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Business Research Methods

Module 2: Business Research: An overview - Research process, problem formulation, management problem v/s. research problem, Steps involved in preparing business research plan/proposal Steps in marketing research: The marketing research process is carried out according to a designated series of steps, which are required to be taken in a chronological order. The major steps are as follows

Stages of the Research Process overview -an


and so on Problem Discovery and Definition Discovery and Definition of anew problem

Research Design

Conclusions and Report

Sampling Data Processing and Analysis Data Gathering

Problem definition

Research design

Fieldwork

Data analysis and interpretation

Report presentation

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Problem definition: Problem definition allows a researcher to set the proper research objectives. The first step in marketing research process is to define the problem chosen from investigation. A problem well defined is half solved. If the problem is defined vaguely, then the research results may be completely useless for the management and research effort of the investigator is futile exercise. The formulation of a problem is often more essential than its solution. Albert Einstein. Generally managers concentrate in finding the right answer rather than asking the right question. Generally, it has been observed that poor definition of research problem is the result of faulty assignment of problem by the top management of a company is interested in investigating the reasons for declining sales, the marketing manger may ask the marketing research executive to investigate everything regarding the sales, marketing manager. In order to define a problem properly, we should determine the nature of research. After understanding the nature of the problem a preliminary analysis may be carried out for the following techniques,

Situation analysis and, Informal investigation.


Situation analysis means the circumstances under which the research is being conducted. Six categories of information can be used in preliminary investigation, the product, the company, industry and competition, the market, the channel of distribution, the sales of organization and, the advertising and sales promotion policies. Informal investigation refers to the discussion with a few selected customers, dealer, top management personnel of the company, and other parties concerned with the problem. The informal investigations may be designated as the pilot study. There are two purposes to carry out the informal investigation; to develop and select the hypothesis to be used fro the final study, and to estimate the complexity involved in market place problems. Defining the research problem: In research process, the first and foremost step is selecting and properly defining a research problem. A researcher must find the problem and formulate it so that it becomes susceptible (receptive) to research. To define a problem correctly, a researcher must know what a problem is?

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Research problem: Research problem refers to some difficulty, which a researcher experiences in the context of either a theoretical or a practical situation and wants to obtain a solution for the same. Research problem exists if the following conditions are met with.

There must be an individual (or group or an organization) to whom the

problem can be attributed (I). This individual needs to occupy an environment, (N) which is defined by values of the uncontrolled variables. (Yj). There must be at least two courses of action, C1 and C2 to be pursued. A course of action is defined by one or more values of the controlled variables. There must be at least two possible outcomes, O1 and O2, of the course of action of which one should be preferable to other. This means there must be at least one outcome that the researcher wants, i.e., an objective. The course of action available must provide some chance of obtaining the objective, but they cannot provide the same chance, otherwise the choice would not matter. That the choices must have unequal efficiencies for the desired outcomes. The individual does not know what course of action is best, i.e., I must be in doubt about the solution.

Thus a research problem is one, which requires a researcher who has to find out the best solution for the given problem, i.e., to find out by which course of action the objective can be attained optimally in the context of a given environment. Selecting the problem: The research problem undertaken for study must be carefully selected. A researcher in selecting a research or a subject for research may observe following points: Subject, which is overdone, should not be normally chosen, for it will be difficult task to throw new light in such a case. Controversial subject should not become the choice of an average researcher. Too narrow and too vague problems should be avoided. The subject selected for research should be familiar and feasible so that the related research material or sources of research are within one reach. The importance of the subject, the qualification and the training of a researcher, the costs involves, the time factor are few other criteria that must also be considered in selecting the problem. The researcher must ask the following questions: Whether he is well equipped in terms of his background to carry out this research?

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Whether the study falls within the budget he can afford? Whether the necessary cooperation can be obtained form those who must participate in research? The selection of the problem must be preceded by a preliminary study. This may not be necessary when the problem requires the conduct of a research closely similar to one that already been done. But if the field is new a brief feasibility study must be done. Defining the problem: the steps: the process of problem definition: Statement of the problem in a general way: First of all the problem should be stated in abroad general way, keeping in view either some practical concern or some scientific or intellectual interest. The researcher must immerse him thoroughly in the subject mater concerning which he wishes to pose a problem. In case of social research, it is considered advisable to do some sort of preliminary survey or what it is often called as Pilot Study.

Understanding the nature of the problem: the best way is to discuss it


with those who first raised it in order to find out how the problem originally came about and with what objectives in view. He can enter into discussion with those who have a good knowledge of the problem concerned or similar other problems.

Surveying the available literature: this means that the researcher must

be well conversant with relevant theories in the field, reports and records as also all other relevant literature. Knowing what data are available often serves to narrow the problem itself as well as the technique that might be used. This also help the researcher to know if there are certain gaps in the theories, or whether existing theories applicable to the problem under study are inconsistent with each other.

Developing the ideas through discussions: discussion concerning a

problem often produces useful information. Various new ideas can be developed through such an exercise. This is often known as experience survey. People with rich experience are in position to enlighten the researcher on different aspects of his proposed study and their advice and comments are usually invaluable to the researcher.

Rephrasing the research problem: Finally the researcher must sit to

rephrase the research problem into a working proposition. Once the nature of the problem is clearly understood, the environment has been defined, discussions have been taking place, and the literature is being surveyed, rephrasing the problem into analytical and operational terms is not a difficult task.

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Example: General way: Why is productivity in Japan is so much higher then in India? Rethinking and discussions may result in narrowing down the question to: What factors are responsible for the higher labor productivity of Japans manufacturing industries during the decade 1971 to 1980 relative to Indias manufacturing industries? Factors adversely affecting the problem definition are: The environment may change affecting the efficiencies of the course of action or the values of the outcomes, The number of alternative courses of action may be very large, Persons not involved in making the decision may be affected by it and react to it favorably or unfavorably etc.

Research design:
The next step is to develop a research design. Research design is the framework, which provides guidelines for the rest of the research process. It is map of blueprint according to which the research is to be conducted. The research design specifies the methods for data collection and data analysis. The researcher specifically pinpoints that to carry out research properly. Research design includes the following:

Data collection methods Research instruments Sampling plan Data collection methods:
There are two types of data: secondary and primary. The secondary data refer to those data, which are gathered for some other purpose and are already available in the firms internal records and commercial, trade or government publications. On the other hand, primary data do not exist already in records and publications. The researcher has to gather primary data afresh for the specific study undertaken by him. It is always good that the researcher attempts to look into the sources of secondary data before starting to collect primary data. It has often being observed that firms had wasted a lot of time and money on collection of primary data, while the secondary data were already available.

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Of course, it is essential to collect primary data if the secondary data is not sufficient. The primary data can be collected by three methods. Observation, Experimentation, and, Survey. In observation, we observe the actions of the respondents, either directly or indirectly. The experimentation method involves the creation of controlled environment where some variables are allowed to vary and cause and effect relationship is studied. Survey method involves gathering of a wide range of valuable information on overt behavior of the consumer viz, attitudes, motive, and opinions.

Research instruments: The researcher while collecting the information is

looking for a good research design and suitable research instruments. When observation method fro data collection is used, the researcher may make use of instruments, viz, camera, tape recorders, VCRs, tally sheets etc. In experimentation method also same instruments can be used. Whereas, in survey method, questionnaire is the instrument most frequently used and yields the most satisfactory results.

Sampling plan: The first step in sampling plan is to decide the universe or
population. (The whole collection of items to be studied by the researcher) The researcher must answer the following questions. What What What What sampling unit should be studied? should be the sample size? sampling procedure should be used? contact method should be used?

Fieldwork: once the researcher has finished the problem definition and

research design, he must conduct the actual data collection operation. This sis called fieldwork. This stage is most expensive and most prone to errors. The most common problems faced during fieldwork are, respondents not at homes, refusal to cooperate, respondent bias, interviewer bias etc.

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Data analysis: in order to extract meaningful information from data collected


the data analysis and interpretation is carried out. The data are first edited, coded, and tabulated for the purpose of analyzing them. The analysis is aimed at giving inferences of association or differences between the variables present in the research. The analysis can be conducted by using simple averages and measures of dispersion. Alternatively, the collected data may be analyzed by using diagrams, graphs, charts, and pictures. Data may be cross-tabulated to provide useful relationships among the variables involved. To conduct more sophisticated analysis, correlation or regression analysis may be applied. Furthermore, various statistical tests, like, t, F, Z, X2 etc, may be applied. The most complicated and sophisticated analysis is to attempt multivariate analysis on the available data using advanced statistical tools viz, multiple regression analysis, multiple correlation analysis, discriminant analysis, factor analysis, canonical analysis, and cluster analysis. Finally, meaning of the data may be extracted from the analysis thus conducted.

Report preparation:
After the collected data is analyzed and interpreted, the job of marketing researcher is to present research results in the form of systematically typed printed report. A scientifically designed format must be used for research report presentation and result presentation. The report format might be in the following sequence. Title page, table of contents, preface, foreword (introduction) and need for the study with review of literature, statement of objectives and hypotheses, research methodology, containing - research design, data collection instruments used, sampling design, data collection methods, sampling plan, field work, scheme of analysis and interpretation of data, limitation and scope of the study actual analysis and interpretation of data, findings, conclusions can recommendation and appendices containing - copies of questionnaire, details of sample and validation, data tables not directly related to the study etc. - and bibliography.

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