(Business Research Methods)


Participant Observation
 When an observer acquires firsthand data, information or knowledge by being present in the social setting under investigation  Direct participation may bring the observer several advantages in terms of a longer period of interaction and the ability to interact personally and verbally with the individuals whose behaviour is being observed  Observers using the participant mode of observation can make mental notes and field notes, which are analyzed systematically and in regular intervals

Observation of Physical Objects
 Observation can also be used to study physical phenomona, for example, by analyzing physical trace evidence, which is a visible indication of some event or occurence which happened in the past
– Examples 1: by observing a high level of wear and tear on books in a certain part of the library, the researcher may presume that many library users are looking up those books in question – Example 2: by observing the contents of garbage cans in a certain district inhabited by affluent citizens, or by a certain ethnic group, the researcher can determine what types of food and detergents are used by them


Content Analysis
 Content Analysis is a form of observation in which the researcher analyzes the contents of written or verbal communication mediums, e.g. advertisements, newspaper articles, press reports, letters and statements  A major use of content analysis is to determine how often a theme or subject or word of interest appears


Mechanical Observation
 Mechanical observation refers to an observation technique that uses mechanical instruments such as video cameras, traffic counters and several other types of gadgets in order to record behaviour  Mechanical observation is typically used in situations where behaviour is repetitive, automatic and programmatic as opposed to situations in which behaviour is more complex and unpredictable, and for which human observers are required in order to accurately assess the behaviour of their research subjects


Examples of Mechanical Observation
 Television monitoring to obtain ratings for TV programs in different countries  Website traffic monitoring to determine the popularity of websites or specific webpages  Measuring physical / physiological reactions to certain stimuli with the help of gadgets such as eye-tracking monitors, pupilometers, psychogalvanometers,and voice pitch analyzers  Using optical scanners and bar codes which are imprinted on products in supermarkets, and which also have applications in factories, warehouses and logistics


Ethical Issues in Observation
 Observation can give rise to issues of ethical concern, such as a possible violation of the research subjects‘ rights to privacy and deception, which arises especially in ‚contrived observations‘  The researcher must carefully weigh the informational requirements of his or her research against ethical considerations  Asking permission from research subjects may result in the subjects‘ not acting in a natural manner and thus adversely impact on the observation

Experimental Research (1)
 An experiment is a research method in which the conditions are controlled so that one or more variables can be manipulated in order to test a hypothesis  Typically, the purpose of undertaking experiments is to determine causal relationships between variables (chosen dependent and independant variables), while eliminating or controlling all other variables that may have an impact on these variables under investigation  The simplest form of experimental research involves only two variables: the independant variable, whose value is altered, and the dependant variable, whose value reflects the alteration in the independant variable‘s value

Experimental Research (2)
 An ‚experimental group‘ is the group of subjects who are exposed to the experimental environment  A control group consists of individuals who are exposed to the ‚control condition‘ in a experiment, meaning, that they are not subject to the experiment in question, but are used as a reference to assess the impact on the experimental group  Some experiments can be quite complex, encompassing several independant variables. Special techniques have been developed to deal with such experiments


Issues in Experimental Design
Manipulation of the Independant Variable

Four Basic Elements of an Experiment in the Business Field

Selection and Measurement of the Dependant Variable

Selection and Assignment of Test Units

Control over Extraneous Variables

Issues in Experimental Design: Manipulation of the Independant Variable  The independant variable‘s value can be altered without bring about any change in other variables – except the dependant variable  In business research, the independant variable can be qualitative or non-quantitative (for e.g., the training programs, financial reporting formats), or quantitative (for e.g., the amount of Rupees spent on training the employees in Organization X)


Issues in Experimental Design: Selection and Measurement of the Dependant Variable
 The dependant variable‘s value depends or is determined by changes in the value of the independant variable, which in turn, is manipulated by the researcher as part of the experiment  The choice of dependant variable by the researcher can sometimes be a difficult, not-so-obvious undertaking, and requires considerable skill and insight on the part of the researcher in order to avoid making mistakes which reduce the value of the research (Example: New Products Introduction and Sales Potential)  The time factor should be taken into consideration when choosing a dependant variable, as sometimes the outcomes are measurable after a long time

Issues in Experimental Design: Selection and Assignment of Test Units
 The Test Units are the subjects of the experimental research and can include individuals, organizational units, sales territories  Examples of Test Units: Consumers, Supermarkets, Functional Departments in an organization  In selecting test units, certain possible types of error must be taken into consideration, e.g. random sampling error (test units in the experimental and control groups should ideally have the same key characteristics but this may not be the case with statistical random assignment of the test units) and sample selection error (an administrative procedural error caused by improper selection of the sample, resulting in the introduction of a bias)

Issues in Experimental Design: Control Over Extraneous Variables (1)

Extraneous Variable A Extraneous Variable B


Extraneous Variable C Extraneous Variable D




Issues in Experimental Design: Control Over Extraneous Variables (2)  There are types of extraneously-conditioned errors which have to be considered in the experimental environment as hey effect the quality of the research:  Constant Experimental Error – This occurs when extraneous influences which are not controlled or eliminated have a similar impact on the experiment‘s dependant variable(s) every time the experiment is performed


Issues in Experimental Design: Control Over Extraneous Variables (3)
 Demand Characteristics – This occurs when the research subject(s) are unintentionally exposed to the experimenter‘s hypothesis, causing them to respond or act in a manner which they may not have adopted were they not exposed to this information  Experimenter Bias – This occurs when the experimenter‘s presence, actions, or comments influences the research subjects‘ behaviour, making them to try to appear more favourable to the experimenter  Guineau Pig Effect – This occurs when the theme of the experiment causes the research subjects‘ to consciously modify their attitudes in order to please the experimenter  Hawthorne Effect – This is the unintended effect on the results of a research experiment which is caused by the subjects knowing that they are the participants

Issues in Experimental Design: Control Over Extraneous Variables (4)
 In order to reduce the chances of errors from reducing the value of an experiment, several counter-measures can be adopted, for example:  Making it difficult for the research subjects to know what the experiment is all about  Using trained and experienced experimenters  Designing experimental situations with a view to minimizing the chances of error  Preventing social interaction among research subjects so that they don‘t influence each other (joint decisions as opposed to the desired individual responses)

Issues in Experimental Design: Control Over Extraneous Variables (5)
 Many times, extraneous variables cannot be controlled or eliminated by the experimenter. However, researchers do have some options at their disposal to help mitigate the impact of the extraneous variables on their experiments:  Consistency of Conditions – This means that the subjects in experimental groups are exposed to situations that are exactly alike, except for the differing conditions of the independant variable (e.g. all experimental sessions are conducted in the same room at the same time by the same experimenter)  Counterbalancing – This strives to eliminate the so-called ‚order of presentation bias‘ which arises when research subjects, who are participating in multiple experimental phases, acquire experience in the initial experimental phase which enables them to perform better in subsequent phases (e.g. job assembly)

Issues in Experimental Design: Control Over Extraneous Variables (6)
 Blinding – This is used in order to control the research subjects‘ knowledge of whether or not they have been exposed to an experimental treatment, e.g. research subjects in a Coca-Cola taste test may be told that they have or have not been given a new Cola product in order to test their reactions  Randomn Assignment – This is used to randomly assign the research subjects to experimental groups as a means of curtailing the impact of extraneous variables


Fundamental Issues in Experimentation (1): Basic and Factorial Experimental Designs
 Basic Experimental Designs – A single independant variable is used to determine its impact on a single dependant variable. Basic experiments have the advantage of simplicity and easy measurability, but they also have the disadvantage of not being realistic  Factorial Experiment Designs – These allow for the investigation of the interaction of multiple (two or more) independant variables. Factorial experiments are more realistic but are also more complex and difficult to undertake than basic experiments

Fundamental Issues in Experimentation (2): Field and Laboratory Experiments
 Field Experiments – These are experiments which are conducted in natural settings and which are usually longer term. Field experiments have the advantage of realism, a disadvantage is the experimenter‘s comparative lack of control over extraneous variables and influences that have an impact on the experiment  Laboratory Experiments – These are experiments which are conducted in an artificial (laboratory) environment. Laboratory experiments have the advantage that the experimenter (usually) has full control over the setting in which the experiment is conducted, but the element of realism is lacking


Fundamental Issues in Experimentation (3): Internal Validity
 Internal Validity – This refers to whether the experimental treatment was the sole cause of observed changes in the dependant variable. If the observed results were influenced by extraneous variables, then a valid conclusion about the relationship between the experimental treatment and the dependant variable cannot be made  There are 6 types of extraneous variables that may jeopardize internal validity – history effect, maturation effect, test effect, instrumentation effect, selection effect and mortality effect

Fundamental Issues in Experimentation (4): External Validity
 External Validity – This refers to the quality of the researcher or experimenter to generalize beyond the data of an experiment to other subjects or other groups in the population under study, i.e. the external environment (e.g. are the results of a new product study in district A be applicable to the whole country?)  External validity can be jeopardized if internal validity of an experiment is lacking  Some issues have to be considered in the context of external validity, such as, the choice of research subjects and trade-offs between internal and external validity (e.g.: laboratory experiments have more internal validity than field experiments, but they have comparatively less external vaidity)


Ethical Issues in Experimentation
 As with other forms of undertaking research, experimenters must also take ethical issues into consideration: – – – – Privacy Confidentiality Deception Accuracy of Reporting Results

 Experimenters have to weigh possible bias effects on the part of their research subjects against ethical considerations. Debriefing after the experiment can be a useful venture if information to the research subjects is not disclosed before or during the actual experiment, and they feel deceived as a result


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