Analytical Components Of A Qualitative Dissertation

Important components of your research strategy

There are a number of components to the research strategy that you select to guide your dissertation. These components include things like your chosen: (a) research design; (b) research methodology; (c) approach within a research methodology; (d) research method(s); (e) use of longitudinal data; (f) sampling strategy; and (g) data analysis techniques.

In some cases, since your chosen research strategy includes so many components, your dissertation title should only include those components that were particularly important to your study. These components of research strategy are highlighted blue text.

Research design

To illustrate the research design that was used, whether qualitative, quantitative or mixed methods (or other words that mean more or less the same thing):

  • Qualitative research design

    Barriers to Internet banking adoption: A qualitative study among corporate customers in Thailand

    The direct marketing-direct consumer gap: Qualitative insights

    The impact of market and organisational challenges on marketing strategy decision-making: A qualitative investigation of the business-to-business sector

    Success factors for destination marketing web sites: A qualitative meta-analysis

  • Quantitative research design

    An empirical investigation of signalling in the motion picture industry

    A quantitative method for structuring a profitable sales force

    An empirical analysis of price discrimination mechanisms and retailer profitability

  • Mixed methods research design

    A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict

Research methodology

To illustrate the research methodology adopted:

Implementation of Deming's style of quality management: An action research in a plastics company

Organisational knowledge leadership: A grounded theory approach

Networking as marketing strategy: A case study of small community businesses

The impact of pay-for-performance on professional boundaries in UK general practice: An ethnographic study

Approach within a research methodology

To emphasise an approach within a broader research methodology. We used the word approach because some research methodologies are not straightforward, but can be approached from a number of different angles; that is, there are different approaches that can be adopted within these research methodologies (e.g., instrumental, exploratory and comparative approaches within case study research):

Mentoring women faculty: An instrumental case study of strategic collaboration

Knowledge management in practice: An exploratory case study

International strategic human resource management: A comparative case analysis of Spanish firms in China

Research method(s)

To highlight a particular research method(s) that was used:

Consequences of the psychological contract for the employment relationship: A large scale survey

Eliciting knowledge management research themes and issues: Results from a focus group study

Stream restoration in the Pacific Northwest: Analysis of interviews with project managers

Use of longitudinal data

To emphasise that the data you used extends over a number of years (use of longitudinal data) or the study was conducted over a long time period (although only the former is likely to apply to dissertation research, since this is usually only a few months long):

Effects of impression management on performance ratings: A longitudinal study

The dynamic nature of conflict: A longitudinal study of intragroup conflict and group performance

Sampling strategy

To highlight some aspect of your sampling strategy (i.e., the situated nature of your study):

  • A country, group of countries or region

    High-involvement work practices, turnover and productivity: Evidence from New Zealand

    Organisational citizenship behaviour of contingent workers in Singapore

    Corporate governance in Scandinavia: Comparing networks and formal institutions

    Corporate governance, ownership and bank performance in emerging markets: Evidence from Russia and Ukraine

  • An industry

    Business networks, corporate governance and contracting in the mutual fund industry

    Accelerating adaptive processes: Product innovation in the global computer industry

  • A type of organisation

    Hybrid organisational arrangements and their implications for firm growth and survival: A study of new franchisors

  • A group or committee

    Earnings management and corporate governance: The role of the board and the audit committee

  • People

    Toward a better understanding of the psychological contract breach: A study of customer service employees

Data analysis techniques

To emphasise a particular data analysis technique used:

Do their words really matter? Thematic analysis of U.S. and Latin American CEO letters

Academics as professionals or managers? A textual analysis of interview data

The role of rhetoric content in charismatic leadership: A content analysis of Singaporean leader's speeches

Business corruption, public sector corruption, and growth rate: Time series analysis using Korean data

Marketing international tourism to Australia: A regression analysis

Now that you have a sense of these different components, it is time to think about creating your dissertation title. When you have done this, you need to think about the style of your title. Since dissertation titles often follow a specific written style (e.g., APA style, MLA style, AMA style, etc.), which explains when to capitalise words, which words to capitalise, how to deal with quotation marks, abbreviations, numbers, and so forth, we provide some guidance in STYLES: Make sure your title uses the correct style.

References

From "What readers expect"

Berger, J. A., & Fitzsimons G. (2008). Dogs on the street, puma on your feet: How cues in the environment influence product evaluation and choice. Journal of Marketing Research, 45(1), 1-14.

Gielens, K., Van de Gucht, L. M., Steenkamp, J.-B. E. M., & Dekimpe, M. G. (2008). Dancing with a giant: The effect of Wal-Mart's entry into the United Kingdom on the performance of European retailers. Journal of Marketing Research, 45, 519-534.

Johnson, E. J. (2006). Things that go bump in the mind: How behavioral economics could invigorate marketing. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(3), 337-340.

Katila, R., & Ahuja, G. (2002). Something old, something new: A longitudinal study of search behavior and new product introduction. Academy of Management Journal, 45(6), 1183-1194.

From "What readers learn"

Rotchanakitumnuai, S., & Speece, M. (2003). Barriers to Internet banking adoption: A qualitative study among corporate customers in Thailand. International Journal of Bank Marketing, 21(6/7), 312-323.

Teague, P., & Hann, D. (2009). Problems with partnerships at work: Lessons from an Irish case study. Human Resource Management Journal, 20(1), 100-114.

From "Components of your title"

Basuroy, S., Desai, K. K., & Talukdar, D. (2006). An empirical investigation of signalling in the motion picture industry. Journal of Marketing Research, 43(2), 287-295.

Chan, I., & Chau, P. Y. K. (2008). Eliciting knowledge management research themes and issues: Results from a focus group study. International Journal of Knowledge Management Studies, 2(2), 175-197.

Chandler, J. (2008) Academics as professionals or managers? A textual analysis of interview data. Qualitative Research in Accounting & Management, 5(1), 48-63.

Conaway, R. N., & Wardrope, W. J. (2010). Do their words really matter? Thematic analysis of U.S. and Latin American CEO letters. Journal of Business Communication, 47(2), 141-168.

Coyle-Shapiro, J., & Kessler, I. (2002). Consequences of the psychological contract for the employment relationship: A large scale survey. Journal of Management Studies, 37(7), 903-930.

Crouch, G. I., Schultz, L., & Valerio, P. (1992). Marketing international tourism to Australia: A regression analysis. Tourism Management, 13(2), 196-208.

Deery, S. J., Iverson, .R. D., & Walsh, J. T. (2006). Toward a better understanding of the psychological contract breach: A study of customer service employees. Journal of Applied Psychology, 91(1), 166-175.

Dyne, L. V., & Ang, S. (1998). Organisational citizenship behaviour of contingent workers in Singapore. Academy of Management Journal, 41(6), 692-703.

Eisenhardt, K. M., & Tabrizi, B. N. (1995). Accelerating adaptive processes: Product innovation in the global computer industry. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40, 84-110.

Evans, M., Patterson, M., & O'Malley, L. (2001). The direct marketing-direct consumer gap: Qualitative insights. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 4(1), 17-24.

Fogg, C. D., & Rokus, J. W. (1973). A quantitative method for structuring a profitable sales force. Journal of Marketing, 37, 8-17.

Grant, S., Huby, G., Watkins, F., Checkland, K., McDonald, R., Davies, H., & Guthrie, B. (2008). The impact of pay-for-performance on professional boundaries in UK general practice: An ethnographic study. Sociology of Health & Illness, 31(2), 229-245.

Guthrie, J. P. (2001). High-involvement work practices, turnover and productivity: Evidence from New Zealand. Academy of Management Journal, 44(1), 180-190.

Hales, D. N., & Chakravorty, S. S. (2006). Implementation of Deming's style of quality management: An action research study in a plastics company. International Journal of Production Economics, 103(1), 131-148.

Jehn, K. A. (1995). A multimethod examination of the benefits and detriments of intragroup conflict. Administrative Science Quarterly, 40(2), 256-282.

Jehn, K. A., & Mannix, E. A. (2001). The dynamic nature of conflict: A longitudinal study of intragroup conflict and group performance. Academy of Management Journal, 44(2), 238-251.

Khan, R. J., & Jain, D. C. (2005). An empirical analysis of price discrimination mechanisms and retailer profitability. Journal of Marketing Research, 42(4), 516-524.

Kuhnen, C. M. (2009). Business networks, corporate governance and contracting in the mutual fund industry. Journal of Finance, 64(5), 2185-2220.

Lakshman, C. (2007). Organisational knowledge leadership: A grounded theory approach. Leadership & Organisation Development Journal, 28(1), 51-75.

Lee, J-H. (2006). Business corruption, public sector corruption, and growth rate: Time series analysis using Korean data. Applied Economic Letters, 13(13), 881-885.

Love, I., & Rachnsky, A. (2007, November). Corporate governance, ownership and bank performance in emerging markets: Evidence from Russia and Ukraine. Working Paper. World Bank.

Miller, N. J., Besser, T. L., & Weber, S. S. (2010). Networking as marketing strategy: A case study of small community businesses. Qualitative Market Research: An International Journal, 13(3), 253-270.

Pan, S. L., & Scarbrough, H. (1999). Knowledge management in practice: An exploratory case study. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 11(3), 359-374.

Park, Y. A., & Gretzel, U. (2007). Success factors for destination marketing web sites: A qualitative meta-analysis. Journal of Travel Research, 46, 46-63.

Rotchanakitumnuai, S., & Speece, M. (2003). Barriers to Internet banking adoption: A qualitative study among corporate customers in Thailand. International Journal of Bank Marketing, 21(6/7), 312-323.

Rumps, J. M., Katz, S. L., Barnas, K., Morehead, M. D., Jenkinson, R., Clayton, S. R., & Goodwin, P. (2007). Stream restoration in the Pacific Northwest: Analysis of interviews with project managers. Restoration Ecology, 15(3): 506-515.

Shane, S. A. (1996). Hybrid organisational arrangements and their implications for firm growth and survival: A study of new franchisors. Academy of Management Journal, 39(1), 216-234.

Sinani, E., Stafsudd, A., Thomsen, S., Edling, C., & Randoy, T. (2008). Corporate governance in Scandinavia: Comparing networks and formal institutions. European Management Review, 5(1), 27-40.

Tan, H. H., & Wee, G. (2002). The role of rhetoric content in charismatic leadership: A content analysis of Singaporean leader's speeches. International Journal Organisation Theory and Behavior, 5(3/4), 317-342.

Teague, P., & Hann, D. (2009). Problems with partnerships at work: Lessons from an Irish case study. Human Resource Management Journal, 20(1), 100-114.

Wasburn, M. H. (2007). Mentoring women faculty: An instrumental case study of strategic collaboration. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning, 15(1), 57-72.

Wayne, S. J., & Liden, R. C. (1995). Effects of impression management on performance ratings: A longitudinal study. Academy of Management Journal, 38(1), 232-260.

Xie, B., Davidson III, W. N., & DaDalt, P. J. (2003). Earnings management and corporate governance: The role of the board and the audit committee. Journal of Corporate Finance, 9(3), 295-316.

Zhang, Y., Dolan, S., Lingham, T., & Altman, Y. (2008). International strategic human resource management: A comparative case analysis of Spanish firms in China. Management and Organisation Review, 5(2), 195-222.

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Unlike positivist or experimental research that utilizes a linear and one-directional sequence of design steps, there is considerable variation in how a qualitative research study is organized. In general, qualitative researchers attempt to describe and interpret human behavior based primarily on the words of selected individuals [a.k.a., “informants” or “respondents”] and/or through the interpretation of their material culture or occupied space. There is a reflexive process underpinning every stage of a qualitative study to ensure that researcher biases, presuppositions, and interpretations are clearly evident, thus ensuring that the reader is better able to interpret the overall validity of the research. According to Maxwell (2009), there are five, not necessarily ordered or sequential, components in qualitative research designs. How they are presented depends upon the research philosophy and theoretical framework of the study, the methods chosen, and the general assumptions underpinning the study.

Goals
Describe the central research problem being addressed but avoid describing any anticipated outcomes. Questions to ask yourself are: Why is your study worth doing? What issues do you want to clarify, and what practices and policies do you want it to influence? Why do you want to conduct this study, and why should the reader care about the results?

Conceptual Framework
Questions to ask yourself are: What do you think is going on with the issues, settings, or people you plan to study? What theories, beliefs, and prior research findings will guide or inform your research, and what literature, preliminary studies, and personal experiences will you draw upon for understanding the people or issues you are studying? Note to not only report the results of other studies in your review of the literature, but note the methods used as well. If appropriate, describe why earlier studies using quantitative methods were inadequate in addressing the research problem.

Research Questions
Usually there is a research problem that frames your qualitative study and that influences your decision about what methods to use, but qualitative designs generally lack an accompanying hypothesis or set of assumptions because the findings are emergent and unpredictable. In this context, more specific research questions are generally the result of an interactive design process rather than the starting point for that process. Questions to ask yourself are: What do you specifically want to learn or understand by conducting this study? What do you not know about the things you are studying that you want to learn? What questions will your research attempt to answer, and how are these questions related to one another?

Methods
Structured approaches to applying a method or methods to your study help to ensure that there is comparability of data across sources and researchers and, thus, they can be useful in answering questions that deal with differences between phenomena and the explanation for these differences [variance questions]. An unstructured approach allows the researcher to focus on the particular phenomena studied. This facilitates an understanding of the processes that led to specific outcomes, trading generalizability and comparability for internal validity and contextual and evaluative understanding. Questions to ask yourself are: What will you actually do in conducting this study? What approaches and techniques will you use to collect and analyze your data, and how do these constitute an integrated strategy?

Validity
In contrast to quantitative studies where the goal is to design, in advance, “controls” such as formal comparisons, sampling strategies, or statistical manipulations to address anticipated and unanticipated threats to validity, qualitative researchers must attempt to rule out most threats to validity after the research has begun by relying on evidence collected during the research process itself in order to effectively argue that any alternative explanations for a phenomenon are implausible. Questions to ask yourself are: How might your results and conclusions be wrong? What are the plausible alternative interpretations and validity threats to these, and how will you deal with these? How can the data that you have, or that you could potentially collect, support or challenge your ideas about what’s going on? Why should we believe your results?

Conclusion
Although Maxwell does not mention a conclusion as one of the components of a qualitative research design, you should formally conclude your study. Briefly reiterate the goals of your study and the ways in which your research addressed them. Discuss the benefits of your study and how stakeholders can use your results. Also, note the limitations of your study and, if appropriate, place them in the context of areas in need of further research.


Chenail, Ronald J. Introduction to Qualitative Research Design. Nova Southeastern University; Heath, A. W. The Proposal in Qualitative Research. The Qualitative Report 3 (March 1997); Marshall, Catherine and Gretchen B. Rossman. Designing Qualitative Research. 3rd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1999; Maxwell, Joseph A. "Designing a Qualitative Study." In The SAGE Handbook of Applied Social Research Methods. Leonard Bickman and Debra J. Rog, eds. 2nd ed. (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2009), p. 214-253; Qualitative Research Methods. Writing@CSU. Colorado State University; Yin, Robert K. Qualitative Research from Start to Finish. 2nd edition. New York: Guilford, 2015.

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