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Research Methods for Business

Abstract

The objective of this paper is to compare the research methods employed by two published research papers to evaluate critically the choice, justification and application of the research methods to the two articles. The paper will also identify the issues for rigor in research in respect of the topics covered by the papers. The papers covered by the paper are (i) “Graduateness” – Who cares? Graduate identity in small hospitality firms authored by Stephanie M Jameson and Rick Holden published in Education and Training journal volume 42 issue no 4/5 in pages 264 to 271, (Jameson & Holden, 2000) and (ii) Making a career of it? Hospitality Students’ future perspectives: an Anglo-Dutch study written by Andrew Kevin Jenkins published in International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management volume 13 issue no 1 in pages 13 to 20 (Jenkins, 2001).

Introduction

The purpose of any social research is to study the efficacy of any social program or other type of intervention by going beyond any description to examine the cause and reasons. The social research helps organizing empirical observation and make sense thereof. It also helps predicting future observations. The research involves framing a research question which forms the basis for conducting the research. A research question can be defined as a formal statement of the goal of a study. It is the purpose of the research question to state clearly about the topic, which the study will investigate or attempt to prove (Marion, 2004). Even though there is no research question framed for the study by Jameson & Holden (2000), the central focus of the research was to explore the concept of graduate identity and the way in which it fairs in the small hospitality firms. The authors attempt to study based on the data gathered whether the graduates develop any graduate identity in small hospitality firms. The study also analyses the views of the employers of small hospitality firms on graduate employment and the resultant graduate identity. The study by Jenkins (2001) also does not specifically identify any research question. However, the study focuses on the likelihood of the students of hospitality management seeing employment in the same industry after graduating. The study also attempts to find out the region and sector in which the students are likely to seek employment. In addition, the research also focuses on the positions the students aspire to occupy after five and ten years after graduating.

Critical Evaluation of Literature Review

According to Cooper (1988), a literature review is based on a database of primary or original scholarship. “The types of scholarship may be empirical, theoretical, critical/analytic, or methodological in nature” (Cooper, 1988). It is the function of a literature review to describe, summarize, evaluate, clarify and/or integrate the content of primary reports. The review of the relevant literature forms an important chapter in any research work and the chapter provides the background and justification for the research undertaken (Bruce, 1994). Bourner, (1996) has identified several reasons for working on the review of the relevant literature before a research project is undertaken and commenced. These include (i) to carry on the research work from the point where others have already reached and (ii) to identify information and ideas, which may be relevant to the project on hand. The review of related literature in the paper by Jameson & Holden (2000) is deeper and up to the point as compared to the review included in Jenkins (2001) paper. While the review in the James & Holden (2000) paper takes the support from several previous works on graduate identity in general in the changing graduate labor market, relative position of the graduate employment in SMEs in the hospitality industry, and graduate identity within the hospitality industry, which are well connected to the main focus of the research. Papers by Connor & Pollard, (1996) and Williams & Owen, (1997) though of the period where the concept of graduate employment would be having different dimensions and connotations, has been aptly utilized to support the theoretical base of the paper, namely the graduate employment. The authors mainly depend on the work of Hawkins & winter, (1996) for the theoretical support in respect of graduate employment in the SME units. The paper also uses some empirical results of the works by Purcell & Quinn, (1995), and Williams and Owen (1997) on the percentage of graduate employment. In respect of the theoretical ground for graduate identity, study of Holmes et al, (1998) is relied upon by the authors, which strongly suggests that higher education is a process by which an individual might be able to develop his/her graduate identity. However, the findings of the research by the authors do not confirm this conceptualization fully.

On the other hand, the review of past research in the Jenkins (2001) paper deals more with curriculum review in the hospitality industry, higher education in the hospitality industry in European context, and the career aspirations of the students in the hospitality industry. Of the papers reviewed, Johns & McKechni, (1995) and Barron & Maxwell, (1993) are of some relevance to the central focus of the paper. However, these works done in the years 1995 and 1993 respectively are outdated for the context of the Jenkin’s paper of 2001, as in the meantime the curriculum, syllabus and even the outlook of the students of the hospitality courses would have changed drastically making the review meaningless. Similarly, the book “Higher Education: The Student Experience” by Roberts & Higgins, (1992) is also of irrelevant to the context of the paper both on the subject and the period when the study was undertaken.

Critical Analysis of Methodology

Although Jameson & Holden (2000) claim that, this study is based more on the empirical results of the previous works done in the year 1998, the majority of the findings of this study have relied on the qualitative research method of semi-structured interviews conducted by the authors with the graduate employees and their managers in six case study organizations. Creswell (1994) defines qualitative research as a process of enquiry that involves the understanding any problem connected with the social or human behavior. The qualitative research process according to Creswell (1994) is based on the views and perceptions of various informants being the participants to the study that are expressed in a natural setting. The data sources for supplementing qualitative research methods include observation and participant observation (fieldwork), structured and semi structured interviews, focus groups and questionnaires, documents and texts. Semi-structured interview is the most common form of interviewing technique in which the interviewer has determined the set of questions he/she intends to ask in advance but still allows the interview to flow more conversationally. In order to have the flow of conversation the interviewer can change the order of the questions or the particular wording of the questions. The interviewer has the option to leave out the questions that may appear to be meaningless with reference to the context. The main objective of the semi-structured interview is to get the interviewee to talk freely and openly so that the researcher would be able to obtain in-depth information on the topic under study.

The reasons that the authors quote are compelling to believe that there is no existing research on the hospitality graduates in the hospitality industry. The authors also support their methodology based on their reliance on the arguments of Burrows & Curran, (1989), Storey, (1994) and Thomas, (1998) that there are fundamental differences between small firms and large firms. However, the results of the study would have been made more reliable and valid with a quantitative research of survey among more number of graduate employees in the SME hospitality firms, subject of course to the limitations on the availability of samples representing the total population.

The work by Jenkins (2001) has adopted a quantitative research method of survey consisting of a self-complete questionnaire. According to White (2000), the quantitative research method consists of investigative process that leads to research conclusions expressed in numerical values. The numerical values represent the findings of the study and the values are subjected to statistical analysis for presenting the results of the study. Quantitative research is rooted on positivism supporting measurements made in researches considered to be attaining precision and exactness. Survey method is deemed as non-experimental and descriptive in conducting social researches. Researchers usually engage this method for collection of information and data under circumstances, where the researchers cannot involve themselves directly. Survey method employs the use of questionnaire for collection of the required information. This method is criticized, as it is often being designed and administered in a disorderly manner that results in the collection of data, which are inaccurate. Meyer (1998) observes a careful selection of representative sampling and a proper design of the questionnaire are two important elements of survey method. A poorly designed questionnaire may generate meaningless information. The information and data collected from the samples represent the views of the total population and therefore the information need to be gathered through intelligent questions addressed to the chosen samples (Cresswell 1994; Neumann 2002; Fink 1995).

Even though, the justification by the author on the adoption of survey method in stating that the method could collect and process large amounts of data is convincing, the reasoning that the method is relatively less expensive cannot be considered as more valid. In this connection, the comments of Robson, (1998), this states that there are hidden costs in constructing the questionnaire need to be taken in to account. In addition, there is cost involved in the time and efforts for collecting and analyzing large amounts of data through the questionnaire. Moreover, there are inherent limitations to the survey method such as the superficial nature of the data and lack of checks on the integrity of the data, which undermines the reliability of the data collected.

Evaluation of Analysis of Data

In the paper by Jameson & Holden (2000), the data collected through the semi-structured interviews are analyzed to draw conclusions on the two central issues dealt with by the study. The first is the recollection of the graduates in relation to the future employment when they approached the completion of their degree and their perceptions on the jobs they took up at the time they attended the interviews. The second analysis related to the views of the employers in relation to their decision to recruit a graduate. There does not seem to be enough depth in the data collected either through the interviews or in the analysis of the data with respect to the graduates’ viewpoints on their employment within the hospitality industry. The number of samples is too less to form a considered conclusion on the research topic. Although the authors have taken a defense that there is lack of previous research on the graduate employment, an attempt through a survey with more number of samples would have given the authors, more empirical data for analysis, which would have increased the strength and reliability of the results of the study. There is no correlation of the data collected and the analysis thereof with the curriculum of hospitality studies, which was considered by the authors in the review of the related literature. Similarly, the transcripts of the interviews with the employers included in the paper do not add any value to the paper.

The analysis of data in the case of Jenkin’s paper centers round the question of establishing the department or sector in which the students of the two institutions are most interested. In fact, this analysis does not show any general trend in respect of the the general population of the students in the hospitality education. In addition the results of the two institutions are not comparable as in the case one institution the author has distributed the questionnaire to students who have completed the service with supervision and in the other case the students who have not taken up the service with supervision are considered for the survey. This greatly vitiates the results of the survey and hence the study does not throw any light on the intended research question. In the analysis, the author compares the results of survey conducted by Roberts and Higgins in the year 1990. Between the year 1990 and 2001 (the year of the current research) there would have been many changes in the circumstances affecting the education in the hospitality industry. There would have been changes in the subject studied and courses offered by the institutions. Therefore, the comparison cannot be considered as giving a correct representation of the current level of the intention of the students to follow a career in the related course or subject of study.

Evaluation of Conclusion and Recommendations

The work by Jameson & Holden (2000) concludes that in the case of small hospitality firms, the concept of being a graduate does not get any automatic recognition and it does not make any difference in the terms of employment opportunity or outcome. Similarly, on the employer’s side the samples interviewed are unable to confirm any understanding of the impact of “graduateness” on the employment within the small hospitality firms. The samples, however confirm that they do not consider whether a person is a graduate or not while offering employment of extracting work from them. The study concludes based on the interviews of the limited number of samples that in the specific context of graduates in the small hospitality firms, there is no social significance attached to the graduateness. The study has considered very less number of people to conclude about the graduateness and its significance in the small hospitality firms. The results of the study are highly inconclusive as the managers are unable to present any definite viewpoints on the employment or working of the graduates in the small hospitality firms. The central focus of the research could not be dealt with in-depth by the research method followed and to this extent; the study is unable to provide a definitive conclusion over the research issue. In my opinion, the study must have been conducted among larger firms, which could easily recognize the contribution of the graduates to the firms. In fact, this should have been the recommendation by the authors. The recommendation by the authors to conduct a future study on the role of graudateness in any other industry in the SME sector cannot be considered as a better one as the graduateness in any SME industry is more likely to produce the same results.

The conclusion drawn by the study by Jenkins (2001) pertains more to the two institutions considered by the study and therefore does not convey any useful results that apply generally to the whole population of the students in the hospitality courses. Even though, the author takes a defense that the study applies only to the two institutions considered by the study, the conclusion talks about the global nature of the hospitality industry. Further, the conclusion reiterates the need for the managers to be flexible in terms of geographical location and about the need for international orientation to have competitive edge over students who aspire for positions in the domestic market. With the survey conducted among the students of the two institutions only, it may not really be possible to generalize about the whole population of the hospitality students. Another point in the conclusion states that certain departments and sectors of the hospitality industry are more favored than other departments or sectors. This is again a generalized statement, which cannot be based on the survey conducted with the students of the two institutions and to this extent the study provides conclusions more superfluous and without reliance on strong findings.

Conclusion

This paper attempted to evaluate critically two published articles in the realm of hospitality education. In one of the articles authors Jameson and Holden (2000) tried to analyze the empirical data collected by them from their previous study on the graduateness and recognition of graduate employment in the SME hospitality sector. The authors have used the qualitative research method of semi-structured interviews and have found no relevance of graduateness in the hospitality industry. On an overall assessment, this article has a weak foundation on the research methodology adopted because of the methodology adopted and the number of samples. The article by Jenkins (2001) on the seeking of employment by the students of hospitality education in the same sector, reviewed by the paper also has found serious shortcomings on the applicability of the conclusion and findings to the total population of students of the hospitality education courses.

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