HRD Manchester College Semi-Structured or Unstructured Interviews Methodology Paper

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Chapter 3: Methodology 1000 words. (exclude references)

The dissertation should attempt to build upon the material covered in the literature review through a programme of further desk-based analysis, or possibly the collection of data in the field. This might take the form, for example, of:

a short programme of structured, semi-structured or unstructured interviews (e.g. face-to- face, or by email);

the collation of data from published sources such as via published case studies or other government or industry surveys.

the collation of relevant policy documents, both published and unpublished (e.g. consultants reports, donor reports, – again the list is endless);

a structured questionnaire survey (again, face-to-face, by telephone or by email).

You can structure this into Chapter 3 in the following way:

Research questions and/or hypotheses
Building on the key areas of interest you have identified in the literature review, the first part of Chapter 3 would normally contain a question or set of questions to be addressed by your dissertation, a particular issue to be explored, or a set of hypotheses to be tested. It is vital that you set out in detail the research questions, hypotheses, issues or problems your study addresses. This could take the form of either of the following:

research questions, e.g. in what ways are organisations in developing countries formulating strategies for outsourcing information systems, what form do these strategies take in different types of organisations, and to what extent do strategies differ according to sector and country location?

hypotheses to be tested, e.g. ‘Cash transfers have led to greater expenditure by men than women within low-income households’. The veracity of this hypothesis would be tested, possibly by using appropriate quantitative methods, or through qualitative interviews with relevant sources. However, you should bear in mind that it is not always possible to develop such research hypotheses for certain topics; and it may not be possible to collect the type of primary data that is required to test them effectively. A detailed description of the research question(s) may be more appropriate. In addition, it is vital that you devise hypotheses which are not over-ambitious: remember that your study is limited in both time and in the length of the final dissertation.

Aims and objectives
The second part of chapter 3 could show the aims and objectives for your study:

Aims: these set out the overall purpose of the study. They are broad statements which explain what you are trying to achieve to a non-expert reader who may not be familiar with your topic area.

Objectives: these are the specific operational targets which will assist in meeting the broad aims of the study. Since these objectives are clearly set out, they will be used to judge what you have been able to achieve at the end of your dissertation. It is thus unwise to be over- ambitious by setting objectives which are not realistically achievable. At the same time, devising clear objectives at the outset of your research will ensure that the work is sufficiently focused, and avoid the work being too generalised. Throughout your programme of research, you should constantly refer back to your objectives to ensure that what you are doing or writing is relevant, and to ensure that it will help to meet those objectives.

For both aims and objectives, these should be stated as succinctly as possible, and should be revised, if necessary, as work progresses. Therefore it is quite possible that your questions, aims and objectives will all be covered in quite a short amount of text.

Note, in outlining aims and objectives, you need to build on the conclusions of your literature review, the purpose of which in essence is to explain and justify the focus of your research.

Research design
Thirdly, having generated relevant research questions and/or hypotheses, you have to explain clearly how you will go about answering or testing these. In other words, you must give details of the research methods to be used, outlining the overall research design – including any conceptual framework or model that you are using, and (in relevant cases) specifying methods of data collection (e.g. sources of published data that have been used, semi-structured interviews which have been conducted). You must attempt to justify the choice of your particular methodology, in light of the chosen research topic: you have to try to demonstrate why the methods selected are appropriate to answering a particular question, or investigating a given hypothesis. Why, for example, is a programme of interviews useful in investigating your topic? Why are particular data sources useful? Why have you chosen to collate a series of policy documents? Why have you selected particular case study areas? And how have you gone about investigating a particular case study?

Example One: the use of a case study approach. You should explain briefly:

  • why a case study approach is the most appropriate method to tackle the research questions;
  • why you have used one case study rather than two or more, or vice versa;
  • why you have used a particular case study or studies (e.g. previous research might have ignored certain places; a problem or issue might be especially apparent in that area; or the area may be representative of the general pattern);
  • the ways in which you have collected information for these case studies, whether it be interviews, collation of policy documents, or use of published data for that area (it is not sufficient simply to say that you will ‘do’ a case study, without specifying the means by which this will be conducted).

Example Two: the use of interviews. You should explain briefly:

  • why you have chosen to use interviews to address the research problem;
  • who you have interviewed, and why;
  • what questions were asked and why;
  • the means by which you conducted interviews (e.g. were they unstructured discussions, structured face-to-face questionnaires, or email questionnaires?);
  • how you have used the information collected (e.g. quotes from interviewees etc.).

I told my professor that I will interview 5 people who worked at Tencent China. The first interviewee is working at Tencent for 1 year, the other four interviewees are 2-3 years, 6 years, and one is more than 10 years. You can also choose one more form.

And I will post the feedback from my professor for the research question you had last time.

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