Tuesday, 2 November 2010



a. Overview:

This chapter deals with the various research methodologies available and the research methodologies that were used in the study. The research process, various research philosophies, strategies, approaches, methods of data collection and analysis will be briefly described in this chapter. Further, the research methodologies used and the rationale for using these research methodologies will also be provided in this chapter. Lastly, the chapter will also point out at the ethical considerations and limitations of the research.

b. Research process

A highly structured research process was followed while doing this dissertation. This process consisted of the following steps:

i. Identifying a research topic: In the first step, the research topic was identified based on the work, experience and interests of the researcher. After identifying the research topic, the researcher can moved on the next step.

ii. Defining the research problem: The second step is to define the research problem. This involved narrowing the research topic to set the research questions or the hypothesis. This was done by reviewing the literature and identifying the gaps in the literature.

iii. Determining how to conduct the study: The third step is to determine the methodology that would be used to conduct the study. This was determined by the research problem established in the step 2.

iv. Collecting the research data: The fourth step involves collecting the data that will be required to conduct the research. This was done using various data collection methods.

v. Analysing and interpreting the research data: The sixth stage of the research process involved analysing and interpreting the research data using the various tools of analysis.

vi. Writing the report: The final stage of the research process was to write the research in draft. Although it is considered the last stage, writing was started in the early stages of the research process and continued until the whole process of research completed.

(Collis and Hussey, 2003; p16-7).

Figure 3.1 Stages in the research process

Source: Adapted from Collis and Hussey, 2003; p16

c. Research philosophy

Before describing the various research methodologies, the various research philosophies require description. The research philosophy has an important role to play in business and management research. This is because the way the researcher thinks about the development of knowledge affects the way he/she does the research (Saunders et al., 2003; p83).

According to Saunders et al., (2003), there are three major views about the research process that dominate the literature. They are,

  1. Positivism
  2. Interpretivism
  3. Realism

  1. Positivism: The researcher with a positivism philosophy adopts the philosophical stance of the natural scientist. Positivistic philosophy is based on the belief that the study of human behaviour should be conducted in the same way as studies conducted in the natural sciences (Collis and Hussey, 2003; p52).

  1. Interpretivism: An interpretivist researcher holds a research philosophy that rich insights into this complex world are lost if such complexity is completely reduced to a series of law-like generalisations. Therefore interpretivism philosophy holds that it is necessary to understand the reality or the reality working behind the cause (Saunders et al., 2003; p 84)

  1. Realism: Realism philosophy holds the view that a reality exists which is independent of human thoughts and beliefs. Realism reflects some aspects of positivism, for instance the external, objective nature of some macro aspects of society, and some aspects of interpretivism, for example people are not objects that can be studied in the style of natural science (Saunders et al., 2003; p 84-5)

d. Qualitative and Quantitative research

1. Qualitative research

Qualitative research involves examining and reflecting on the less tangible aspects of a research subject such as values, attitudes, perceptions etc. The goal of the qualitative research is to gain an understanding of the nature of the phenomenon in a holistic sense. Qualitative researches usually involve in-depth investigations of unstructured nature. They are ‘meant to be impressionist rather than definitively analytical’ (Davis, 2000; p301).

2. Quantitative research

Quantitative research involves collecting and analysing numerical data. Quantitative studies are used to measure scale, range, frequency etc through structured data collection methods. It generally involves higher levels of understanding by the researcher and all aspects of the study are designed with care before collecting the data (Davis, 2000; p300-1).





Quantification of characteristics or behaviour

In-depth understanding of characteristics or behaviour



Largely unstructured

Sample size



Representativeness to population

Yes, if random


Interviewer skill required

Moderate to low


Length of interview

Relatively short


Table 3.1 Comparison of Quantitative and Qualitative research

Source: Adapted from Davis, 2000; p301

e. Research approaches

According to Gill and Johnson (2002), there are two major research approaches namely, Deductive and Inductive approach.

1. Deductive Approach:

A deductive research approach consists of development of a conceptual and theoretical structure prior to its testing through empirical study. Deductive approaches starts with the abstract conceptualization and then moving on to testing the operational hypothesis through an experiment or empirical inquiry to come up with new findings or observations. (Gill and Johnson, 2002; p34)

Figure 3.2 The Process of Deduction

Source: Adapted from Gill and Johnson, 2002; p39

2. Inductive Approach: An inductive research approach involves beginning from an experiment or some other form of empirical inquiry to the construction of explanations and theories about what has been observed and found. Therefore, an inductive approach is the reverse of deductive approach (Gill and Johnson, 2002; p40). Unlike deductive approach, inductive approach is less structured approach that might come up with alternative explanations rather than only permitted explanations (Saunders et al., 2003; p 87).

f. Research design:

According to Malhotra (2002; p82-94), the research design is a ‘road map’ for carrying out a research study. It entails the description of each step that is carried out while conducting a research study. There are two broad types of basic research design. They are,

  1. Exploratory research
  2. Conclusive research
    1. Descriptive research
    2. Causal research

Organization Chart

Figure 3.3 A Classification of Research Designs

Source: Adapted from Malhotra, 2002; p84

1. Exploratory Research:

Exploratory research design is the type of research design which has its primary objective to explore or search through the problem situation so as to gain understanding of the ideas and insights of the problem being studied by the researcher. Exploratory research is flexible and unstructured because the information requirements of such research design are loosely defined.

2. Conclusive Research:

Conclusive research is a research designed to help the researcher in determining, measuring and choosing the set of actions that offers the best remedy of the problem situation. It is generally used to support the understanding gained from the exploratory research design. Unlike exploratory research, conclusive research is more formal and structured because information requirements of such research design are clearly specified. Conclusive research design is further classified into research designs, namely, Descriptive and Casual Research designs.

a. Descriptive Research:

Descriptive research is the type of conclusive research whose primary objective is providing accurate description of the events, characteristics, functions and situations. Descriptive research design is mostly used researchers in problem situations that relate to the description of market phenomenon such as market speculations, evaluating relationships frequency of purchase etc. Descriptive research design can be of two types: Cross-Sectional Design and Longitudinal Design

Cross-Sectional Design: Cross-Sectional design is one of the most frequently used descriptive research design that involves describing the incidence of a phenomenon or to compare factors pertaining to different firms by employing methods such as survey (Saunders et al., 2003; p 96).

Longitudinal Design: Longitudinal design involves a fixed sample of population elements that is studied repeatedly. It provides the researcher an opportunity to study changes and development that takes place over time.

b. Causal Research: Causal Research design is the other type of conclusive research. It is the research ‘design in which the causal or variables are manipulated in a relatively controlled environment’. The primary objective of the research design is to gain proof of the relationship between cause-and-casual relationships (Malhotra, 2002; p94).

g. Methods chosen for Research and Data Analysis

The research methods used by the researcher during the study were a blend of quantitative and qualitative methods. Although most of the research was internal, some part of the research was external. A deductive approach was used during the study and research design that was used was descriptive.

The internal research was carried out by conducting three interviews with the team managers of the direct sales team working for British Gas across the UK. These interviews were conducted informally and all the answers collected were kept confidential. The internal research was also carried out by designing questionnaires for employees and customers. Different questionnaire was designed for employees and customers. The sample of customers and employees was selected using a random sampling technique. The sample size for employees was 21 and sample size of customers was 50 in number. The internal research also included the past sales report before adopting direct sales campaigns and after adopting direct marketing model.

The external research was also carried out. It was done by going through the material available on internet and on paper.

In this project a majority of data analysis was quantitative; however, a qualitative analysis was done at in some areas. The data acquired by interviews and questionnaires was analysed both qualitatively and quantitatively. The statistics of sales figures, growth in sales, profit etc was analysed quantitatively. The data gathered from other sources such as published material that is available in books, journals, circulars, newspapers, and the internet was analysed qualitatively.

h. Rationale for method chosen

The reason for internal research is targeted to get a true picture of the performance of the direct marketing model in their business and also to understand the advantages and disadvantages of such an approach. . The reason for interviewing the managers who have previous experience of working with competitor companies was to understand the difference in the marketing campaigns held by companies other than British Gas.

The reason for the qualitative analysis of the majority part of the project is to measure the impact of the direct marketing on the British Gas. Besides the quantitative analysis, qualitative analysis will also be done so as to transform raw data into new knowledge and draw conclusions. In the qualitative analysis of the data, the process will involve the circular process of analysis that involves describing, classifying and connecting. (Dey, 1993; p31)

The questionnaires were used for study because it ensures comparability of the data and increases speed and accuracy of the recording and processing of data. The questionnaires were designed in such a way so as to get the most accurate data and information from the customers and employees.

The sample use for research was selected using a random sampling technique so as to minimise the sample bias and allow the researcher to infer findings back to the larger population.

i. Sources and Acquisition of Data

Data was gathered from mainly four sources, namely, interviews with team managers of British Gas, feedback received on questionnaires from employees and customers, historical sales reports and direct sale reports, and the published material available online.

This project primarily relied on interviews with the team managers of British Gas, which was a important part of internal research. This is because the success of this project depends on the accuracy of the data collected and therefore the team mangers were relied upon for data.

In order to make the data accurate the people selected for the interview were from different ages, sex, and nationality. Moreover people with adequate experience were interviewed for the acquisition of data so that the data collected is most accurate.

Another source of data was feedback received on questionnaires. In order to make questionnaires more efficient the questioned were designed in a way so as to overcome the respondent’s ability and unwillingness to answer. Most of the questions were structured and only a few were unstructured. This helped in collecting most accurate data.

The next source that was used was the weekly sales reports for last five years and the employee circulars available with the employees. All of these sales reports were authorised by the management of British Gas and were kept confidential. The reports were acquired by the managers who look after the sales.

The last source was the published material that is available in books, journals, circulars, newspapers, and the internet. While gathering data from these sources, care was taken to use only sources that are reliable and recognizable.

j. Ethical statement

Ethical issues erupt at various stages in the research process. In order to ensure that the study is conducted in an ethical manner the following issues were considered while doing the research.

i. Anonymity of participants: The people who participated in the research process such as employees, managers and customers were kept anonymous so as to ensure so that they are not traced back from their superior and not victimised for their feedback to the questionnaire or interview questions.

ii. Informed Consent: The prospective research participants were give all the information needed by them about the research so that they can make an informed decision about whether or not they wish to participate in the research process.

iii. Invasion of privacy: It was made sure in the research process that privacy of the participants is not invaded. Thus, care was taken to provide the participants a ‘genuine opportunity’ to withdraw from research process if they feel that their privacy is invaded.

iv. Data protection: Data protection is not only an ethical requirement but more importantly a legal requirement. The data provided by the participant was fully protected from wrong hands and made sure that it is used for the academic purpose only.

(Bryman and Bell, 2007; p127-43)

k. Limitations of the research

Although efforts were made to eliminate the shortcomings and make the study as perfect as possible, there are some limitations of the study.

Firstly, the time frame within which the research was carried out was a short period of 13 weeks. Therefore the research was brief in nature. A longer period of time would have helped in a detailed research where several other aspects can be discussed.

Secondly, the research was done on a small sample size because of time constraints. In order to get the more accurate results a bigger sample size would be more beneficial. However, every effort was made to select the sample which represents the entire population on whom the research was intended.

Thirdly, the limited access to the sales reports of British Gas is another limitation of the study. Due to sensitive nature of certain information, only limited access was available to the direct marketing sales reports of British Gas. More information could have helped to draw better conclusions.

Lastly, most of the published literature on the subject was copyright protected. Although, attempts were made to gain permission from all the authors, permissions were received from only a few authors and publishers. More permissions would have helped in a better literature review on the subject.