conclusions and recommendations should be clearly related to specific findings. Technical jargon should be minimized but defined when used. There can be brief references to other research, theories, and techniques. While you expect the reader to be familiar with these references, it is useful to include some short explanations, perhaps as footnotes or end notes.
The Management Report
Sometimes the client has no research background and is interested in results rather than methodology. The major communication medium in this case is the management report. It is still helpful to have a technical report if the client later wishes to have a technical appraisal of the study.
The style of the report should encourage rapid reading, quick comprehension of major findings, and prompt understanding of the implication and conclusions. The report tone is journalistic and must be accurate. Headlines and underlining for emphasis is helpful; pictures and graphs often replace tables. Sentences and paragraphs should be short and direct. Consider liberal use of white space and wide margins. It may be desirable to put a single finding on each page.
Prefatory materials do not have direct bearing on the research itself. Instead, they assist the reader in using the researcher report.
Letter of Transmittal
When the relationship between the researcher and the client is formal, a letter of transmittal should be included. This is appropriate when a report is for a specific client (e.g., the company president) and when it is generated for an outside organization.
The title page should include four items: the title of the report, the date, and for whom and by whom it was prepared. The title should be brief but include the following of three elements: (1) the variables included in the study, (2) the type of relationship among the variables, and (3) the population to which the results may be applied.
When the report is sent to a public organization, it is common to include a letter of authorization showing the authority for undertaking the research.
An executive summary can serve two purposes. It may be a report in miniature – covering all the aspects in the body of the report in abbreviated form. Or it could be a concise summary of the major findings and conclusions, including recommendations. Two pages are generally sufficient for executive summaries.
Table of Contents
As a rough guide, any report of several sections that totals more than 6 to 10 pages should have a table of contents.
The introduction prepares the reader for the report by describing the parts of the project: the problem statement, research objectives, and background material. In most projects, the introduction can be taken from the research proposal with minor editing.
The problem statement contains the need for the research project. The problem is usually represented by a management question. It is followed by a more detailed set of objectives.
The research objectives address the purpose of the project. These may be research question(s) and associated investigative questions. In correlational or casual studies, the hypothesis statements are included.
Background material may be of two types. It may be the preliminary results of exploration from an experience survey, focus group, or another source. Alternatively, it could be secondary data from the literature review. A traditional organizational scheme is to think of the concentric circles of a target.
The methodology is an important section. It contains at least five parts.
The researcher explicitly defines the target population being studied and the sampling methods used.
In an experimental study, the materials, tests, equipment, control conditions, and other devices should be described.
This part of the report describes the specifies of gathering the data. Its contents depend on the selected design. Survey work generally uses a team with field and central supervision. How many were involved? What was their training? How were they managed? When were the data collected? How much time did it take? What were the conditions in the field? How were irregularities handled.
This section summarizes the methods used to analyze the data. Describe data handling, preliminary analysis, statistical tests, computer programs, and other technical information. The rationale for the choice of analysis approaches should be clear. A brief description or commentary on assumptions and appropriateness of use should be presented.
This is generally the longest section of the report. The objective is to explain the data rather than draw interpretations or conclusions. When quantitative data can be presented, this should be done as simply as possible with charts, graphics, and tables.
The data need to include everything you have collected. The criterion for inclusion is, “Is this material important to the reader’s understanding of the problem and the findings?” However, make sure to show findings unfavorable to your hypotheses and those that support them.
Summary and Conclusions
The summary is a brief statement of the essential findings. Sectional summaries may be used if there are many specific findings. These may be combined into an overall summary. In simple descriptive research, a summary may complete the report, as conclusions and recommendations may not be required.
There are usually a few ideas about corrective actions. In academic research, the recommendations are often further study suggestions that broaden or test understanding of the subject area. In applied research the recommendations will usually be for managerial action rather research action. The writer may offer several alternatives with justifications.
The appendices are the place for complex tables, statistical tests, supporting documents, copies of forms and questionnaires, detailed descriptions of the methodology, instructions to field workers, and other evidence important for later support.
The use of secondary data requires a bibliography. Proper citation, style, and formats are unique to the purpose of the report. Style requirements are often specified by the instructor, program, institution, or client.
Once the researcher understands the connection between the investigative questions and the potential measurement questions, a strategy for the survey is the next logical step. This precedes getting down to the particulars of instrument design. Prominent among the strategic concerns are:
What communication mode will be used?
How much structure should be placed on the question-and-answer processes?
Should the questioning approach be disguised and, if so, to what degree?
Surveys may be conducted by personal interview, telephone, mail, computer, or some combination of these. The decision on which method to use will affect the design of the instrument. In personal interviewing, it is possible to use graphics and other questioning tools more easily than by mail or phone.
Questionnaires and interview schedules can vary from those that have a great deal of structure to those that are essentially unstructured. An interview schedule is the questionnaire used in an interview. It contains three types of questions: identification, sociological-demographic, and measurement. The latter may be structured questions that present the respondents with a fixed set of choices, often called closed questions. Unstructured questions do not have a limited set of responses but do provide a frame of reference for respondents’ answers. They are sometimes referred to as open-ended questions.
At the unstructured extreme, are in-depth interviews where the interviewer’s task is to encourage the respondent to talk about a set of topics. The in-depth interview encourages respondents to share as much information as possible in an unconstrained environment. The interviewer uses a minimum of prompts and guiding questions.