What is 'business research' and identify its potential benefits
Research on any aspect of business, be it business organization, management, production, sales, marketing, purchasing, supply chain, growth and development, etc. - all will qualify to be considered under the rubric of business research. A formal 'description' of business research may be that it is a systematic inquiry for information to guide managerial decisions, or a little more specifically, it is a process of planning, acquiring, analyzing, and providing relevant data and information to decision makers in order to help them to mobilize the organization to take appropriate actions which in their turn would assist the business to maximize its performance. As said earlier, a large variety of different types of research projects are grouped under the label 'business research'. This paper proposes to identify, discuss and analyse the potential and actual benefits of such research to business. In the course of discussion, the paper will also discuss the objectives and the process or processes of research (Saunders et al, 2009).
Organization members, managers, other decision-makers and employees, usually require complete knowledge about their products, services, programs, etc. Entrepreneurship, innovation, problem-solving and decision-making capacity are a few of the ingredients required to keep ahead of competition. Most of these can be gained and perfected from business research. The research plans need to assess what information should be collected in order to make major decisions about a product, service, their marketing and so on. Business organizations may be faced with deciding on a major issue owing to, for instance, long-standing complaints from customers, or a need to convince investors about the continued growth of the company through new products and new markets, or may be simply to redesign and implement an 'effectual refinement' of an internal process. In all these matters, the more focused the researchers are about what they can accomplish by their research, the more effective and efficient they can be in their research, the shorter the time it will take them to complete it and ultimately the less it will cost the organization in terms of expenditure of its time and money.
Research is an important ingredient of 'scientific method'; it helps one to organize one's thoughts, ends aimless wandering, helps ideas to gather shape, increases self-confidence, and helps one to avoid snap judgments, trains one for change, innovation, and inquiry in all fields. 'Scientific method' is known in different disciplined by various names such as 'the process of problem solving, decision making, operation research, strategic management, configuring systems, design, scientific inquiry' etc. all of which define the process of 'scientific research'(SM-14).
The Purpose of Research
The purpose of research may vary from stating a business, to the various aspects of its growth, and may be also what to do when it shows signs of decadence and eventual demise. It is advisable, for instance, to have a thorough research done on all aspects of the proposed business before starting it, or at least to draw up a business plan after research into the target customers and the competition environment. Another research may be to assess customers' experience and opinion about using the company's products or services through questionnaires, interviews, meetings and seminars and so on. Marketing research may also encompass assessing information on financial and educational data in respect of customer demographics and product usage; also in areas such as, for example, the hours of television viewed per week by people in a certain geographic area. Business research in respect of advertising, its reach, and its effectiveness as reflected in brand recognition and in the volume of sales and a wider cost-benefit analysis pertaining to it is undertaken by firms that spend a substantial portion of their marketing budget on this item (Peter & Donnelly, 2000).
Another area of business research is for providing information to investors. Investors generally do not favour a company unless they have adequate research information which would show them that their investment is 'comparatively safe' and would yield them an anticipated return. Business research can also help a company to analyze its strengths and weaknesses in its competitive environment and seize the opportunities that the research has identified for them to grow and develop. An important field of business research now-a-days is international business. Globalisation has made it essential for most industries to have research information, reports and statistics, relating to its brand of business in other countries, and about the economy, the cultures and demographics of the other nations. International competitive advantage needs to be researched upon. HRD is another research area to train and educate managers and employees in very many different fields of concern to the companies. Such fields of business research education can relate to economics, finance, business strategy and ethics, and so on, in fact, to anything related to modern business and trade. A company having a well educated and informed staff is expected to run that more smoothly than otherwise. Researching on and implementing the 'right' motivational paradigms and a 'correct' rewards-structure beneficial to employees are apt to result in increased productivity and enhanced profitability of the company. The recent world economic downturn brought about by 'irresponsible practices' of many financial companies points to the need of not only to be vigilant against such 'irresponsbilities', but also to be educated through research and training in the ways of such 'financial thugs' so as to prevent their operations. Information technology has become an integral part of any business, and educating the staff in the ways to take advantage of this media is an indispensable course of action for any company. Research in sales and sales techniques is important for all companies as sales are the way of securing new income. Sales techniques will differ from company to company depending upon the products or services supplied; however generalities are discernable which pertain to production and sales techniques amenable to be researched on. Study of sales techniques is an 'adjunct discipline' to 'Marketing Research and Analysis', and a well trained and informed sales team is likely to bring more trade, an improved portfolio and increased profits to the company.
Thus business research is a key component of any business development plan and provides what may be called 'a cutting edge' of any meaningful strategy of competitive advantage for an industry (Peter & Donnelly, 2000).
The Design of a Research Study
The format of all business research reports is approximately the same, irrespective of the fact of the study may be about a marketing research survey, a customer satisfaction survey, an employee opinion survey or a health-care study. The same rules and procedures apply to writing a research proposal, a thesis, a dissertation, or any business research report. Research papers usually have five chapters with sub-sections in each chapter. The chapters consist of an 'Introduction, the Background, the Methodology, the Findings or Results, and the Conclusions and Recommendations'. Introduction sets the stage for the paper and puts the research topic in perspective. It usually consists of the statement of the research problem which is the focal point of research; why the problem is important for a research study; what the study proposes to accomplish, the significance of the study, how it relates to the larger issues of concern to the business and so on.
The next chapter on Background includes the Literature Review and definitions of terms. Literature review is crucial to research as it ensures that no important aspect is ignored that has in the past been found to have had an impact on the problem that is being studied in the research. The literature review examines published discussions in the subject of research, and sometimes such discussions within a certain time period; it may be chronological too. Such a review helps the researchers to understand and retune the theoretical underpinnings of the research topic, the ideas, debates and research in their field of research; brings earlier writings and present research together so that they can be compared; to find out how others have researched the topic in terms of methodology and interpretation; helps them to precisely define their research field, and identify any 'gap' in the body of knowledge so that they could avoid repeating or 'duplicating' previous research. Searching and re-searching the literature on the subject of research imparts to the researcher an understanding of the depth and breadth of the topic of research. Other reasons for the literature are the identification of gaps in the literature; 'avoiding reinventing the wheel'; proceeding further from where others have already reached; increasing the breadth of knowledge of the subject area of research etc. Literature review helps the researchers to position their work in relation to other works; to identify different views and to put their work into proper perspective. It also helps to show that the researcher has accessed numerous previous works in the research area and identified the relevant information and ideas pertaining to the research project; and also identified methods relevant to their research projects ((Bourner, 1996). The chapter should also contain a definition of key terms and phrases used in the research paper.
The Methods of Research Study
The methodology chapter describes the basic research plan. It could begin with a short restatement of the research purpose and research questions.Generally, there two methods used in research: qualitative and quantitative. Qualitative research is also a type of scientific research in that it is an investigation that seeks answers to a question; systematically uses well defined procedures to find an answer the question; collects data; produces fresh findings not identified earlier, and which may be applicable in areas outside the confines of the research study. Three qualitative methods used commonly are 'participant observation, in-depth interviews, and focus groups'. Each of these methods has its particular domain most suited for obtaining the specific type of data required.
Quantitative research involves information or data in the form of numbers. This allows the researcher to measure or to quantify a lot of things. For example: 'the number of people who live below the poverty line; the number of children between specific ages who attend school; the average spending power in a community; or the number of adults who have access to computers in a village or town'. A common method used for conducting quantitative research is a survey. Surveys usually involve filling in a questionnaire. Surveys are useful to get the information in a standardized manner because each respondent is answering exactly same questions. When enough responses have been received, the data can be arranged and analyse in a way that answers the research question.
Quantitative method usually takes the form of statistical hypothesis testing. There are quite a few kinds of hypotheses which we are used to test relationships. Relationship hypotheses test the relationship between the variables directly. Comparative hypotheses are used to test relationships indirectly by summarizing the behavior of variables in groups of observations. Directional hypotheses predict the direction of the covariance between two variables (either positive or negative). Non-directional hypotheses can only forecast that covariance exists, but not the nature of its direction. Null hypotheses and Alternative or Research hypotheses may be said to be 'competing' statements about the same relationship. A null hypothesis states that the relationship does not exist; the alternative hypothesis states that it does exist. Establishing the probable truth of one of the hypotheses eliminates the other because both cannot be true at one and the same time. This is the nature of hypothesis testing in statistics (Bryman & Bell, 2007).
Directional hypothesis is confident that a statistical relationship exists and also of the direction of that relationship, and whether it positive or negative. A directional hypothesis is unambiguous in respect of its forecasts. The directional hypothesis is also called a one-tailed test. The region of rejection is entirely in only one tail of the sampling distribution. The one-tailed test is less rigorous than the two-tailed test, and so a usual advice is to use a two-tailed test.
The chapter on 'findings' or 'results' restate the analysis plan described in the methodology chapter. It may be a good idea also to restate the research question mentioned in the Introductory chapter, state the 'null hypothesis', if the research question was a testable one; state the type of statistical test(s) performed, and report the statistics and conclusions, followed by any appropriate table(s), explaining what the tables and numbers say; for instance "Table 3 indicates the strong negative relationship between the time taken for service delivery and customer satisfaction (r = -71, p = .03)". Discuss whether the findings are in conformity with existing theory or not; and give plausible reasons why the results have turned out the way they did. The final chapter is the conclusions and recommendations emanating from the research study. Recommendations are to be based on the findings of the research (Saunders et al 2009; also Walonick, 2005)
Benefits of business research
There are many benefits that can be derived from business research. For instance, it can help businesses to share information with their stakeholders like customers, suppliers etc. Research helps businesses to identify the opportunities and threats that it faces; action can be taken to minimize risks and uncertainties and to benefit from opportunities identified; business progress can be evaluated and remedial action can be taken for any loss incurred consequent on any lack of market information. Further benefits from business research include the help the company can have from it to stay competitive and build customer loyalty; 'boost sales; increase profitability; open new markets both at home and abroad; enhance the company's brand name and gain a reputation as an innovative business; attract the best employees through enhanced reputation; find new business partnerships; attract external finance; reduce costs; improve the quality of products and services offered; and get them to market more quickly'. Business research also brings in less tangible benefits in the shape of knowledge about the market that may be useful to your business in future but does not have an immediate commercial application (see McNamara, n. d.).
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