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Centre for Financial and Management Studies (CeFiMS)

Research Methods

Course Code:
C253|C353
Unit value:

Introduction

Research plays an essential role in business and in public policy and management. Increasingly, organisations undertake small-scale research projects, to find out about matters relating to the concerns of their organisation or to critically evaluate existing policies. Both commercial firms and government institutions rely upon research to inform their decisions, to test the effectiveness of existing policies, to predict the effects of intended future policies, to understand management processes and decisions and to gain insights into public preferences and opinions about public services.

Whether you are studying this course in order to carry out research in your professional role, to commission and project-manage research conducted by others or to complete a dissertation for your MSc qualification, your ability to appropriately and rigorously design, execute report, and evaluate research is essential.

The range of research issues and research methods available for researchers to use is vast – too vast to be covered in one introductory course. Therefore, this course concentrates on helping you develop a rigorous understanding of the key principles and practice of research that are needed to get a research project up and running.

Resources

Study Guide

You will receive a looseleaf binder containing eight 'course units'. The units are carefully structured to provide the main teaching, defining and exploring the main concepts and issues, locating these within current debate and introducing and linking the further assigned readings. The unit files are also available to download from the Online Study Centre.

Textbooks
  • John Gill and Phil Johnson (2010) Research Methods for Managers, Fourth edition, Sage
  • Kenneth Berk and Patrick Carey (2009) Data Analysis with Microsoft Excel, Thomson, Brooks/Cole
  • Kathleen McMillan and Jonathan Weyer (2009) How to Write Dissertations and Project Reports, revised edition, Pearson, Prentice Hall
Readings

This is a collection of journal articles and book extracts that are of particular relevance and interest to the topics covered in the course.

Case Studies

The research papers are provided, in a separate ‘Casebook’, as examples of the various research techniques taught in the course, and you will be directed to look at them when relevant in the unit text.

Online Study Centre

You will have access to the OSC, which is a web-accessed learning environment. Via the OSC, you can communicate with your assigned academic tutor, administrators and other students on the course using discussion forums. The OSC also provides access to the course Study Guide and assignments, as well as a selection of electronic journals available on the University of London Online Library.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

When you have completed this course, you should feel confident of your ability to conduct an effective research project – for an MSc dissertation, for your professional work or for personal interest. In particular, you will be able to:

  • evaluate the relevance and application of the research methods introduced to answer different types of research question
  • define and discuss the basic epistemological and ontological concepts related to intellectual enquiry
  • analyse and critique the research of others
  • choose an appropriate method for investigating your own research question
  • carry out an effective and ethical research project – from the proposal initiation stage, through the literature search, data collection and analysis to the final writing-up and presentation of results
  • analyse and present qualitative or quantitative data
  • evaluate the validity of your own and others’ research
  • write up research effectively

Scope and syllabus

Course Units
Unit 1: The Nature of Research
  • 1.1 What is Research – Pure and Practical?
  • 1.2 The Relationship between Theory, Research and Data
  • 1.3 Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods in Social Research
  • 1.4 Objectivity and Reflexivity
Unit 2: Planning and Designing Research
  • 2.1 Planning and Managing Time and Resources
  • 2.2 Formulating and Focusing the Research Topic
  • 2.3 Choosing a Research Strategy and Design
  • 2.4 Ethical Considerations and Issues of Access
Unit 3: Reviewing the Literature and Making Methodological Choices
  • 3.1 Introduction
  • 3.2 The Purpose of Searching and Reviewing Literature
  • 3.3 Planning Your Search of the Literature
  • 3.4 Recording the Literature
  • 3.5 Writing a Critical Review
  • 3.6 Some Common Faults in Literature Reviews
Unit 4: Data
  • 4.1 What is Measurement?
  • 4.2 Measurement Issues
  • 4.3 Data Classification and Why it Matters
  • 4.4 Describing Data
  • 4.5 Variance and Standard Deviation
  • 4.6 Sampling and Selection
Unit 5A: Interviews, Focus Groups and Surveys
  • 5A.1 Introduction to the Interview
  • 5A.2 Types of Research Interviews
  • 5A.3 Administration of Interviews
  • 5A.4 When to Use Interviews
  • 5A.5 Designing Research Interviews
  • 5A.6 Conducting Interviews
  • 5A.7 Recording and Transcribing Interviews
  • 5A.8 How Do We Know the Informant is Telling the Truth?
  • 5A.9 Analysing Interview Data
  • 5A.10 What is a Questionnaire?
  • 5A.11 Types and Administration of Questionnaires
  • 5A.12 Constructing Questionnaires
  • 5A.13 Coding Questions
  • 5A.14 Pilot-Testing Questionnaires
  • 5A.15 Ethics in Questionnaire Research
  • 5A.16 Data Analysis
  • 5A.17 Conclusion
Unit 5B: Introduction to Data Analysis I
  • 5B.1 Introduction to Data Analysis
  • 5B.2 Probability Distributions
  • 5B.3 Hypothesis Testing
  • 5B.4 Concluding Remarks
Unit 6A: Fieldwork and Observation
  • 6A.1 What is Ethnography? An Overview
  • 6A.2 The Emergent Nature of Research Design, Data Collection and Analysis Research Methods
  • 6A.3 Identifying the Research Topic and Conducting Fieldwork
  • 6A.4 Roles and Relationships in Field Observation
  • 6A.5 Note-Taking and Types of Research Notes
  • 6A.6 Analysing Data and Writing Ethnographic Accounts
  • 6A.7 An Overview of Action Research
  • 6A.8 What is Participatory Action Research?
  • 6A.9 Conducting Participatory Evaluation
  • 6A.10 Data Analysis in Dissemination of Results in PAR and Participatory Evaluation
Unit 6B: Introduction to Data Analysis II
  • 6B.1 Non-Parametric Analysis
  • 6B.2 Simple Tests for Categorical Data
  • 6B.3 Multivariable Analysis – Correlation
  • 6B.4 Multivariable Analysis – Simple Linear Regression
  • 6B.5 Concluding Remarks
Unit 7: Validity and Reliability
  • 7.1 Introduction
  • 7.2 Threats to Internal Validity
  • 7.3 Threats to External Validity
  • 7.4 Threats to Validity in Qualitative Research
  • 7.5 Triangulation as a Solution to Validity Threats
  • 7.6 Examples
  • 7.8 Concluding Remarks
Unit 8: Writing and Presenting Research
  • 8.1 Writing Research Proposals
  • 8.2 Writing Research Reports
  • 8.3 Ethics in Reporting Research
  • 8.4 Evaluating Your Research Report

Method of assessment

You will complete two assignments, which will be marked by your course tutor. Assignments are each worth 15% of your total mark. You will be expected to submit your first assignment by the Tuesday of Week 5, and the second assignment at the end of the course, on the Tuesday after Week 8. Assignments are submitted and feedback given online. In addition, queries and problems can be answered through the Online Study Centre. For students intending to proceed to a dissertation the second assignment will consist of an elaboration of a research topic and research methodology for that dissertation. You will also sit a three-hour examination on a specified date in October, worth 70% of your total mark. An up-to-date timetable of examinations is published in April of each year.