Research Design for Business & Management

Research Design for Business & Management


Siah Hwee Ang


Research Design for Business & Management is a logical and practical book which makes no assumptions about your prior research knowledge. It will instead provide you with a clear understanding of the commonly used methods in business and management research, and enable you to tackle the fundamental elements of the research process. This book: • contains conversation boxes which answer and discuss the typical research questions you may have • focuses on the judgement calls that you will need to make in your research • uniquely demonstrates the circular relationships between research elements ensuring that you can relate chapters to your research process in real life • provides key insights into what the examiners and journals will look for in your research to help you ...

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    List of figures and tables

    About the author

    Professor Siah Hwee Ang is Professor and the Bank of New Zealand Chair in Business in Asia at Victoria University of Wellington. Previously he was Professor in Strategy and Associate Dean Postgraduate and International at the University of Auckland and research fellow at Cass Business School, City University in London. He holds a PhD in Management awarded at the National University of Singapore, where he has also been a teaching fellow and research fellow. Siah’s main research interests are in the areas of strategy, international business, competition, reputation and international and strategic human resource management. He has published in international top journals such as the Strategic Management Journal, Journal of Management and Journal of Management Studies, and his works have resulted in several research awards. He has also co-authored the Fundamentals of International Business textbook published by John Wiley. Siah has served on the editorial board of many international journals, and has reviewed more than 600 papers in his career. He teaches strategy, international business and research design and methods courses, and has also supervised more than 60 PhD and Master level students, and led projects and workshops with executives from major companies and government institutions in New Zealand.


    Business and management research is fast becoming an important element of business organizations. In many countries, research has some bearing on the extent of government funding on education. Universities that seek domestic and foreign students use research ranking as one of their key attraction points. Organizations, recognizing that learning from other organizations’ mistakes is less painful than learning from their own mistakes, are increasingly engaged in research-informed decision-making.

    Research is the systematic inquiry or investigation into a subject in order to discover or revise facts, theories and applications. Research allows us to generate more awareness of human behaviours, organizations and society. Research also allows organizations to reduce uncertainty as due diligence is done before any new ventures are implemented. Over time, as tertiary institutions and organizations recognize the importance of business and management research, research capabilities and research programmes start to take centre stage. This in turn generates significant interests in research design and methods, which involve the fundamental skills required to conduct any form of research.

    The number of books on research design and methods that are on the market are increasing by the day. We see mainly two types of books. First is the type that deals with mainly design, and, like this book, is concerned with how a researcher or student goes about conducting research, right from the inception of idea to the published outputs. Second, which is what this book is not, is the type that is more tailored to specific research methods. For example, there are books that cater broadly to quantitative research methods or qualitative research methods. There are also books that deal with more specific methods such as case studies, multivariate analysis, content analysis, etc. You almost will not run out of options in terms of finding a book that fits with what you might need.

    Yet, despite the abundance of research books on research design and methods, two observations have to be made. First, most research design books are structured in a way that pitches the process of conducting research as a linear one involving sequentially structured components. While the components of the research are no doubt generally structured in a certain way to allow more clarity, the actual process of research is far from linear. A linear structure will allow more systematic learning – but definitely not a good reflection of the reality of research.

    Secondly, and I would say more critical than the first observation, most books are pitched in a way that suggests that somehow the research process itself is a prescriptive one. In other words, for each phase of a research project, as long as you handle the expectations of what is required, you will be fine in your research work. Of course, it is again easier for systematic learning if a textbook is prescriptive. However, what happens more often is that when a student or researcher hits a hurdle in the research process, they struggle to find help. Normally, this is the kind of implicit, tacit knowledge that is not well documented, and in such instances students are often reliant only on their research supervisor or mentor.

    It is these two observations, which I have repeatedly experienced in my time teaching research design and methods, supervising students and researching, that gave rise to the idea for this book. While this book will not cover all the various research processes that are not dealt with by other books, it is a good step towards providing a more realistic view of the actual research process. While I seek here to decode some of the more commonly understood, tacit knowledge of research, clearly the content of this book – especially in terms of research reminders – should not be treated as being prescriptive. Rather, these reminders should just be treated as a guide; the actual research process in the cognitive sense is in fact much more complicated than it is pitched in this book.

    The picture is further complicated by the fact that the expectations of rigour differ across international, regional and national journals, as well as across research degrees and tertiary institutions. Researchers from different areas in business and management also do not possess the same research skills. As such, the training of their students and the students’ exposure to research follow paths that actually result in differences in research students’ perception of what research exactly is when they graduate.

    This book aims to provide an introductory to intermediate level (depending on the level to which it is utilized) guide to the research process and research method approaches in business and management. It provides extensive discussions of both the explicit and tacit knowledge embedded in research. The book is particularly well suited to both senior undergraduate and graduate students undertaking research dissertations, theses and projects. It can also work as a textbook for research-oriented courses. As the book also includes practical aspects of research, it is also suitable for managers who want to undertake research-informed projects to underpin their decision-making.

    The standard features of the chapters in this book include conversation boxes, end-of-chapter summaries, end-of-chapter questions, key terms, illustrations and figures, references and further readings. A glossary is also provided at the end of the book for easier referencing. The conversation box feature serves to highlight some of the issues discussed in the text and at the same time draws your attention to some of the dilemmas that will surface in the research process.

    Outline of the Book

    The first chapter covers the basic understanding of business research – including its importance, dissemination and basic terminologies. It also includes a brief overview of the types of research and some fundamental research expectations. This is followed by a discussion of ethical behaviour and the consequences of not adhering to ethical standards when conducting research. The chapter rounds off with an overview of the research process.

    Chapter 2 highlights some of the misperceptions and fundamental challenges of research. The chapter also briefly discusses some common judgement calls experienced in research. Chapter 3 starts with the sources from which research questions can be derived and the approaches to the research problem. It also lists potential starting points for searching for the research question and how to go about doing a systematic search in the literature. Sources of information are then presented. Finally, the chapter discusses what constitute a good research question.

    Chapter 4 provides some aspects of the process of conducting a literature review – what it contains, how best to utilize source articles and how to synthesize the search results. The chapter also covers referencing systems and the do’s and don’ts when we reference. Chapter 5 provides a guide for research designs. It also includes a comparison of correlation and causality research, and research that involves contingencies. The chapter rounds off with a discussion of the levels of analysis and some illustrations of research designs.

    Unlike physical science, research in social science is often hindered by data availability and measurements. Many interesting ideas in research on social science cannot be addressed due to the hard-to-codify nature of social science. Chapter 6 highlights some of these issues and also provides guidelines for understanding basic data and measurement. Chapter 7 discusses in detail some of the more common data collection methods, and their advantages and disadvantages.

    Chapter 8 covers the use of basic statistics, bivariate analysis and exploratory analysis. Chapter 9 includes basic to intermediate levels of analytical tools commonly used in quantitative research while Chapter 10 covers basic to intermediate levels of analytical tools used in qualitative research. As mentioned earlier, this book is not positioned as a guide to methodology. Rather, it is a book about research process, with the intention to provide some guidelines on the methods to be adopted. Both chapters 9 and 10 will include some discussions of the advantages and disadvantages of adopting various quantitative and qualitative research methods. It will also include circumstances in which a method is inappropriate or unnecessary.

    Chapter 11 highlights the components of reporting in a research thesis or project. It also discusses the importance of reporting research processes in research as part of the research training. The framing of the research results to cater to different stakeholders is also extensively covered. The book concludes with Chapter 12, on the importance of the research environment. This final chapter will discuss the factors that might enhance a researcher’s performance. Specifically, the chapter covers the roles of individuals, groups, research institutions and academic/business associations as environmental factors that facilitate the research process.

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