The main reason for conducting a research is to get results and answers to a particular problem or question. It is therefore important that proper skills are employed in order to get desired results. Research is broadly categorized into two main classes: Qualitative Research and Quantitative Research. Typically, qualitative research is a descriptive data and it gathers information that is not in numerical form. On the other hand, quantitative research collects data/ information in numerical form and the data can be used to construct graphs and tables to aid in the analysis. This paper gives adiscussion on the applicability of case study as a research design for the dissertation topic “Corporate Social Responsibility in Estonian Private Sector Companies”, the challenges and opportunities involved in the research design. Moreover, it discusses interviews as an alternative method to be used in the research highlighting on the pros and cons of interviews.
Definition of case study
Case study method allows a researcher to keenly scrutinize information in a given defined situation or framework. Generally, this method chooses a small geographical region or a small number of peoples as the main subject of the study. Of all research designs, case study is the most flexible as it enables the researcher to retain the complete features of actual events while investigating empirical events. A case study investigates a current phenomenon within its real-life context when boundaries between phenomenon and context are not clear therefore calling for research in to the truth. To get to the truth of the matter, various evidences are used. Despite the misconception that case studies can be used for qualitative analysis only, they can be used for both qualitative and quantitative research.
Applicability of Case Study
In research, case study has traditionally been viewed as a method that lacks objectivity when compared to other methods. It is therefore important that keen interest can be taken when choosing it as a research method. Yin (1994) argues that the case studies are best applicable when dealing with new research areas. Based on this argument, case study would not be the best option for conducting a research on Corporate Social Responsibility because the topic has been conducted severally in other organizations. Additionally, case studies are very effective in giving answers to ‘How’ and ‘Why’ queries in both explanatory and descriptive research.
Although this research method can be applicable in my dissertation topic to a small percentage, the business world keeps changing from time to time depending on various factors. Therefore, using case studies as a research design can prove to be a bit tricky and the results may not be 100% accurate. Case studies are very useful in the preliminary stages of the research as a tool for the development. In order to decide what research method to be used, three factors need to be put into consideration:
- The kind of questions to be answered.
- The level of control over behavioral activities.
- Amount of focus on modern in comparison to past events (Yin 1994).
Based on the group work, it is evident that case study is relevant when dealing with the events of the past that cannot be manipulated. Therefore the method could be beneficial in initial stages of the research but when the research deepens, other methods will have to be used to complement it. Therefore I would say that case study is useful is the situation where an investigator needs the answers to a research question which he has absolutely no idea about (Yin 1994, p.9).
Opportunities and Challenges Involved in Using Case Study
There are various advantages and disadvantages involved in using case study as a research design for my dissertation topic. Focusing on the advantages, case study, to a great extent, helps in developing good analytical and problem solving skills. It would be possible critically analyze the real situation in the Estonian private sector companies and possible be in a position to find the origin of problems and therefore provide relevant solutions. Secondly, I would be in a position where I would be allowed to apply new knowledge and skills in the paper. On the same note, I would be able to explore for solutions in complex situations thereby encouraging innovation. Since most available information about the topic is theoretical, case study gives opportunity for one to challenge the theoretical assumptions. Moreover, it provides a good source of ideas about a given behavior since one is dealing with the facts. In addition, case study can be used both as a primary and a secondary research tool. In the case of primary tool, the researcher collects his or her own data without having to rely on any external data while as a secondary tool; the researcher uses someone else’s data.
For this dissertation topic, the disadvantages overweigh the advantages as this is a topic that is business oriented yet case study is most effective in the social sciences. Therefore, case study in this particular topic may only be relevant in the introductory of the research as using it as the main research design and may yield unrealistic results. Insufficient information will be obtained with this kind of method. The business world keeps changing so the results one get today may contrast greatly with the ones gotten after two days later. This will result in a poor research as the information will not be reliable. Moreover, considering there are several companies involved in the Estonia private sector, it will be inappropriate to get the results from a single case where the case study has been focused and draw conclusions from those results. The results will be biased since each company has its own ways of operation. Moreover, case study can lead the researcher to force the results in the way that they are conceptualized to be as he or she already has the expected results.
Interviews as an Alternative Research Design
Based on my research topic, I am certain that interviews will provide better results for the dissertation. This is because interviews involve getting first-hand information from the participants. Existing information available in the libraries could be distorted and one-sided. On the other hand, conducting interviews will give chance to all parties involved in the companies to share any information they have concerning the research question. Data gotten from first-hand is accurate and reliable. Moreover, interviews give a good return rate and opportunities for probing may arise and help the interviewer to get a lot of details (Gray 2004).There are for major types of interviews namely:
- Structured interviews.
- Semi-structured interviews.
- Unstructured interviews.
- Non-directive interviews.
If used appropriately, all the four types of the interviews will enable me to gather very useful information that will contribute into carrying out a detail and well-covered research. To complement the interviews there are interview guides which contain themes, topics and subjects to be covered during the research. Other materials such as tape recorders may be used during the interviews if need be (Gray 2004).
Pros of Using Interviews
There are several advantages involved in using interviews as a method of research design (Gray 2004). First, interviews yield a high percentage of returns as they are direct conversations and feedback is gotten on the spot. This is of a great advantage when compared to questionnaires where one might not return the questionnaires. Furthermore, in some scenarios, the interviewer is allowed to record non-verbal cues such as facial expressions and gestures. From this expressions and gestures, the interviewer is able to get some information; either positive or negative. An interview also provides a very accurate data as compared to the other methods of data collection and provides ideal sample of the general population. Lastly, interviews can be easily modified to suit the interviewee.
Challenges Involved In Using Interviews
However, interviews are not without challenges. Firstly, interviews are time-consuming as the interviewers have to wait for the respondents to give their feedback no matter how slow they might be. In some situations, large numbers of people have to be interviewed in order to get good data and this takes a lot of time. Secondly, they are costly as the materials involved in the preparation and during the interview they involve money. Additionally, highly skilled interviewers are required, failure to which may result in poor data collection. Unskilled interviewers may ask interviewees leading questions which may influence the responses. Language barriers may come into play resulting in miscommunication. Therefore, one needs to involve good listeners only in order to capture all the important information; poor listeners may miss some key points. Interviews that involve sensitive issues concerning the company can make interviewees too shy away and thus they will give wrong information.
As it has been demonstrated that the case study has its advantages and disadvantages. This calls for critical analysis of whether the method captures the intended information for the research. Important to note is that one should not choose case study just because it is the only method that he is comfortable with. An alternative method would be interviews. The various types of interviews enable researchers to choose one that is suitable for their kind of research depending on the kind of data and the objectives desired. Based on the findings, using interviews is the best alternative. However, it is important that interviewers have an interview guide to avoid missing out on important parts of the research. The guides held in directing the sequence of the questions.