Discuss about the Internet as Management Research Methodology.
Management research is very important for any type of organization. To perform the organizational activities efficiently and productively, the organizational invest considerable amount of time and capital in management research. Companies conduct management research for many purposes, starting from improvement in organizational culture, testing new products and services, increase in productivity, enhancing sales and customer support services, measuring the effectiveness of the promotional activities and most importantly studying the market competition, threats and opportunities (Fiss, Cambré and Marx 2013).
Internet has been chosen as the research method for this essay. The justification for choosing this method is as follows. Over the years, the researchers have used various methods for research, but after the discovery of internet, the process of research has changed significantly. The modern world is dominated by advanced technology and internet is the biggest discovery in this area. Internet has changed the course of the businesses. With globalization and trade liberalization in effect, internet has helped the organizations to expand internationally. It also helped the companies to do external environment analysis before international expansion (Hewson and Stewart 2016). All types of organizations have been improving their technological capability to compete with the world. The internet research method is beneficial in terms of getting all sorts of relevant data in a very short span of time. This research method not only saves time for research, but it also helps in saving the cost of data collection and analysis (Ngai, Tao and Moon 2015).
The objective of this paper is to find out the pros and cons of using internet as a research method while applying the other methodologies in a management research study.
The scope of internet as a research method is huge. It not only provides the necessary information required for conducting a research, but also throws light on the various techniques that can be applied for conducting the research study by the organizations. In this research paper, various dimensions of internet as a research methodology will be highlighted, which will be followed by the recommendations to apply the internet in the best possible manner for conducting any management research in any organization.
Internet as a research method
Internet as a management research method has become extremely popular in the last few decades. It helps the organizations to access huge amount of information for conducting the research on a particular management issue and get the directions to solve that. For any kind research, the researcher must collect data and analyze those applying suitable methods. According to Zikmund et al. (2013), internet offers several different research methods, known as Online Research Methods (ORMs). These are the methods or practices followed by the researchers for relevant data collection for the research study by the using the internet. These are also called the internet research methods.
Majority of these research methodologies are enhancement of the existing methodologies by applying the new technologies. Internet has contributed in the re-invention and restructuring of the research methods with the incorporation of the new technology. The world has become smaller with the invention of internet and it has influenced every aspect of life. The growth of the Social Medias has added a new dimension, new level of opportunity and complexity in the education, research and business (Ngai, Tao and Moon 2015). Hence, social media or virtual media has become a very important research field. It provides unique insights to various research studies on the customer and social segments that have a significant influence on the businesses and management of the organizations. Hence, although the management issues are dependent on the type of business, these issues have impact on the business and to solve the issues, research is needed to find out the best possible solutions (McDaniel and Gates 2013). Through the application of various internet research methods, the businesses can do this quite efficiently.
Different types of internet research methods are, cyber-ethnography, online focus groups, online content analysis, online interviews, online surveys, social network analysis, online qualitative research, online quantitative research and web based experiments (Bryman 2015). The common factor in all the above research methods is the presence of internet as a research tool. The relevance of using internet can be justified using the following example. An organization in the consumer goods industry wants to expand its sales. For that, it needs to know about the demand of the customers, which will help it to take the decisions about whether it should increase the production of the existing product or it should opt for product differentiation. Hence, this is a management issue of the organization and market research is the best method to know the trend of the market. The organization adopts the online survey method for the research. The survey questionnaire is sent via email to few randomly selected customers, from the CRM database and their responses are also collected via online method. After the responses were collected, the management can perform scientific calculations on the data and can make decisions about the business expansion. It can be said from the above hypothetical situation that, internet has helped the organization immensely during conducting the survey and data collection. They did not have to print questionnaire and meet the customers physically to give it to them. They also did not have to worry about the location of the customers. Emailing the questionnaire has not only reduced the cost and time of the survey, but also the hassle of data collection (McDaniel and Gates 2013). The management of the company can also perform social media analysis to find out the tastes and preferences of the target consumer group via online methods. Hence, the entire research process has been faster and the management of the organization can proceed to rational decision making process quite easily and in a quickly manner.
Use of internet in secondary research
Internet as a research method is immensely beneficial for conducting secondary research. Secondary data are the ones that are collected from already published sources, such as, official websites, online publications, academic journals, books, magazines, newspaper articles and business reports (Hanna 2012). Internet research method is extremely beneficial for collecting secondary data for any research. According to Miorandi et al. (2012), internet enhances the traditional research methodologies. In the traditional methods, any research methodology follows few basic steps of choosing the research philosophy, paradigm, approach, design, sampling techniques, and data collection techniques (Bryman and Bell 2015). In these methods, application of internet plays a significant role in improving the accuracy. The researchers can find huge amount of information on the research methodologies with the help of internet, can apply sampling techniques by using various online tools and can collect relevant primary and secondary data from various sources.
Characteristics of internet as a management research method
The characteristics of internet as a research method are quite distinct from the other research methods. Gosling and Mason (2015) state that, internet is one of the best mediums of communication in the technologically advanced era. It provides multiple means of communication and interaction within the community and among the organization located across the globe. For collecting primary data for a research study, the management of the organizations can easily communicate with the respondents, whom are chosen using a suitable sampling technique, via different channels on the internet, such as, email, social media, websites, online newsletters etc. This type of communication is more convenient in terms of time and cost effectiveness. As stated by Hewson and Laurent (2012), the reach of internet is widespread, irrespective of the geographical location and distance. Hence, the researchers do not need to travel to other locations to collect the data for research. With the help of internet, they can access the relevant data for the research study from online libraries, online publications and books, official websites, newspaper articles etc. Internet gives scope to be anonymous and maintain the privacy of personal information and confidentiality of data (Markham 2014). The participation or interaction between the people can remain secret as face to face interaction does not happen.
Justification of the usage of internet as a research method
In the management research studies, usage of internet is relevant as the technology has become quite advanced. The researchers can adopt either qualitative or quantitative or mixed approach of study, based on the requirement of the paper. Selection of the research philosophy, design, strategy and approach are determined by the topic and research objectives of the study (Roman, Zhou and Lopez 2013). Internet helps the researcher to get information about the available research topics before choosing a particular one. It also helps in getting insights about which approach and strategy to be chosen for the particular research. For the management research studies in the organizational level, the companies often need to do social media analysis to get an idea about the tastes and preferences of the customers and change in the pattern of the market trends (Hewson and Laurent 2012). This research can only be possible to be conducted using internet method, which not only provides the information faster, but also helps to get the precise outcome quicker.
Ethical issues in using internet
Every research method has some ethical issues and internet is no exception. Conducting a research on a particular topic requires permission from the sources. Even conducting the survey and interviews also require permission from the respondents (Williams 2012). The researcher must agree to the terms and conditions regarding data confidentiality. Internet gives opportunity to the researchers to reach out to the individuals in remote areas where it is impossible to go to conduct the research. With this matter, comes the question of ethical considerations. Determination of safe environment for conducting the research, security and confidentiality of the data, availing the consent of the participants of the surveys and interviews and performing secondary analysis on the archived information are the ethical concerns that the researchers face (NESH 2014). Hence, the researchers must be aware of the laws regarding the ethical usage of internet for research and must follow those rules to the core to maintain the integrity of the research.
Another important area of ethics is the originality of the research paper. The plethora of information that is available on the internet often tempts the researcher to copy it without making any changes. The researcher must maintain the originality of the paper. Copying information from other scholars’ papers or from any other sources without giving proper reference citation is a crime in the educational world and in the management research as well. Hence, even if the researcher is using internet as a management research method, he must mention the source of information in the research paper. Thus, the researchers must address the ethical issues of privacy, recruitment, informed consent, cloud computing and ethics of industry conduced research by following the ethical consideration guidelines (Plato.stanford.edu 2016).
Advantages and disadvantages of using internet as a management research method
Like any other management research method, internet also has advantages and disadvantages. As mentioned above, easy communication, privacy and confidentiality, and wide range of access are the major advantages of internet as a research method. The other advantages include, the ability to acquire large and more diverse samples, automatically coded data and decreased cost of conducting the research (Markham 2014). There are some disadvantages also about using internet as a research methodology. Firstly, the authenticity of the data cannot always be trusted. Unless it is from an official website, the researcher should not trust any other source which does not have any particular validation or authentication. Secondly, in many cases, the data or the research papers are not available for free of cost. The researcher should pay a price to the online libraries to get access to the paper. Sometimes, it becomes difficult to the researcher to pay to multiple libraries due to lack of financial resources (Miorandi et al. 2012). Thirdly, the researcher faces some potential challenges during conduct of the surveys or interviews. The participants may not reveal the true answers, some may stop answering mid way and come back later, some may not complete the study, some may participate more than once, some may rush through the study and answer incorrectly. All these factors lead to biased responses, leading to undesired outcome or error in the results. Since, the researcher is not going for face-to-face interaction; it is not possible for rectifying the errors in the response patterns. Fourthly, there is risk of hacking and misusing the personal information on the internet, which prevents many from opening the survey mails and click on the link or revealing important details for the survey. Thus, the accuracy of the data and the result sometimes gets compromised due to sampling error and inaccurate responses (Easterby-Smith, Thorpe and Jackson 2012).
As observed from the disadvantages of using internet as a research method for the management research, there can be a few ways to overcome the problems.
- Firstly, the researcher should not rely completely on the information gathered from the internet. Although, internet provides immense opportunity to find the right information as well as methodology for conducting the management research, still it is not reliable to conduct the study with only internet based data. It is always suggested to the researchers that they must use resources gathered from the internet and university libraries. It is easier to cross check the data obtained from the internet with that from the library and this ensures the reliability and authenticity of the data of the internet sources.
- Secondly, the huge amount of information on the internet can overwhelm the researcher while selecting the topic. Hence, the researchers must narrow down on the topic and must know the research objectives well to direct and limit the search in the right direction.
- Thirdly, the researchers must know the subject directories and the proper search engines to make specific searches. For conducting a well read study, the researchers must access the high quality peer reviewed articles by other scholars. These can be accessed from many good online libraries that contain the highly acclaimed papers. For that, proper keyword is required which would save a lot of time and effort of the researchers during the research.
- Fourthly, some precautions should be taken during conduction surveys and interviews over the internet. Some technical measures can be taken to remove duplicates in the data or making the questions mandatory for submitting the responses in a survey. It is also recommended that the researchers must keep a margin of error while doing the quantitative calculations on the obtained numerical data. Regarding qualitative research, the analysis should be validated by ensuring the authenticity of the sources and the methods applied.
Qualitative as well as quantitative study of the online research method is expected to change due to the emergence of new technologies and the abilities of the researchers to reinvent or explore the methodological approaches in the interactions related to the internet. There is huge scope in using the internet as a research method in the management studies or in the organizational activities. Regarding obtaining information through primary and secondary data collection from different types of sources and analyzing those keeping the ethical issues addressed, the researchers can exploit the internet for a high quality management research. Whether the research follows inductive or deductive method, qualitative or quantitative approach, internet offers the any advantages due to technological advancement. However, the researchers must consider the ethical issues and must apply appropriate techniques to handle the disadvantages of using internet as a research method. Hence, it can be said that, in the modern world, without using internet, a research study cannot be completed and the researchers must use it responsibly to produce a high quality research paper.
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