Selecting Which Business Research Method to Use

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Sections of this topic

    Selecting Which Business Research Method to Use

    © Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
    Adapted from the Field
    Guide to Nonprofit Program Design, Marketing and Evaluation
    and Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development.

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Overview of Research Methods
    Four Levels of Research Results

    Also consider
    Related Library Topics

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    Library’s Business Planning Blog
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    Before selecting the methods you will use in your research, be sure that you
    have read the topic Planning
    Your Research
    .

    Overview of Research Methods

    The following table provides an overview of the major methods used for collecting
    data during evaluations.

    Method

    Overall Purpose

    Advantages

    Challenges

    questionnaires, surveys,
    checklists
    when need to quickly and/or easily get lots of information from people
    in a non threatening way
    -can complete anonymously
    -inexpensive to administer
    -easy to compare and analyze
    -administer to many people
    -can get lots of data
    -many sample questionnaires already exist
    -might not get careful feedback
    -wording can bias client’s responses
    -are impersonal
    -in surveys, may need sampling expert
    – doesn’t get full story
    interviews when want to fully understand someone’s impressions or experiences, or
    learn more about their answers to questionnaires
    -get full range and depth of information
    -develops relationship with client
    -can be flexible with client
    -can take much time
    -can be hard to analyze and compare
    -can be costly
    -interviewer can bias client’s responses
    documentation review when want impression of how program operates without interrupting the
    program; is from review of applications, finances, memos, minutes, etc.
    -get comprehensive and historical information
    -doesn’t interrupt program or client’s routine in program
    -information already exists
    -few biases about information
    -often takes much time
    -info may be incomplete
    -need to be quite clear about what looking for
    -not flexible means to get data; data restricted to what already exists
    observation to gather accurate information about how a program actually operates,
    particularly about processes
    -view operations of a program as they are actually occurring
    -can adapt to events as they occur
    -can be difficult to interpret seen behaviors
    -can be complex to categorize observations
    -can influence behaviors of program participants
    -can be expensive
    focus groups explore a topic in depth through group discussion, e.g., about reactions
    to an experience or suggestion, understanding common complaints, etc.; useful
    in evaluation and marketing
    -quickly and reliably get common impressions
    -can be efficient way to get much range and depth of information in short
    time
    – can convey key information about programs
    -can be hard to analyze responses
    -need good facilitator for safety and closure
    -difficult to schedule 6-8 people together
    case studies to fully understand or depict client’s experiences in a program, and
    conduct comprehensive examination through cross comparison of cases
    -fully depicts client’s experience in program input, process and results
    -powerful means to portray program to outsiders
    -usually quite time consuming to collect, organize and describe
    -represents depth of information, rather than breadth

    Also consider:
    Appreciative
    Inquiry

    Survey Design

    Four Levels
    of Research Results

    There are four levels of information that can be gathered
    from customers or clients, including getting their:
    1. reactions and feelings (feelings are often poor indicators
    that your service made lasting impact)
    2. learning (enhanced attitudes, perceptions or knowledge)
    3. changes in skills (applied the learning to enhance behaviors)
    4. effectiveness (improved performance because of enhanced behaviors)

    Usually, the farther your research results get down the list,
    the more useful is your research results. Unfortunately, it is
    quite difficult to reliably get information about effectiveness.
    Still, information about learning and skills is quite useful.


    For the Category of Business Research:

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